Joy Ranch is both a non-profit organization and an actual 126 acre ranch located a few miles outside of Watertown, South Dakota.
Founded in 1989 by Joy Nelson, the organization’s core mission is to help challenged individuals get a chance to meaningfully connect with horses. Typical recipients of this program include everyone from foster children to those with life-altering conditions, disabilities, or diseases.
We fund these experiences by offering our stunning western getaway to church groups, corporate groups, clubs, and other members of the public. Come stay with us and enjoy a scenic, rustic, one of a kind destination.
Joy Nelson is the beating heart of Joy Ranch, both the non-profit organization and the acreage itself. It all started in 1989 when she purchased the land and started work on her vision: a place where folks of all ages and abilities could ride horses, follow trails, enjoy a lake, and explore a beautiful wilderness.
Over time, Joy continued her vision with the addition of more buildings. In 1997, Joy purchased a vintage, fully-restored one room schoolhouse from a local farmer. To this day, public school groups visit the school every year. In 2000, Joy purchased a beautiful old church and moved it from Erwin, SD. Restored in the years that followed, the church is still visited by some of the Erwin locals. A barn and granary were moved to the ranch. In 2012, work was finished on the sprawling 1880’s town addition, designed to be a unique historical attraction.
Through it all, Joy made sure the ranch would be accessible to all ages and abilities, even working with an architect to ensure it.