Welcome to the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management

Visiting Fort Bidwell, California can be like traveling to another country. Internet is spotty. There are no grocery stores or gas stations for 23 miles. There are no chain restaurant or stores in all of Surprise Valley. The closest “big box” stores are in Klamath Falls, Oregon, Redding, California or Reno, Nevada. That’s about two to three and a half hours away.

Fort Bidwell isn’t “on the way” to…well anywhere. People who come to this small town planned extensively to get here–or are very lost. Our family worked hard to get back to this small community in northern Surprise Valley. We consider it a privledge to work and raise our daughter in a place as wild, free and beautiful as Surprise Valley. We welcome visitors to the ranch for workshops, ranch study programs or just a meal and conversation with the Smith Family. We can’t wait to see you, but we want you to be prepared for your visit. We’ve put together some travel tips here and short video clips to give you a taste of life in our hidden valley–that unexpected (surprise!) belt of green beneath the Warner Mountains at the edge of the vast high desert of the Great Basin.


Life on Springs Ranch

Preparing for travel to Fort Bidwell

Nevada highways, Gerlach, Nevada, Jefferson Center for Holistic Management
This is the road from Fernley, Nevada to Surprise Valley. Be prepared for a quiet drive.

When traveling to Fort Bidwell, please be prepared to travel to a remote area. Especially for those folks used to urban areas where grocery stores and gas stations are on every corner, cell service and internet connections are always available, pretend that you are traveling to another country when visiting us. In Fort Bidwell, we are 23 miles from a gas station and a grocery store (one hour from a supermarket chain store), cell service is unreliable (AT&T doesn’t work in the area, Verizon is ok but a 3G area only when service is available, US Cellular is best) and internet connectivity is spotty. Please plan your business accordingly. Please research your route to Fort Bidwell carefully. There are plenty of dirt road mountain passes that Google may try to send you through.

If you travel to Fort Bidwell via Gerlach, Nevada (near the Black Rock Desert and home of Burning Man), please make sure you have plenty of fuel before heading north to the Black Rock Desert. There is only one gas station on that route. Most people will travel via Reno to Fort Bidwell using Highway 395. This is a more traveled route, but there are still remote stretches of road where cell service is not available. Please fuel up with food and gas before heading out on this drive. If you are traveling from other directions and your route sends you on Modoc County Road 9 please know that this is a county-maintained but non-paved road. It is the historic Fandango Pass, which is a fun and scenic drive if you are up for it. We do not recommend traveling through Fandango Pass in winter conditions.

The historic Fort Bidwell Hotel, located just three miles from Springs Ranch, is open again for business. Featuring a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests, this recently remodeled hotel is an icon from the region’s heyday in the early 1900s. Please visit their website to make reservations.  Other lodging options are available in Cedarville, California, 23 miles from Springs Ranch, and in Lake City, about 15 miles from Fort Bidwell (and places in between). They include:

There are also places in Surprise Valley listed on AirBnB. Check them out too!

Jefferson Center Headquarters/Springs Ranch, Fort Bidwell, California


Welcome to our paradise

Rural living isn’t for everyone, but we love it. Where else is the air and water so clean? The community so strong? Children so free? We are thankful for each day we get to spend caring for this beautiful place. Learn more about us on our YouTube Channel. Our neighbors and friends at Bidwell Canyon Farm (just down the road four miles) also have a YouTube Channel. Check it out!



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