KINGFISHER BEND RANCH — Ted Jacobsen spent his working days knee deep in his fair share of pressure. As head of Jacobsen Construction, the company his grandfather founded in 1922 that became one of Utah’s largest builders, he dealt with bids, deadlines, the weather, punch-lists, inspectors, upwards of 400 employees, and projects that included many of Utah’s largest builds: One Utah Center, Grand America Hotel, renovating and seismic strengthening of the City & County Building, the State Capitol and the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and more than two dozen LDS temples.
Is it any wonder, when he had the chance, he’d dream of wide open spaces …
… and clear mountain streams?
His go-to fantasy wasn’t a private island, a yacht, a country club or a villa in the south of France. It was a stretch of a trout steam all to himself, surrounded by the great outdoors, a few horses, lots of birds, and stars so bright you’re sure you could reach out and touch them.
Fortunately, his wife Charlotte agreed it was something to get excited about too, igniting a dedicated search for their getaway-from-it-all. For years they looked at ranch properties in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Finally, in 1999, just across the border in Wyoming, they found what they were looking for: a remote ranch property and a river that runs through it.
Namely, the Bear River, which makes a 90-degree turn as it passes through the land, overseen by colorful, long-billed kingfishers that live along the river and, when they’re hungry, swoop down on trout fingerlings.
Nothing else to call it but Kingfisher Bend Ranch.
Ted could handle sharing the fishing with the birds, but that was all he’d have to share with. In Wyoming, where the West still lives, the property owner owns the riverbed and the banks on both sides.
He’d found your basic fisherman’s paradise.
But Ted and Charlotte had no intention of being hermits. In 2001 they built a road into the property, a pond, a four-bedroom lodge and two small cabins. To complete the transformation, they brought in some trail horses and cows (including some Scottish Highlanders), and hired a couple to run the place full-time. For good measure, they built the first pickleball court in southwest Wyoming.
Then they invited neighbors, work associates and family to come for a visit.
They also invited total strangers. They set up a website (kingfisherbend.com) that, for a fee, makes the ranch available to families who want to ride horses, fish in a pristine river, kayak, sit around a campfire they made themselves, maybe play a little pickleball, and at night gaze up at all those stars.
“We bought the place for the peace and tranquility that comes with the great outdoors,” says Ted. “We also bought it for our kids, our grandkids and people we don’t know. It really does bring us a great deal of satisfaction to watch others enjoy it. We love to see kids’ faces when we first put them on a horse.”
In 2005, he and Charlotte were called to preside over the LDS mission in Manchester, England. That ended his 31 years at the helm of Jacobsen Construction. “I discovered they did just fine without me,” he says.
Upon their return in 2008 they continued to improve their home away from home. Over the past 14 years, hundreds have enjoyed the ranch, summer and winter — when snowmobiling and cross-country skiing take over.
“We didn’t do Kingfisher to make money,” says Ted. “Hopefully it will break even someday.”
He and Charlotte make the hour and a half drive from their Salt Lake home whenever they get the urge, which is often. They got what they wished for and found out it’s exactly what they wished for.
Even when the cabins and lodge are full, it’s never crowded. Ted can mosey out to his preferred spot on the Bear River morning, noon or night and find that it’s all his.
“There’s nobody chasing you out of your favorite fishing hole, or racing you to get to it,” he says. “Better than that, there’s real peace and quiet — calming, healing quiet. It’s far away from the high-pressure world.
“There is something very nice about having a place to clear your head. I don’t know whether I’ve earned it or not. But I certainly enjoy it.”
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: email@example.com