Kelly Vaughn

Wink Crigler knows more than a thing or two about Eastern Arizona. She’s the granddaughter of Molly Butler, who came to the Greer Valley in the 1880s. Her family built Molly Butler Lodge, homesteaded, guided backcountry trips for the likes of Zane Grey and Teddy Roosevelt, and — in the early 1900s — moved to the Little Colorado River’s South Fork Canyon to establish the X Diamond Ranch. 

More about the family’s history is outlined in Crigler’s book Molly Butler: A Living Legend, but a visit to the ranch means visitors can experience it firsthand.

Since 1994, Crigler has operated the X Diamond — still a working cattle ranch — as a guest ranch, encouraging visitors to take advantage of the incredible recreational opportunities along the beautiful river and in the grassy, tree-stitched hills that surround it.  

Seven cabins pepper the property, including the Ranch Cabin, an expansive log cabin that features two bedrooms and two full bathrooms with whirlpool tubs. The décor is modern, but rustic (it may sound oxymoronic, but you’ll get it when you go). There’s a gas fireplace, a well-appointed kitchen, plenty of board games, satellite TV and a Wi-Fi connection, too.

To experience ranch life on a smaller scale, the Fisherman Suite overlooks the Little Colorado, as well as the property’s beaver ponds, and has a king bed and two twins. Really, each cabin is so carefully and beautifully curated that any of them would be ideal for a getaway.

It’s the river, though, that’s the real draw here. Along the X Diamond’s stretch, it’s fly fishing only, and an experienced staff guide is available for half-day, one-day or multi-day trips. 

Despite rather blustery weather — think sideways sleet, hail and snow — during a visit in late May, anglers caught and released native rainbow and brown trout from the ephemeral water, while other guests sought warmth and shelter in their cabins or in the multiple museums on the property. 

You see, Crigler is a collector. Of musical instruments. Of family photographs and heirlooms. Of Native artifacts and Western lore. Of history, really, and she’s happy to give you a tour — and that includes a look at the Little Bear archaeological site that’s also on the property.

But more than anything, Crigler hopes guests visit the X Diamond to unplug and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds them there. 

“It’s an opportunity to reconnect with nature,” she says. “And for people to understand the value of our natural resources. My grandparents were connected to that idea. I was connected to that idea when I opened the ranch up to guests. And I hope that people connect to and understand that idea, too.”

Business Information

Po Box 791
Springerville, AZ 85938
United States