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Meanwhile, Back at the River Ranch...

Would you believe that “the world’s largest dude ranch” is just 50 miles from Vero Beach?

Ray Duncan is the ranch foreman.  “The River Ranch is part of the Florida Trail, which was originally a cattle route to West Florida ports,” he explains.

Ray Duncan is the ranch foreman. “The River Ranch is part of the Florida Trail, which was originally a cattle route to West Florida ports,” he explains.

Whenever Susan and Michael Marks of Vero Beach drove west across Florida on Route 60 to visit Mike’s brother and his family in Clearwater, they were impressed by the dramatic change in scenery and intrigued by a sign that said “Westgate River Ranch: The World’s Largest Dude Ranch.” It was less than 50 miles from downtown Vero Beach, and the winding road behind the sign beckoned like a portal into a vast and undeveloped side of a Florida less traveled. Instead of houses, commercial buildings and concrete, there was wide open rangeland here, a seemingly endless vista of savannahs, wetlands and pasture, and a connection with Florida’s past that offered something far different from Orlando’s theme parks – places that the Marks’ and their children had frequently visited during rendezvous with Ken and Pam Marks and their family.

“So we decided to meet up at the ranch over the Christmas holidays,” says Mike, “And we found a different world.”

Read the entire article in the Summer 2010 issue