A night at the bat house: Rustic Rehder Ranch hosts more than 100 years of history

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Colorado Natural Heritage Program researchers Rob Schorr, Justin Unrein and Carli Baum set up a harp trap on the Rehder Ranch. The harp traps catch bats by disrupting their flight and sucking them into a plastic bag so slippery that they cannot get enough of a grip to fly out. Photo by Scott Franz

Steamboat Springs — The Rehder Ranch is one of Routt County’s greatest and most picturesque time capsules.

Old buildings surround an 84-year-old home right next to Harrison Creek in Pleasant Valley.

For many years, the Rehders survived each winter only on food they harvested themselves, and family members would take just one or two trips to Steamboat each year.

A few minutes before the bats start to stir

Harry Rehder and his wife, Josephine, immigrated to Colorado from Lubeck, Germany, in 1883. He traveled to Steamboat in a covered wagon with a milk cow in tow and arrived in Pleasant Valley.

According to the Steamboat Pilot, Rehder purchased land along Harrison Creek and up Mount Baldy for $1,200 in 1902.

Rehder raised hay, grain and cattle.

He passed away in 1948.

His sons Henry and Karl Rehder took ownership of an adjoining ranch owned by his brother, Herbert Happel, in 1924.

The brothers purchased Happel’s homestead by earning money hunting and trapping animals and selling pelts to wealthy women who visited Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

Henry was a friend of Albert Einstein.

In 1930, the Rehders built the stucco house that houses dozens of bats today.

Henry Rehder mainly raised sheep while on the ranch.

After his first wife died of Parkinson’s disease in 1951, Henry married Helen, a bookkeeper and artist in 1953.

They spent summers on the ranch, sold sheep in the fall and spent winters in California.

Henry died in 1998, and Helen died in 2004.

Their 250-acre ranch was donated to the Yampa Valley Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy.

There are plans to further cement the ranch’s legacy in Routt County by renovating it and establishing it as a nature center.

— History from Yampa Valley Land Trust

By Scott Franz