Wanship’s River Run Ranch raises renowned Suri alpacas
May 26, 2009
A river runs through it no really, one does. That’s why Barbara Boineau named it River Run Ranch. And even though it’s a bucolic setting for a retirement venture and it is that the ranch is no hobby.
Boineau and her partner/husband Frank Dorman own about 20 Suri alpacas and 9 Icelandic sheep in Wanship along the Weber River. They sell the wool and alpaca fiber to spinners and knitters like Nicole Kennedy at the Park City Yarn Company.
She’s also focusing on raising champion animals to become breeders. Her Primo of PVA won the 2008 International Alpaca Odyssey Supreme Champion for Suri males. She has three juveniles who won blue ribbons at the Great Western Alpaca Show the first weekend in May.
If all goes according to plan, alpaca ranchers will be coming to Wanship from all over the West to breed with her champion animals.
"There’s a real scientific effort you make to get the best animal," she said.
Breeding is a different kind of science than what Boineau used to do. Before retiring, she was a professional psychologist in Provo. While her alpaca collection was still growing, she invested in Icelandic sheep to be recognized by the county as an agricultural business.
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While alpacas look like four-legged "Star Wars" Ewoks, Icelandic sheep are equally fantasy-like something from the darker side of puppeteer Jim Henson, perhaps. Imagine gray dreadlocks with curvy horns.
Both animals inspire memories of Sci-Fi movies because they are bred for hair. On alpacas, it’s called fiber, not wool. Suri alpacas have some of the finest natural fiber in the world, Boineau explained.
Once the Suri herd was large enough, Boineau donated most of her sheep herd, about 40, to the Navajo Nation through the Park City Christian Center.
At shearing time, she sends the fleeces to co-ops where it is cleaned and processed and then receives a portion of the entire operation’s finished product to sell to people like Kennedy.
"It’s been a big hit," she said. "They’re beautiful and I even have some from Primo."
Kennedy carries yarn as well as unspun fiber for people who like to do their own spinning.
"She has one of the finest kinds you can get. Suri is the softest fiber imaginable," Kennedy said.
Even though Boineau made a drastic career change, she’s not stranger to working with animals. Before moving to Utah, she raised thoroughbred horses in North Carolina.
Her ranch is also a sort of petting zoo and animal refuge. She has two rescue dogs, peacocks and African guinea hens.
And if the green pastures, blue river, shaggy animals from outer space and peacocks weren’t enough color for you, all of the barns and buildings are bright red.
It’s off the grid too. Boineau uses solar panels to power her television, computer and cell phone charger.
Boineau’s friend, Barbara Flinn, owns Cloud Peak Llamas and Suri Alpacas. It’s her herd currently grazing to the south of Home Depot near Silver Summit. She’s raised alpacas and llamas her entire adult life.
She said it takes years to develop a good herd, but said the lifestyle is rewarding. It’s also fun to see people make beautiful things with the fiber, she said. They’re also great for pack animals in Utah’s mountains.
People love llamas and alpacas in Summit County, Flinn said. Before attending a show, Boineau said she’ll take an animal for a walk around Redstone in Kimball Junction to get it used to people. It’s one of her favorite times of the year, she said.
River Run Ranch
Dr. Barbara Boineau
1706 River Bend Rd, Wanship