Before we get to the fun stuff, let's explore some history about this outstanding conference, retreat, and summer camp. The original owner of the property was Daniel Moran who was the Chairman of Continental Oil Co, which later became Conoco Oil. Daniel owned this 6800 acre ranch along a beautiful stretch of the North Fork of the Guadalupe River for 13 years prior to his death in 1948. During his ownership, Daniel used Hill Country Limestone, wrought iron, and oilfield pipe to construct several impressive buildings and homes, a 462' catwalk that spans a deep draw, a greenhouse, a big slide into the river, a chapel with beautiful stained glass windows crafted in France in the 1940's, and lots more.
The four state Presbyterian Synod of the Sun bought the ranch a year after Daniel Moran died. They sold 6500 acres to the State of Texas to create the Kerr Wildlife Management Area and from later purchases of adjacent land, they purchased another 500 acres. Today, Mo Ranch hosts over 45,000 guests annually who attend a wide range of conferences, retreats and camps offered for persons of all ages. These programs promote religious and personal growth and explore significant issues of contemporary society. One of their annual programs is the Mo Ranch Spring Break Camp, which was going on during the week we went to Mo Ranch.
It's impossible to get bored at Mo Ranch and particularly during spring break when each day is filled with a list of fun activities, some of which include:
Get Wet and Cool Off
Mo Ranch has over a half mile of beautiful shoreline along the Guadalupe River along which a small dam creates a fantastic section of the river for swimming, canoeing, and fishing. There are canoes that you can use at any time and a roped off swimming area with a swimming platform. And we heard the fishing is excellent for catfish and bass.
So shortly after we arrived, we walked down to the Guadalupe River for a little dip in the water, which turned out to be a short toe dip because the water was freezing - what can you expect when the previous weeks high temperature was 50 and the low was in the 30s. But as soon as the grand kids saw the sled for the slide, they eagerly hauled it to the top, jumped on and went zooming down, hit the water on the sled and skidded across the surface of the water for 50' - after a big "wow,that was fun," they quickly drug the sled back up to the top to do it again, and again, and again. The Mo Slide was built in the 1940's and the daring can ride a wooden sled with wheels down the 32' tall slide into the cool, crystal clear Guadalupe River at anytime during your visit.
After the grand kids warmed up, we grabbed some paddles and had a canoe race to the bridge and back! A little farther up the Guadalupe are the Rapids where you can "ride the chute" through a swift moving, shallow section of the river - the water was just too cold for us to give it a try. On a summer day you can also enjoy the pool which is stunning with over 2 million tiles which depict a unique historical panorama of Mo-Ranch, including a tile picture of Dan Moran.
Play Some Sports at Mo Ranch
If you enjoy sports, you'll love Mo Ranch where you can borrow some equipment to:
- play basketball on either of the two courts
- enjoy a couple sets of tennis on one of the two courts both of which are in excellent condition or give ping pong a try
- play some horseshoes, washers, or a game of sand volleyball
- try to par (which isn't easy!) some of the 9 holes of disc golf that twist and turn through the trees
- on the large field by the river, join a pick-up game of soccer, football, Frisbee, kickball,or softball
- pick up a bow and try for the bulls eye at the archery range
If you like hiking there are a number of different hiking trails that traverse almost two miles of scenic plateaus, riverbeds, and flood plains plus a three quarter mile nature trail along a spring fed creek. The kids will love the two playgrounds and a stroll across the Catwalk high above the ground.
Test Your Nerve, Strength, and Agility
The Bell Tower (Climbing Wall)
Clearly the highlight of our stay at Mo Ranch was testing our skills (and nerve) on the Bell Tower, the Big Gulp, and the Mo Pole. The first test was the Bell Tower and like all games that test skill, agility, strength, and nerves, we sent the grand kids up first. No fear and in what seemed like record time the 8 year old and 5 year old were ringing the bell on the top of the 38' two sided climbing wall. My arms and legs are still sore after getting only half way up and the two grandsons did both sides twice and still had plenty of energy - in fact, they wanted to do it again!
If the Bell Tower wasn't enough for you and you'd like to try the real thing, there are limestone cliffs downstream from the river slide and there are two beginner routes set up where you can experience the challenge of scaling real rock.
The Big GulpNext up was the Big Gulp. To ride the big gulp, you are fitted with a harness and helmet and then climb up a 10' ladder to hook on to the swing rope. It looked pretty scary to me and when an 18 year old went before us and let out some loud deep screaming as he soared through the air, my legs buckled a little! So, as usual, we sent the grand kids up first and after a few words of encouragement from their dad the 8 year old bravely climbed up the latter to get hooked onto the swing line.
After hooking up, the counselors take the ladder away and you dangle for awhile until the group hauls you up (face down) 50' in the air. When you're ready, you let go of the rope and rapidly drop down and then swing in a huge arch back toward the other pole and then keep swinging up and down until the momentum slows you down. We didn't have a group on our visit at Spring Break so an Gator was used to take out the slack in the rope and haul us up until we were ready to let go.
As you slow down, one of the camp counselors will toss you a soft pole, which on your next swing by he tries to grab to slow you down, and then pull you back to the ladder! Wow, what fun.
The Mo Pole
Talk about something that requires some nerve, flexibility, and a leap of faith, the Mo Pole is all of that and more. You climb up another 10' ladder, then shimmy from stake to stake up the telephone pole to the top of this 26' pole. Once at the top, your goal is to stand on top of the pole, hold your breath, and then jump 8' toward a trapeze swinging above your head - the goal is to grab the bar and hold on. No one in our group made it but it was fun (and thrilling) to try! Again both grand kids went first but weren't able to stand up - primarily thanks to a wind blowing at 30 miles and hour and shaking the top of the pole.
The Zip Line & Ropes Course at Mo Ranch
In addition to the Bell Tower, Mo Pole, and Big Gulp, Mo Ranch is home to a zip and ropes course. The zip line consists of two dual zip lines that take you flying through the trees from platform to platform. The zip lines are over 450' long. To test your team building skills as well as individual skills you need to try the ropes course, which has 10 different high elements and several low elements.
During most of the year, participation on the zip line, ropes course, Mo Pole, Big Gulp, and some of the other activities is limited to groups and you'll need to contact Mo Ranch to schedule time and counselors to use these activities. However, during special events (like Spring Break at Mo Ranch) all of the above activities are scheduled during the week and open to any one who wants to participate.
Other Mo Ranch Activities During Spring Break
During our visit over Spring break, there were activities scheduled from 8 AM to 9 PM which included all of the above plus the following:
- kite building - all of us got involved in building our kite and then stepping out into the wind to see which one would fly highest and last the longest - my "super slick, high flying, long tailed Kitester" was the first to go up 6 feet and come straight back down and crash into a bundle of string, paper, straws, and other kite pieces - the grand kids won again (this is getting very old, but so am I)
- archery - grab a bow, get a little instruction, and then try to put an arrow in the bulls eye - again, I walk away embarrassed as the 5 year old came closest to the bulls eye, this is not sour grapes but he was aiming for a target that was closer than mine
- shooting water balloons - two counselors held the ends of a water balloon sling shot and you pull the sling shot back and aim for a target about 75 yards away
- GPS activities - the kids were given a compass and a card with 5 different compass setting and they had to use the compass setting to navigate to each of the 5 plaques
- bingo - finally I beat the grand kids but they got to pick the prize (everyone who played was ask to bring a prize) and a part of what made this fun was after the first bingo, they kept calling numbers so each round had 5 to 6 winners giving lots of us an opportunity to win a prize
- critters - before bingo, the counselors talked about a variety of critters and let the kids pet them
- square dancing - as a fiddler played, a counselor taught us a number of different dance steps
- nature walks, crafts, family field games (volleyball, horseshoes, and disc golf), theatre workshops, canoeing, and more were going on all week
For individuals to large groups, there are several choices for lodging at Mo Ranch, some of which include:s dorm housing for up to 150 guests, tent camping, cabins with bunk beds, an early Spanish mansion with eight bedrooms each with private baths (this was the original owners mansion), two bedroom apartments, a 1930's native stone and cedar hilltop retreat with breathtaking views, standard lodge hotel type rooms, and more.
All of the housing is a combination of rock and wood and blends in naturally with the surroundings. We stayed on the 2nd floor of the Wynne Lodge in an oversized single room with large outdoor deck and two chairs, two queen beds, a full bath, closet, 4 drawer dresser, and a table with two chairs. The room was clean and comfortable but don't expect the Ritz Carlton. You're hear to have fun so there is no TV or the cell service is spotty - leave the phone, electronic games, and computers at home and enjoy all that Mo Ranch offers.
Mo Ranch Dining
Most of the housing at Mo Ranch doesn't have cooking facilities and the nearest restaurant is over 11 mile in Hunt. The meals are served buffet style in the impressive King Dining Hall - a rustic interior with cedar vaulted ceilings and three huge fireplaces. During our stay, breakfast includes everything from scrambled eggs to pancakes with fresh fruit, coffee, and juice; lunch includes a salad bar and hot entree and vegetables; dinner during our visit was spaghetti one night and BBQ chicken and sausage the other night plus vegetable, a salad bar, and dessert.
Corporate Events, Reunions, and Camps
Mo Ranch specializes in Corporate Events and specifically team building activities which are offered through the Mo Ranch Environmental Leadership Program for a minimum group size and can include rock climbing, high and low element ropes course, canoe or kayak trips, archery, and education on reptiles, arthropods, freshwater ecology, and lots of other activities to promote camaraderie, team cooperation, and to have some fun.
In addition to the Spring Break Camp, Mo Ranch offers a variety of other camps or family fun events like Family Camp, Grand Camp for grandma and grandpa and the grand kids, family reunions, Worship & Music Conference, and a variety of summer camps for boys and girls. Mo Ranch is a owned and run by the Presbyterian Assembly and most of the camps provide an opportunity for guests to "grow in their faith by experiencing the love of God through relationships grounded in Christian faith."