ELKO — Buzzing along U.S. Highway 93 at 70 mph, it’s easy to overlook the turnoff for an eco-sanctuary retreat hidden just beyond view in the valley to the east.
The resort, named Mustang Monument after the site’s distinguishing draw, a herd of about 700 free-roaming horses, is to be an engine for the nonprofit organization Saving America’s Mustangs.
Organization founder Madeleine Pickens, a successful businesswoman and wife of billionaire T. Boon Pickens, said the horses were headed for slaughter had she not purchased the lot at an auction several years ago and housed them on ranch property south of Wells.
Since then, Pickens and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management have slowly worked toward opening Mustang Monument for tourism, which is slated for June of next year.
A stay at Mustang Monument is meant to be a blend of rustic and luxury, an outdoor getaway to escape distractions with 24-hour on-call room service.
The guest facilities are clusters of high-end teepees. Walkways between teepee villages are lined with solar-powered lights. Each teepee cluster has a larger communal game room and dining room teepee where guests can socialize.
At the forefront, the resort bills itself as a place to see wild horses.
“It’s like a Western safari,” Kristina Carlson, Mustang Monument sales and marketing manager, told the Elko Daily Free Press.
In a covered wagon, visitors will have a chance to ride on the range where the horses roam.
The eco-resort is aiming for a 2014 opening, but the organizers invited a number of guests and media out this summer.
“It’s good to kind of get what people think about it first before we have customers,” Carlson said, “so we know what we need to tweak.”
The price reflects the posh: Per night, a single visitor will pay $1,200. A couple can share a teepee for $1,400 a night.
“While that price point might be high, it’s not that high when you think that it’s all inclusive,” Carlson said. “Three meals a day by a gourmet chef, all your beverages, all your activities are included.”
While luxury can attract visitors, steep prices that accompany it can also repel them.
The Elko County Visitors Authority has partnered with Mustang Monument.
“Are they going after the billionaire-type, millionaire-type person and just making it kind of an eco-resort?” said Tom Lester, ECVA tourism and convention manager. “Not too many people can afford $1,200 to $1,400 a night.”
Carlson said Mustang Monument also plans to offer day trips.
As part of a bus tour group, visitors can spend an afternoon there which includes lunch and a wagon ride out near the horses for $150 per person.