Literature and Legacy of Pyramid Lake Ranch

This ranch served as home to many divorcees evolved through many owners over the years.

Like the Riverside Hotel, Pyramid Lake Guest Ranch has roots in the 1880s, before being passed around from owner to owner in the 20th century. The first commercial use of the land came from Sutcliffe’s 1880s ranch dubbed the Willows. Sutcliffe’s era came to a close in 1926 when he sold the residence to A.J. Olds. Five years later, in 1931, the property was rebounded in its sale to John Marshall. In 1936, the ranch was sold to Alva and Leslie Kitselman who called the property, “The Sage” until 1946. During the Kitselman’s reign, Alva and Leslie’s adult son Beau caused conflicts with neighboring Native Americans. Harry Drackert then leased and managed the ranch with his wife Joan until 1956. By the sixties, Nevada’s role as a divorce haven began to wane as did the number of visitors to Pyramid Lake.

A few visitors wrote about their experiences at Pyramid Lake. Connecticut transplant Marilu Norden wrote a fictional book based on her 1951 experience at Pyramid Lake . From an interview with her and her son, she describes daily experiences at the ranch and the closeness of the community. She knew and loved the ranch’s manager Harry and his wife and Joan Drackert, she befriended a Grecian Premier, and once talked with Frank Sinatra during her stay. The cabins in pyramid lake were not extravagant. By Nordan’s description, the cabins bore light with a single dangling light bulb. The cabins were twenty years old when Norden and her son arrived.

One story set in Pyramid Lake was published a few years later, in 1954. After visiting the lakeside dude ranch, Abbott Joseph Leibling wrote an story based in Pyramid Lake. Leibling’s fictional article was overtaken by Arthur Miller’s 1961 film “Misfits”, also based on his time at Pyramid Lake.

Arthur Miller was a Pulitzer Prize Winner who had penned successful plays like 'Death of A Salesman.' He came to stay at Pyramid Lake two years after Liebling's Pyramid Lake story was published. Miller came as the lover of Marilyn Monroe and husband of Mary Miller, from whom he was seeking a divorce.

Miller wrote while waiting out his Nevadan residency on the rural landscape. The ranch rested on the shores of its namesake, Pyramid Lake. Situated 30 miles outside of Reno, the ranch offered a slower pace, well suited to Miller’s writing needs. In 1960, Miller would return when his short story had evolved into a screenplay for the Nevada divorce film.

Pyramid Lake served as a temporary home to many divorcees. Hospitality ranged from owner to owner, including the troublesome Beau Kitselman to the beloved Harry Drackert. Like the ownership, the name of the ranch changed frequently moving from its 1880 origins of the Willows to Sutcliffe, then becoming The Sage before being dubbed Pyramid Lake Guest Ranch. After the divorce haven era, the ranch was renamed the Sutcliffe Inn before its current title as the Crosby Lodge. Today, this historic plot of land remains a home to travelers and likely some divorcees in Sutcliffe, Nevada.


Untitled Women fishing in the 1930’s on Pyramid Lake Ranch. Source: "Two women holding Pyramid Lake trout; Pyramid Lake Dude Ranch; 1935." Special Collections, University of Nevada Reno Photo Collection.
Pyramid Lake Ranch Bar, 1950's
Pyramid Lake Ranch Bar, 1950's A view of the community gathering at the Pyramid Lake Ranch Bar in the 1950’s. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada Reno Photo Collection.
Pyramid Lake Ranch Game Room, 1950's
Pyramid Lake Ranch Game Room, 1950's Photograph of game room, with guests playing ping pong and billiards, at Pyramid Lake Ranch; 1950s; postcards by Eastman Kodak. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada Reno Photograph Collection. Creator: Eastman's Studio
Pyramid Lake Ranch, 1950
Pyramid Lake Ranch, 1950 Outside the Pyramid Lake Guest Ranch in the 1950’s. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada Reno Photo Collection. Creator: Eastman's Studio
Advertisement for Pyramid Lake Ranch
Advertisement for Pyramid Lake Ranch A 1934 photo advertising Pyramid Lake in Sparks, Nevada. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada Reno Photo Collection.



Ann Johnston, Brigham Young University, “Literature and Legacy of Pyramid Lake Ranch,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 22, 2024,