By Karon Warren | Photography courtesy of Rankin Poage
Tucked away on the banks of the Bouie River, the River Ranch Resort attracts international guests who want to experience a place where luxury meets nature.
For Laurel natives and sisters Gina Galligan Poage and Vicki Galligan, owning a bed-and-breakfast has been a lifelong dream. In 2010, that dream was realized when they opened River Ranch Bed & Breakfast outside of downtown Hattiesburg. On a working timber farm with more than 325 acres on both sides of the Bouie River, the River Ranch Bed & Breakfast is housed in a five-bedroom log cabin lodge that sits alongside the river.
The B&B actually began as a second home for Gina, her husband, and her son, who all live in California. However, the family wasn’t using the home much, and they recognized the opportunity to share the home with others.
“There’s a growing demand for a more intimate and unique lodging experience,” Gina said. “We felt we had something unique to offer.”
The lodge certainly is impressive. Constructed of hand-hewed and dovetailed logs ranging from 14-to-24 inches in diameter, the building is a commanding presence that seamlessly blends in with its surroundings. Inside, the guest rooms are named after the towering trees found throughout the property, such as the Oak, Magnolia, and Laurel suites.
“They all boast mesmerizing views of the Bouie River from the porches and feature separate bedrooms and bathrooms,” Gina said.
Today, Vicki and the sisters’ mother, Freda Galligan, manage the property onsite. Despite the name, though, neither cooks.
“We were hesitant about categorizing the business as a B&B because none of the Galligan girls can cook,” Gina said. “Thankfully, our guests preferred the convenience of a self-serve continental breakfast and the privacy of not having someone banging pots and pans around in the early morning to make a hot breakfast. They also love having access to the fully stocked kitchen to create their own culinary experience at any time.”
Those guests range from couples looking for a weekend getaway and military families staying over before a deployment to business travelers staying in Hattiesburg and families coming together for a reunion.
“Our guests come from all over,” Gina said. “We’ve had guests from Australia, Great Britain and Germany.” However, most guests arrive from around the South: Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and, of course, Mississippi.
One such guest, Sherri Sims of Dallas, has visited River Ranch twice and loved everything about her stay. She first visited about five years ago with her girlfriends after finding the property on Google.
“It looked really cute,” Sims said. “We liked the location to area attractions.”
She returned again last December for a few days of “me” time. “I wanted a place to decompress, and I remembered [River Ranch] being like that,” Sims said.
In addition to relaxing by the fireplace in the main living room, Sims loved cooking in the kitchen. “I did nothing, and loved every minute of it,” she said. “I could stand on that deck watching the river run by for hours.”
The lodge sits along one mile of the river that includes a white sandy beach where guests can relax along the water. The property also includes a fishing pond, miles of walking trails, wildlife viewing and birdwatching. Plus, River Ranch is just 7.2 miles from the Longleaf Trace, a rails-to-trails bicycle path, so guests often bring their bikes.
“Guests are surprised by the sheer size of the property and the proximity to everything,” Gina said. “Guests love it because they have the best of both worlds. First, they have easy access to Hattiesburg and everything it offers with culture, art, music, theaters and restaurants. Second, they have room to roam and complete privacy. Once a guest arrives, they don’t want to leave.”
With so much going on in and around Hattiesburg year-round, River Ranch Bed & Breakfast doesn’t experience high and low seasons with occupancy. “We really don’t have a season, perhaps because we host lots of business travelers, and there’s always a sporting event happening,” Gina says. Plus, they have a lot of repeat visitors who return each year to celebrate special occasions.
Most guests find River Ranch via an internet search or by word of mouth, and seem to respond to the property’s off-the-beaten-path charm.