Oracle, AZ

Real camping — not glamping — is what you get at the High Jinks Ranch, founded by “Buffalo Bill” Cody

Timothy Rawles
Entrance to courtyard of High Jinks. To the right (where you see some stairs) is water for hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders.Courtesy of Kimberly K. (Hipcamp)

By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ

(Oracle, AZ) The High Jinks Ranch is one of Arizona’s most historic vacation properties. With ties to old west legend and showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the rich history behind the property is only eclipsed by its incomparable black ink night sky and its peaceful position in the Sonoran Desert.

Originally called Campo Bonito, the land was first used as a site for diggers looking to plunder the Arizona earth of its gold, silver, or other rich ore. It wasn’t until 1912 that Buffalo Bill Cody staked the land and operated a ranch and gold mine there. He called it High Jinks, and he and his foster son Henry “Johnny” Baker remained active on the land until Cody died in 1917.

Cody was a famous man. He found success in the late 1800s after he founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, a high-energy spectacle that included musical bands, animal acts, feats of skill, and even a sideshow. It was a very popular vaudeville brand that brought Bill superstardom at the age of 37.

Cody was also a progressive man. At a time when indigenous people were chastised and ill-regarded, he gave them jobs and equal pay. They were, as he called them, “the former foe, present friend, the American.”

Traveling back and forth to Arizona the entertainer would stay at his High Jinks Ranch. Back then, the only structure on the ranch was a small cabin. But ultimately the mine proved unprofitable, and with property taxes in arrears, High Jinks Ranch was in trouble.
View of the Ground Level of High Jinks.Kimberly K. (Hipcamp)

Four years after Cody’s death in 1917, Pinal County seized the lot and eventually sold it to the state of Arizona.

A friend of Cody, Lewis Claude Way, eventually purchased the land for just under $60 in 1922. He and his wife Marie, along with a hired crew, began to build their dream home: a two-story Pueblo Revival style abode that took six years to complete. They called it La Casa del High Jinks.

Marie sold the property after her husband’s death in 1944 and from there it went through several remodels. It was eventually purchased and preserved by journalist E. Dean Prichard until 2007. During that time, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. High Jinks was abandoned until 2010 when Dan Blanco and his wife, Laurel Wilson bought it. Six years later Blanco died, and the house was sold once again.

Today this historic estate is a rental property through the campsite aggregate Hipcamp. It contains camping sites, a two-bed casita, and a two-bed and two-couch suite. It also helps supply water for intrepid hikers trailblazing through the rustic landscape.
The night sky by High Jinks Ranch.Kimberly K. (Hipcamp)

With its isolation and distance from city lights, High Jinks is celebrated for its “Black” skies or rather crystal-clear views of the stars at night, making it a stargazer’s bucket list item. It is one of the best places in the country for midnight daydreaming.

The ranch is surrounded by the Coronado National Forest and the 800-mile Arizona Trail that winds through the state from top to bottom.

Visitors can either rent the High Jinks Ranch Ground Floor or, for a lesser fee, the High Jinks Ranch Casita.

Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains just southeast of Oracle, Arizona, the High Jinks Ranch is another historic getaway. What was once just a failed mining company with a small cabin in the middle of the desert, the High Jinks Ranch has earned its place among other architectural national treasures thanks to its celebrity history, its proximity to nature, and the enthusiasts who respect and preserved it.

The High Jinks Ranch is located at 33550 S Highjinks Road, Oracle.

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Timothy Rawles has been a journalist for over 20 years. He has written for global publications in San Francisco, San Diego, and Phoenix. His favorite stories are features, interviews, entertainment news, and local stories.

San Tan Valley, AZ

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