Arbor House in South Fork celebrates 20 years

Contributed photo Keith and Laurie Bratton have owned the Arbor House Inn in South Fork for 20 years. The small bed and breakfast is a testament to hard work and dedication for this family.

SOUTH FORK — Nestled among the trees along the South Fork of the Rio Grande on the west side is a beautiful, cozy and welcoming bed and breakfast owned and operated by Keith and Laurie Bratton. The Arbor House Inn is celebrating its 20th year in South Fork and continues to combine relaxation and adventure with guests from all walks of life. 

“My parents are locals that grew up here in the Valley. Keith grew up and graduated from Monte Vista and my mom, Laurie grew up in Del Norte. I am so proud of what they have built here that I wanted to recognize them for what they bring to this amazing community. They have been through so much in the last 20 years and their story is like so many of the businesses here. Having a business last this long is a milestone,” said daughter and local photographer Ashley Bratton. 

The couple met while in college and after leaving the Valley, made their home in Littleton, where they raised their daughters, Ashley and Amanda.

“They swore that they were never going to come back to the Valley to live," Ashley said. "They had a life in Littleton up until both me and my sister left for college, and I guess the empty-nest syndrome kind of kicked in because it wasn’t until my senior year that they announced they were coming back to South Fork.”

Bratton said her parents liquidated their assets and made the move with one thing in mind, opening a bed and breakfast.

“It was always a dream of my mom’s to open a bed and breakfast, but it was also a shock to us kids when they said they were going to sell everything and go start a business," Ashley said. "It took them a year to find the right property and I personally thought they were crazy, especially when I saw the property they purchased.”

According to Ashley, her parents settled on a property that sat right next to the South Fork of the Rio Grande with a dilapidated house in the center of the three acres.

“I just didn’t have their vision at the time, but now, seeing what they turned this place into and the perseverance of keeping it afloat for 20 years is just simply amazing. I am just so proud of them,” Ashley said.

They purchased the property in 1999 and spent the next two years making it into their dream bed and breakfast.

“They remodeled everything, cleaned up the yard, moved trees and created access to 400 feet of riverbank," Ashley said. "This section of river is private, and it will stay private and preserved for years to come. They completely flipped this place around and the results are wonderful.”

The Brattons went through two fires, the Million Fire in 2002 happened after a year of being open and in 2013 the West Fork Complex Fire ravaged the surrounding Rio Grande National Forest.

“They didn’t let anything stop them. They had a dream, and they were going to see it come through,” Ashley said.

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brattons used the time they were closed to upgrade the property to eight rooms. Five rooms are in the main house and three rooms are in a small cottage on the property.

“COVID was a blessing in disguise, and they used their time to improve the property and add some flair,” Ashley said.

Now, the small bed and breakfast fills up a year in advance and a one-time dream has long since been a reality.

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