Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center suffers extensive damage from sudden, severe storm

All guests and staff are accounted for and safe

July 8, 2015

Flooding swept through the arroyos on Ghost Ranch's property causing massive damage.

Flooding swept through the arroyos on Ghost Ranch's property causing massive damage. —Ghost Ranch Staff

Abiquiui, N.M.

A sudden storm passing through Abiquiu, N.M., at approximately 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, produced raging and destructive waters that swept through the arroyos on Ghost Ranch’s extensive property causing massive damage to the national education and retreat center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

Debra Hepler, executive director, says that all guests and staff are accounted for and safe. 

“The staff worked as a tremendous team through the evening, moving people to higher ground, keeping the dining hall open to about 10:00 p.m., keeping the guests—especially the children—calm,” says Hepler. “Our college staff worked all evening and afterwards taking sheets, towels, and supplies to all of our guests and checking every guest room. The contracted roofers and wranglers all pitched in with our staff to clear the roads; propane tanks were kept from exploding, and—thanks be to God—everyone is safe and sound.” 

Several buildings were damaged and destroyed.

Several buildings were damaged and destroyed. —Ghost Ranch Staff

Hepler reports that Ghost Ranch has lost the following areas and facilities: Pot Hollow, Short House, Pole Barn, the Low Ropes Course and equipment shed, and the brand new Fiber Arts Studio. “One of our volunteers, Maureen Fitzgibbon, literally alerted and evacuated everyone to safety from the Fiber Arts studio at the last minute, including a sight-impaired woman and her service dog,” she adds. 

As a result of the flood damage, all of the guests in Pottery, Art Welding, Stained Glass, and Fiber Arts have all been moved to other courses. Staff are working today to contact those who have enrolled in those classes in the coming months to alert them to the loss of those facilities and to make arrangements to transfer them to other courses.

Arroyos have been raging all through New Mexico as a result of the severe storms.

Arroyos have been raging all through New Mexico as a result of the severe storms. —Ghost Ranch Staff

The Ranch’s insurance adjustor is currently on the premises inspecting the extent of the damage. In the meantime, all of the affected areas have been taped off with staff in place to prevent people from entering those areas.

“Although we have flood insurance, I’ve had so many people here offering money, help, and lots of encouragement, says Hepler. “We held a special worship service this morning, and our chaplain is offering counseling to those who are affected by memories of other losses.”

Hepler reports that arroyos have been raging all through New Mexico, including at Philmont Boy Scout Camp, which lost a young boy several weeks ago. “Please keep all of those families in your prayers,” Hepler asks. “All is well here, praise be to God.”

Because Ghost Ranch has a $100,000 deductible on its flood insurance policy, all gifts are welcome. Visit the Ghost Ranch website to make an online gift.

  1. Strong-bodied workers are needed at Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center in the next few weeks to assist with the clean-up of brush and debris in the area ravaged by a severe thunderstorm and flash flood July 7th that destroyed five ranch buildings and one two-mile trail. These clean up efforts will focus on less damaged areas, leaving more unstable and potentially dangerous clean-up work to professional crews. Adult Service Corps participants give 25 hours of service per week (about 5 hours a day) to Ghost Ranch in exchange for dorm-style or campground lodging and all lunches. Registration is $145, which includes a Service Corps T-shirt. The cost for all breakfasts and dinners for the week is $135.00. To learn more and register, you may connect to this link on our website:

    by Linda Seebantz

    July 24, 2015

  2. I was also part of the summer college staff in 1961 and had not thought in decades of the storm on the mesa then. Thankfully, again all are safe and well. As we all know, Ghost Ranch is one of those places upon which God's hand is especially obvious. Peace and love to all staff and campers. I love the Ranch!

    by John Thomas

    July 21, 2015

  3. Our hearts go out to all at Ghost Ranch over this devastating news. This takes me back to August 10, 1961 when I was a college staffer. Two other girls and I went hiking up to Box Canyon and had planned to return by 7 for our college seminar. We had told everyone where we were going, but a flash flood trapped us in the canyon. To this day we don't know how we climbed the side of the cliff to safety until a search and rescue team reached us about 11 pm. This will remain with me forever.

    by Jane Gibbs Neve

    July 18, 2015

  4. Worte a check last Sunday through my Church - Peace Presby in Lakewood Ranch, Fl. It should arrive this week. I've loved the Ranch since the 80's, and will be back. God Bless you all, stay strong. As Juliann of Norwich said. "All shall be well; all sorts of things shall be well." Holding you all in prayer and thanksgiving that all are safe. \Peg

    by Peg Papsch

    July 18, 2015

  5. Our hearts go out to all at Ghost Ranch and brings back memories for me as a college staffer in 1961. Two other girls and I had hiked up to Box Canyon on August 10, 1961. We had planned to return by 7 for our college seminar but were caught in a flash flood right at the end of Box Canyon. We heard the roaring and rushing waters coming over the top and had no where to go but up the side of the cliff. To this day we have no idea how we climbed to safety but felt like a hand had reached down and lifted us up. About 11 pm a search and rescue team found us lead by Jim Shibley, Jim Hall, Jr and Tito, a former staffer visiting. to this day it has remained in my mind and am so glad no one was hurt in this one. Jane Gibbs Neve

    by Jane gibbs Neve

    July 18, 2015

  6. My heart goes out to all of you and I thank God that everyone is safe and accounted for. Maureen is a hero, but then, so are you all. You will be in our hearts and held in the Light as you rebuild that special, sacred place. God bless each of you.

    by Claire Sheridan

    July 13, 2015

  7. I had just left Ghost Ranch on Sunday/5 after having been there for a Poetry and Painting workshop at the Arts Center at the upper end of the campus. We had 3-4 days with rain, sometimes hard, sometimes not so, but on Sat/4 it rained hard enough to make the arroyo really make noise and I even took a picture of it. The areas/buildings that were wiped out had it coming to them. Sure they were as romantic as black/white photography from the early 60s could make them, but it you are a facilities manager, the writing was on the wall if you could see the bigger picture. I did kick myself for not trying to take a pottery workshop even though I walked right by that place. Very down to earth. Very gritty and real. If I wasn't in CA I'd think of making a run to help out.

    by Dan Brenner

    July 12, 2015

  8. Sorry for your damages, will bring a check on the 20th when I come for art class

    by Frances Ryan

    July 11, 2015

  9. I was at the Ranch the night the storm hit. After the straight line wind and torrential rains ceased, a beautiful double rainbow stood in a clear sky for maybe 15 minutes. God is still in control.

    by Larry Borne

    July 10, 2015

  10. Blessings and gratitude and prayers of thanksgiving for you and your staff for making sure no one was hurt. My thoughts are with you all.

    by Ina Hughs

    July 10, 2015

  11. Prayers for you during this difficult time. Ghost Ranch is a very special place. So glad no one was hurt!

    by Teresa Stricklen Eisenlohr

    July 9, 2015

  12. Thank you ALL so much for your prayers and support; it is overwhelming and appreciated. No new building has been done on the flood plain, the destroyed buildings were from the 60's and 70's and nothing will be rebuilt there, rest assured. (Fiber Arts was in the former Casa Alegre.) This was not a typical storm or flash flood but an anomoly like no one has ever seen and being researched by the National Weather Service. Due to the extensive damage and danger in the affected areas, we are not using volunteer and staff work crews for the clean up but your offers are very kind and generous. We are all thankful for safety and the beauty of this sacred space, and ALL of your support!

    by Debra Hepler

    July 9, 2015

  13. Debra, Jim and staff -- praise God that you and everyone else are safe. That is what is matters, in the end As an adult corp volunteer, I left a piece of my heart and soul at G.R.last summer and will forever return to that beautiful place, if not in reality, certainly in my dreams.

    by Lisa DuLany

    July 9, 2015

  14. I have been a medical provider volunteer at the ranch and was scheduled to come up for 2 weeks in August. I can come up on weekends and help if needed, just let me know.

    by Bill Patz

    July 9, 2015

  15. My heart goes out to all of you at the ranch who are working so hard to care for this very special place of great beauty. I was part of college staff back in the 1960s and recall very clearly Jim Hall, director, strongly cautioning everyone to stay clear of the arroyos as a flash flood could occur without notice. So, please, as plans are made for the future don't rebuild in the arroyos!

    by Karen Wright

    July 9, 2015

  16. Debbie and Jim - Thank God you are all safe. Please know all of you and beautiful Ghost Ranch itself is prayed for.

    by Donna Havrisko

    July 9, 2015

  17. Debbie, we are praying for you, Jim, and the staff.

    by Jeff Paschal

    July 9, 2015

  18. What tragedy to a lovely place and landscape. Thoughts and prayers with all there working on recovery.

    by Jan Swearingen

    July 9, 2015

  19. We will be sending material aid to GR to facilitate the recovery, BUT FOR PETE'S SAKE PLEASE DO NOT REBUILD OR OTHERWISE DEVELOP ON THE ACTIVE FLOODPLAIN!

    by Heyo and Tatiana Van Iten

    July 9, 2015

  20. be there sunday or Monday. how can we help?

    by mike and elaine

    July 9, 2015

  21. I live in Santa Fe. Do you need any manual labor or other onsite help?

    by Mike

    July 9, 2015

  22. Everybody OK but shaken up.

    by Your flock

    July 9, 2015

  23. My memories of spending 10 seasons at Ghost Ranch are almost mystical and all good. Perhaps you can let us know how we can help.

    by Jill Schaeffer

    July 9, 2015

  24. I am so sorry this happened, I have never been there, but it is on my bucket list. I am glad everyone is well, things can be fixed and put back together. We need to thank the lord he was with the people that night and all were save and secure. Thanks to the staff and volunteers that worked so hard to make that happen. It will be built again and back in working order soon, we must be thankful to the lord no one was injured or worse. Good luck Good bless

    by Sharon Jandorf

    July 8, 2015

  25. I attended GR as a kid in the late 1960s and remember a flash flood taking place the week I was there - while we were sleeping in our teepees. Luckily, the water didn't come near our campsite, but does make me wonder if these new buildings are where that creek once flowed.

    by jane

    July 8, 2015