Wilson Ranch Character

Wilson Ranch History

In the late 1940s, a fellow named Jack Wilson left his job on the Golden Gate Bridge and moved to Washington’s Upper Methow Valley with his bride, Elsie.Together, they carved a ranch out of twelve acres of hardscrabble bottomland in a little heard-of paradise called Mazama.Setting the tone for what was to become the Wilson Ranch Development, Jack and Elsie built the six original Early Winters cabins and a stock barn, started a garden, and created a one-acre lake.Jack then started a business - taking visitors on packhorse trips, hunting, fishing, and camping in the North Cascades.His reputation grew and so did his following.Over the years, Jack’s expeditions attracted movie stars, politicians, and leaders from all over the world.All came for the natural beauty, outdoor adventure, simple times, and good-natured hospitality that became the legacy of Wilson Ranch.

Although Jack did not survive to see his vision of an expanded, year-around resort become a reality, great care has been taken by his successors to carry on Jack’s legacy.In 1996, the Freestone Inn was constructed on the lake Jack had begun so many years before.Today, that lake is the focal point of a year-around outdoor recreation-centered community, the Wilson Ranch Planned Development.

 Wilson Ranch Planned Development

Wilson Ranch Planned Development (PD) was approved by the Okanogan County Board of County Commissioners in 1994.The original plan was amended in 2000 to include Elsie’s Meadow.The 137-acres of Wilson Ranch was planned with a focus on environmental stewardship and “fit.”Human activities are clustered to maximize open space and preserve a rural “sense of place”.

The approved plan includes the 21-room Freestone Inn, with dining facilities and meeting rooms; fifteen rustic cabins (including Jack’s original six and nine new ones); a conference/meeting facility in Jack and Elsie Wilson’s restored barn; “Jack’s Hut” - an activity and retail sales center; ten lakefront cabin sites; and 17 trailside lodge sites varying in size from shy acre to 5 acres each.The Wilson Ranch plan also includes connections to the renowned Methow Valley Nordic public trail system.

In 1995, the first phase of Freestone Inn was begun, consisting of twelve rooms in the north wing, plus the restaurant and kitchen.Freestone Lake was expanded to its current 4.5-acre size, and the original Early Winters cabins were fully restored.The cabins were reopened for guests in July 1995; the Inn in early 1996.Nine new cabins were completed in 1996.Two lakeside lodges, Steelhead and Rainbow, were constructed and opened in February 1996.The second phase of the Freestone Inn (nine additional rooms, meeting rooms, and expanded space for inn staff) was completed in late 1998.Wilson Ranch PD now stands as a premier example of thoughtful environmental site planning, architectural and landscape design, and quality construction - all in a peaceful, unspoiled mountain setting.

Purpose of the Wilson Ranch Design Guidelines – Addendum O

Our Design Values and Philosophy

We are very proud of what we’ve planned and built here at Wilson Ranch.We believe that Washington’s Methow Valley truly is one of America’s great-undiscovered places, and we feel privileged to be part of it.In this light, we believe the rural Methow Valley character of the site should be protected, and that development should occur with minimal disturbance to the integrity of the land.Equally important is adherence to environmental imperatives - the need for effective water conservation, and wildlife protection and management, for example, as well as protection from the potential for wildfire.

The purpose of the following Design Guidelines is to ensure that all private development on the 27 Wilson Ranch homesites is fully compatible - environmentally and visually - with our shared vision.The Design Guidelines will be administered and enforced by the Wilson Ranch Design Review Committee (“Committee”), which is composed of three persons pursuant to Article 6.1 of the Restated and Amended Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Restrictions and Easements (CCRs) for Wilson Ranch.The Guidelines are binding upon all persons who construct, refurbish, or alter any part of the exterior of any building, or make other improvements upon, under or above any property, create fill, make any change in the existing surface contour or drainage, or install any utility thereon.

In general, the aim of the Committee is to avoid inappropriate contrasts in the landscape, to preserve key view corridors, to encourage design appropriate to the region, and to foster harmony between the built and natural environment.

Each building site at Wilson Ranch has unique characteristics, and the Guidelines have been prepared to encourage owners and designers to consider and respond to the design opportunities and constraints unique to each site.Residential homesites are conveyed to individual buyers subject to the Wilson Ranch CCRs, which are designed to create patterns of land development, and ensure that all residences are designed and managed over time to conform to the overall design principles.

Each residential homesite has been evaluated by a landscape architect.A Building Envelope has been designated, and an access corridor for a driveway suggested.Building Envelopes are included and made a part of these Guidelines.Whenever an Owner proposes to build on a homesite or to reconstruct, add to, refinish the exterior of an existing improvement, or create major landscape features, they must comply with the Wilson Ranch Conditions of Approval, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, and these Design Guidelines.

Presented in the pages that follow are standards that describe the design review process and provide direction and assistance to Owners concerning design considerations.Deviations from the Guidelines may be approved by the Committee, but only if they are consistent with the Guidelines.Note that these Design Guidelines may be amended from time-to-time to reflect new experience and to accommodate changing conditions.It is essential that Owners who are contemplating activities covered by these Guidelines obtain the most recent version.


The Unique Environmental Setting

Wilson Ranch Location

Wilson Ranch is located at the confluence of Early Winters Creek and the Methow River in the Methow Valley.The Ranch is situated at an elevation of 2,100 feet.The high altitude creates large daily temperature variations; during summer months, variations of as much as 40 degrees are common.The humidity is generally very low, especially during the snowy winter months.

Climatic Zone

The varied climate and altitude at Wilson Ranch create significant challenges to the Owners and their architects.Significant snow loads must be accommodated.Seasonal snowfall ranges from 10 to 15 feet per year, with short-term accumulations of four feet occurring often.Snow accumulation, storage and melting must be addressed.Even during the winter months, significant solar gain will be a factor, while very warm days are to be expected in the summer months.The Owner must be mindful of the risk of wildfire when considering building materials and landscaping.

Wilson Ranch is located in a very unique landscape.It is located in the Intermountain transition zone between the North Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River Basin, and the Cascade Mountain Range, an alpine region that protects Wilson Ranch from moisture laden Pacific storms.

As such, this landscape includes the flora and fauna of lower alpine meadows.The area’s geologic history has resulted in landforms that cause intermittent flow and temporary dams on the Methow River system.As a result, Wilson Ranch has a unique riverine life zone within a semi-arid climate.The rivers meander, creating great ox-bows, meadows and marshes.The visual effect is exceptional, with clear free-flowing rivers in the foreground, set among meadow and forest area with snow-covered peaks in the background.

Wilson Ranch is located in the Lower Alpine zone.The native landscape is characterized by drought resistant forests of ponderosa and lodge pole pine; wetlands supporting aspen, willows and cottonwood; an understory of sage brush, bitterbrush and manzanita; and a wide variety of alpine and desert wildflowers, depending upon the season and rainfall.

The high Cascades to the east of Wilson Ranch greatly affect the area’s climate.Average annual precipitation at Wilson Ranch is about 24 inches.Annual cumulative snowfall averages 10 to 15 feet per year, which represents 80 percent of the total moisture.Approximately 80 percent of the precipitation occurs during the five-month period of November through March.Summers are characterized by long dry periods, warm days and cool nights.

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