Historic Places in the Fresno & Clovis, CA Areas: Where History Comes Alive
Wonder Valley Ranch Resort is located in a scenic Sierra foothills valley outside of Fresno, and though the area is tranquil today, legends of the past tell of colorful characters and turbulent times. From the early rock walls, built by the region’s first settlers, to the Indian artifacts found in the Wonder Valley Museum, signs of life dating back three centuries are all around the facility.
The Yokut Tribe made Wonder Valley their home in the 1800’s. At Indian Rock, just a short walk from the ranch, the depressions in the rock reflect the days when women ground grain and washed clothes as they watched their children playing in the cool waters of Mill Creek.
In 1891, Wonder Valley was a refuge for the infamous Dalton Brothers. Many a story has been told about this gang of outlaws in California. Their hideout was on a mountainside at the East end of the valley where they kept a watchful eye out for any pursuit.
Ranchers were the principal occupants of Wonder Valley during the early 1900’s when rancher George Pierson began the guest ranch tradition in California by allowing friends to stay at his ranch and help with the cattle “for the fun of it.” Eventually, this evolved into the Pierson Guest Ranch, established in 1911, with the Pierson family operating it until the mid-1940’s.
The Webb family then bought the Pierson Guest Ranch and changed its name to “Wonder Valley Dude Ranch.” Once again, it became a refuge of sorts this time for movie stars from Hollywood. In the 1950s, Wonder Valley was a favorite escape for Betty Hutton, Tom Mix, Victor McLaughlin, Roy Rogers, and many others.
In 1973, the Oken family purchased the property, which they still own and operate to this day, under the name “Wonder Valley Ranch Resort and Conference Center.” Strong on family tradition, the Oken’s succeed in continuing the ranch’s reputation for excellent hospitality. So when you come to Wonder Valley, you’re not just staying in a room, you’re becoming a part of the rich history.
The Oken family felt that the history of Wonder Valley was important and needed to be preserved. In 2005, a museum was added to the grounds, highlighting the colorful history of the valley through collected and donated memorabilia. Located inside the Dalton Lodge, the museum exhibits photos, artifacts, and documents that trace the history of the life of the Native Americans and the homesteaders, the land purchased for the ranch, and the development of Wonder Valley Ranch Resort as it is seen today.
On display, you’ll find many Native American blankets, rock specimens identified by a geologist, earthenware, horse tack, posters, vintage ads, and of course, many photos from as early as 1849.