Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach

Does anyone remember the old Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach? Well, I don't remember it. I came to Orange County after it was long gone. I found some stories submitted to the old OCThen website, and decided to repost them here on the new OCThen:

By: Anonymous, 3 Apr. 2002

HERD OF 72 BUFFALOES ARRIVES TO ROAM NEWPORT BEACH RANCH This community now provides a home for the buffalo to roam. A heard of 72 arrived over the weekend to take up occupancy on the Newport Harbor Buffalo Ranch, a mile north of Coast Hwy. on the east side of MacArthur Blvd. The buffalo ranch, comprising 115 acres, has been leased by Gene Clark from the Irvine Co. He's put in a blacktopped winding road through the grazing range for benefit of visitors. The herd was trucked in here from Independence, Kan. The unloading was witnessed by hundreds of persons. The largest buffalo, a 2,7000 pound bull, lost its footing on the ramp leading from his truck into the fenced pasture and somersaulted into his new home. The herd includes two Brahmalos. Both are the crossbred products of a Brahma bull and buffalo. Clark also plans to bring four Indian families here from Kansas to add color to his promotion. The Indians will bone up on tribal dances and present them at frequent intervals for tourist enlightenment. They will live in teepees. But, contrary to other traditions, the Indians will not be permitted to hunt the buffalo. 1955 June 6. Southland Magazine.

By: Anonymous, 3 Apr. 2002

Buffalo Ranch was located on McArthur on the way to Fashion Island. As the center developed and more businesses located in that area, the ranch was reduced in size. The rides and gift store were gone by the late 1960s, and by the late 1970s, the small ranch and few buffalo that were left, closed up shop and left. They were squeezed out by residential development from two sides. I remember the archway over the entrance off McArthur.

By: Rip Rense, 13 Jan. 2002

My father used to take me to The Buffalo Ranch in the 1950s. I don't recall too much, except an Indian trading post-type store, a few buffalo,and a ride for kiddies consisting of miniature tractors. I'm curious how long The Buffalo Ranch was there, because I recently saw a Buster Keaton movie from 1924, "Sherlock Jr.," which was shot around Newport and adjoining environs and features one shot with a sign reading "Buffalo Ranch."
The above are e-mails submitted to a few years ago. I'm going to go through all the archives and repost them here on the new OCThen. If you have any memories of the Buffalo Ranch, click on the "Post a Comment" link below.

Hey, do you think this is why there is a "Bison Street" in Newport Beach?


  1. YES! If you go out near back bay there still may be an architecture firm that has an office at Bison that is dark red with white trim, this is what is left of the buffalo ranch!

  2. Lots of good info about the Buffalo Ranch, what happend to it and when, and how the Irvine Master Plan was drawn up in the old "Silo" barn that still stands near Bison Rd.

  3. I was the one who posted the original information from the SA Register about the Buffalo Ranch. The buffalo were removed just before Fashion Island was built. The ranch and fences were there for many years, but you couldn't see any animals from the road.

    If you drove out the long way to Laguna Beach (from Tustin, across through Myford, and down Laguna Canyon), when you hit the land just west of the freeway, the Irvine Company still had a tiny herd of buffalo on open land. That land is long lost to developers now, but we saw buffalo still grazing there in 1990 on our way to breakfast at the Cottage. We came up over the hill and were shocked to see them on the hillside!

    I'm in the process of writing a short entry book about OC History. When I put together the information I have on the Buffalo Ranch later this summer, I will post more about the ranch.

  4. My father took our entire family to the Buffalo Ranch July 4, 1957 when my uncle came out from Idiana with his family for a visit. I was 10 then and do remember well the buffalo, of course, and the trading store. I remember it because my father bought me an Indian beaded belt--size 24". Wow! Wouldn't it be nice to get closer to that size today! Hey! It was a great day and, as we drove the paved road, our little eyes were glued to the car windows watching these magnificent animals. Nathan Riley

  5. Hey to Buffalo fans from Bison Boy. I am the son of Gene Clark who brought the buffalo out and started the ranch. My father had a booming swimming pool business which he sold to go to Independence, Kansas and buy the herd of buffalo(where we lived for awhile). He then took the buffalo on the road with my mother and finally ended up planting them when he started up the Buffalo Ranch.

    Lucky me, as a kid, I grew up there with all kinds of animals and the great snakes indigenous to the area.Not to mention some of the workers, one Indian in particular, named Push Matawha was quite a colorful fellow. I do have some stories.

    Cordially yours,

    Jerry Clark, AKA Bison Boy

  6. I remember the Buffalo ranch as much as a five year old at the time could. My dad took the family down, I think shortly after it opened. We were living in Corona del Mar, but may had just moved to Costa Mesa when we went to the ranch. Seems like we had boarded a fireengine type truck that had seats on the back and they drove us out to the herd. I sure thought they were big looking through the eyes of a five year old.It was the best and most wonderful place to live back then. I left the area in 1980.

  7. Yes the Buffalo Ranch was at the corner of MacArthur and Bonita Canyon. The Buffalo Ranch was actually in Irvine but a land swap later on in the late 90's moved that land into Newport Beach so it could be developed. It still had a couple of buffalo as late as 1987

  8. My mom took me there in 1958, we saw some Buffalo, had a Buffalo Burger then we went home, I heard that the Buffalo were relocated to Catalina Island as well as all the others that Hollywood used in there movies. There’s still a few there at least in 1990 when I was doing a job in the Corona Del Mar Pac Bell office that adjoins Irvine Land, we would take food to them, docile creatures.

  9. Does anyone remember a bad old Disney TV flick called "the white buffalo?" The one they used was from that ranch and he was white until the paint wore off of him.

  10. My dad helped build a front-only double sided western town on this ranch and we did Western skits at the Ranch on week-ends during the late 1950s. We also had a Native American 'PUSH-MA-TA-TA" that set up a tepee and sold indian wares. I'd like to discuss further with anyone. my email address is regards, jim

  11. I do remember Atwood.
    I also recall, oh, 1955 or 1956, east of Atwood somewhere, rails hanging in the air.
    The bridge or roadbed had washed out for a considerable distance.
    You think I can find any reference to that anywhere?

    Went to the REL several times.
    My Aunt would come in from Vegas, take the entire family out and pay with a wad of 50's.

    I remember the Red Cars in Long Beach, the Yellow Cars in LA, PE in Yorba Linda.

    The Santa Ana River Canyon as 2-lanes.
    Then as divided 4, but with two traffic lites, tied you up clear to Corona coming home Sunday night from Palm Springs.

    The best was Torrey Pines race track......

  12. I wanted to tell you about my memories of the Buffalo Ranch in Newport Beach which was then located on the Irvine Ranch. I remember my father taking my brother and myself to see the buffalo. We would stand there for as long as Dad would let us and just watch them. We also went into the park and I vaguely remember a store and horses.


  13. I am the Grandaughter of Gene Clark. The ranch had closed before I was born, but my grandmother,mother and uncle have shared many memories. We also have a great amount of pictures and film from that time. I talk to many seniors who remember spending time there with their famlies and share those stories as well.I love hearing them. I know my grandfather
    ( Bicco )loved the Ranch so very much.
    Love to you Uncle Bisson Boy!

  14. When I was a teenager and lived in Orange County we stopped at the Buffalo Ranch several times. I loved the green rolling hills and the buffalo. We always stopped and had a buffalo burger. I remember very well the arch to the ranch.

    Janet Masters
    Twentynine Palms CA

  15. I write for the Newport beach Examiner and am looking to do a strange and fun facts article about the Buffalo Ranch. If any of you have a few photos that you would like to have me include I would appreciate it very much. We can scan then if you have not done so already. I think this would be a great article for people to read and to learn a little bit about the area they live in. Especially if they dont know about it, like me.

    Thank you,

    Tamara Wentworth

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