Dana Ranch

Property Map

Dana Ranch - Recently Sold

Cascade, Montana

The Dana Ranch runs on nearly 60,000 acres, of which 45,058 is deeded with the balance being primarily State of Montana leases that are captured within the boundaries of the ranch. The ranch is modestly and adequately improved with no extravagant or inappropriate structures. It consists of two parts. One is a group of three units on or near the river, containing approximately 3,600 acres and situated along four miles of the Missouri River just above and below Cascade. The second part is a mountain unit containing over 55,000 acres located 20 miles to the south of the river units along the headwaters of Hound Creek. Taking everything into consideration, the Dana is arguably the finest ranch in Montana. It is without question a true “Legacy Ranch” — a ranch that no family would want to sell, always preferring to pass it on as a legacy to future generations. Edwin Dana, who put it together and had no family to leave it to, cared enough to pass it along to the Cameron family because John Cameron, the father of the current owner/operator of the ranch, was his friend, confidant, advisor and banker during the Great Depression. It has been treasured by its two owners over the last nearly 100 years because it has operated profitably in even the worst of times and because it is a massive resource that includes amazing wildlife and fisheries which thrive, like its livestock, in an incredibly rich environment that includes strong grasses, near optimum climatic conditions, and an amazing diversity of terrain and habitats. It is a ranch that, with the exception of a very few intensively managed acres on the lower unit, cries out to be left to its own devices — to let nature do its job which it does so well. Conveniently located near Great Falls, it is estimated to carry 3,000 animal units along with its enormous recreational/wildlife component that includes huge elk herds, over 18 miles of “Blue Ribbon” quality fisheries, extensive upland bird, water fowl and pheasant habitat, and substantial populations of mule deer, whitetail deer and antelope.


The Dana Ranch’s river bottom headquarters lies two miles south of Cascade and 24 miles south of Great Falls, Montana, easily accessed off Interstate 15 at the Cascade exit. The Great Falls International Airport is just 20 miles to the north of the ranch. Delta, Alaska/Horizon, Allegiant and United Airlines offer 26 daily flights to and from their hubs in Minneapolis/Salt Lake City, Denver and Seattle. The main body of the ranch lies 20 miles further south where the county road dead-ends.


The area surrounding the Dana Ranch is near the geographic center of Montana. The Big Sky stretches in all directions above mountains, rivers and plains. The Smith River country defines its geography to the south, the Rocky Mountain Front to the northwest, the Sweet Grass hills and Bear Paw Mountains to the north, and the Northern Plains sprawl to the east.

The Missouri River runs through the midst of the region from west to east. In 1805, the first non-Indians traveled up the Missouri. Lewis and Clark’s journals report that their Corps of Discovery could hear the “great falls” of the Missouri seven miles before they came upon them. Five falls drop a total of 512 feet over 10 miles. It took the Expedition a full month to portage around them.

This is quintessential Charlie Russell Country. This is the landscape that the turn of the 20th Century cowboy artist made famous with his beautiful paintings, which described so eloquently everyday life in this spectacular country. This was, and in a very palpable way still is, a land of abundant game and Native American peoples. Gold strikes and cattle drives moved in during the 1800s. It is this combination of cultures and landscape that Russell saw and portrayed following his arrival in 1880. It is this same landscape, still so unpopulated and natural, that makes up the setting of the Dana Ranch.

Twenty-four miles away, Great Falls boasts 57,000 people. It is the cultural, trade and service center for the region. In the 1880s, it sprang up alongside the falls, which were later harnessed to generate electricity. Since then, wheat and cattle have grown to dominate the economy. Two universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees and a third offers associate degrees. Its hospital has 396 beds, 216 staff physicians, and a trauma center, which includes emergency flight services to remote locations.

The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center was recently established on the banks of the Missouri. The Charles Russell Museum includes the artist’s studio and home. The museum conducts one of the largest auctions of western art in the world annually.

Cascade is a small farming and ranching community with a grocery store and restaurants, among several other services.

The community immediately surrounding the main part of the ranch — the 55,000-acre Mountain Unit — is worthy of note. Many mountain ranches in Montana boast on the fact that they adjoin the national forest. The Dana Ranch actually is quite proud of the fact that it does not adjoin a national forest — rather it adjoins two ranches of similar scale that have been very tightly held for over 100 years. Devil’s Kitchen Working Group was formed to work with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to manage the wildlife on this enormous block of privately owned critical wildlife habitat. This group represents what many consider to be the most enlightened approach to game management in the region. But, more importantly it speaks to the benefits of living in a community of well managed private ranches that are able to control their own destiny and can deal with the public on their own terms.

General Description: 

To describe the Dana as an American Serengeti could be marginally accurate but is actually limiting. In the springtime one would swear it was the Scottish moors, but that would leave out a significant portion of the ranch along the Missouri River, where it is all Montana featuring a big trout- filled river with irrigated hay, cottonwood bottoms mixed with river slough wetlands full of waterfowl and pheasant. This would also ignore its history, 95 years of it so far, as one of the great cattle ranches of Montana.

Thirty-six hundred acres of the ranch lie just across the river from Cascade, while 55,000 acres are situated 20 miles further south in the upper Smith River country. This so-called Mountain Unit encompasses almost the entire Hound Creek Valley, which drains into the Smith just below the ranch boundary. The river units are at 3,500 feet elevation, each about 1,200 acres in size and lie within two miles of each other. They provide the winter feed and the spring calving location for the 3,000 head of cattle the ranch supports.

Six miles of the paved Cascade/Hound Creek Rd. and 15 miles of the gravel county road named for the historic town of Adel lead into big ranch country and to the Dana Ranch’s main 87 square mile Mountain Unit. Cattle ranches of 20,000 and 70,000 acres flank the ranch to the south and east. Two “small” 5,000-acre ranches border to the north and west. As one approaches the ranch from its northwestern corner, near the confluences of Hound and West Hound, Porcupine and Government Creeks, the elevation is 4,000 feet.

At the center of the ranch, around the 6,500-foot Round Top Mountain, springs feed the heads of some of its 63 miles of live creeks and timbered coulees with names such as Pine, Mowing Machine, Trout and Whitetail.

The southwestern end of the ranch is the highest. Rising above the B&K Headquarters on Hound Creek, near Elk and Crooked Creeks, the ranch reaches 6,700 feet at its highest point on its southern border. The name Hound Creek recurs frequently when talking about the Dana. Its trout-filled 12 miles course south to north through much of its length. Its main valley is quite dramatic. At certain places it can be up to 800 to 1,000 feet deep. Spring-fed aspen copses cascade down its hillsides from tops a mile apart. In general the Hound Creek valley itself tends to be narrow and much of the ranch lies in its foothills and tributaries sprawling across rolling ridges and high open meadows. It is very appealing country where one never knows what one will find over the next ridge or in the next valley. However, when one is “on top” the terms “Big Sky” and “Charlie Russell Country” immediately come to mind. This is about as big as it gets in Montana.


45,000 Deeded

Acreage Breakdown: 

Deeded* Acres: 45,058 Leased Acres: 14,255 *"Deeded" means privately owned by the ranch.

Total Deeded Acreage consists of: Grazing 42,275 Tillable Irrigated* 489 Tillable Non-irrigated 227 Wild Hay 252 Forest 1,808

Total 45,058

*The total pivot-irrigated ground on the ranch consists of the 220-acre and 130-acre pivots on the Rumney Unit and another 130-acre pivot on the Swett Unit.

Acreage by Ranch Unit

River Units: The Swett, Rumney and Thoroughman, aka Rocky Reef, units are located on or near the Missouri River at the town of Cascade. The Swett and Rumney units lie within two miles of one another and include the entire hay base for the ranch. These three units total 3,597 deeded acres and 38 acres of BLM lease. The deeded acres breakdown as follows: Swett Unit: 1,165 acres Rumney Unit: 1,191 acres Thoroughman Unit: 1,240 acres

Mountain Unit: The Mountain Unit lies 20 miles south of the River Units. It consists of 41,460 deeded acres plus 14,136 state leased acres and 81 acres of BLM lease. These deeded and leased lands total 55,677 acres, in a single private block of 87 square miles of land. Formalized, recordable legal access agreements have been recently acquired from the state along the ranch roads that have always been used across the many state leased sections. These roads connect the deeded property within the ranch and the agreements now provide for the future insurable access between them.

Leases & Permits: 

State of Montana The state leased lands of 14,136 acres are rated at 5,390 Animal Unit Months (AUM’s) of grazing in eight leases. Each is for a 10-year term, and they all renew between 2013 and 2018. In accordance with state access laws, only one half-section (320 acres) is accessible to the public. The annual cost of these leases is approximately $33,000.

BLM Two small acreages are leased from the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The total of these leases is 119 acres rated at 44 AUM’s.


There are four sets of building complexes on the ranch. Three are on the Mountain Unit and one on the River Unit. The three Mountain Unit groups are the Home Place, located on the northwestern part of the ranch along Adel Road, the B&K, located in the southwest off the end of the county road and the Ellis Place in the northeast near historic Milligan. The buildings on the River Unit are on the Swett Place. Mountain Unit – “Home Place” (Northwestern complex)

Main Home:
This classic farm house was originally built in 1920. It was the Dana’s main home for the ranch. This one and one-half story house is situated next to a flowing spring, amidst a grove of cottonwood trees, shrubs and lawns. It has a classic ranch look, painted white with red trim. Its 2,963 square feet of living space have been well kept and are in good condition. Its wood-frame construction houses five bedrooms and two bathrooms. Propane gas fuels its central forced-air heating system.

Log Bunkhouse: There are two bedrooms, a living room and one bathroom in this upgraded building, which was originally built 100 years ago.

Cook House: The one-story former cook house is now used as a guest house. This two-bedroom, one-bath, wood-framed dwelling was originally built in 1950 and has been kept in good condition. Its central forced-air system is fueled by propane gas that heats its 1,360 square feet of living area.

Pole Barn: This 5,000 square foot pole frame barn was built in 1920 and has been kept in fair condition.

Horse Barn: This 1940 classic wooden horse barn is 3,360 square feet. It is painted red with white trim, including a replication of one of the ranch’s oldest brands, the S over quarter circle, in large size on its front.

Shop/Garage: The wood-framed, detached structure was built in 1944 and consists of 1,125 square feet.

Corrals and Livestock Scales: The ranch has scales and corrals at both the Home Place and the Swett Unit and can ship from either.

Domestic Water: The Home Place water comes from a well located in the old bunkhouse.

Mountain Unit Headquarters – “B & K” (Southwestern complex)

Main House: This owner’s home sits next to the cookhouse and adjacent to the bunk house along Hound Creek. The large calving/horse barn is in the near distance across landscaped, irrigated lawns. One-story and wood-framed, the home has 2,866 square feet, four bedrooms, three baths, and was originally built in 1952. However, the house was extensively rebuilt in 2003, inside and out. Modern new interiors surround the original stone fireplace. Heat is provided by a central forced-air and propane gas-fueled system.

Cook House: The original 1943 cook house has also been remodeled and refinished. Its large kitchen/dining area has fed many a hand and guest. Its 832 square feet is heated by propane and also includes one bedroom and one bathroom.

Bunk House: This 756 square foot, wood framed, one-story house has two bedrooms and one and one-half bathrooms and was built in 1970. It has propane-fueled heating systems.

The Cedar Chalet: The design style of this 588 square foot three-bedroom, one-bathroom home is apparent from its name and is one story with a large loft. It was built in 1968 and has since been remodeled and upgraded. It is heated with a gas furnace.

Machine Shed: A 2,744 square foot, wood-framed, pole-style shop was built in 1952.

Pole Barn: This barn/calving shed is huge, some 14,000 square feet in size. It was built in 1942. It includes horse stalls.


Domestic Water: The B & K has a well which is used to serve the domestic water needs of the complex located between the Main House and the Chalet.

Mountain Unit – “Milligan/Ellis Place” (Northeastern complex)

House: The home here is a two-bedroom, one-bath, one-story house built in 1949. The standard wood-frame construction is still in usable condition. A gas-fueled freestanding stove heats its 968 square feet.

Livestock Shed: This shed was built in 1969 and is in average condition. It is four-sided, wood-framed and metal-sided and covers 6,272 square feet of usable space.


Domestic Water: Here gravity-flow springs serve the house and corrals.

River Unit – “Swett Place” (Western complex)

Main House: The one-story main home here is set among cottonwood and spruce surrounded by irrigated lawns. While originally built in 1945, it has been remodeled and is in good condition consisting of 1,835 square feet with three bedrooms and one bathroom. It is heated by a central forced-air, propane-fueled system.

Livestock Barn: The 8,500 square foot wood barn was built in 1935.

Metal Shop: This 2,500 square foot pre-fabricated metal building built in 1997 is in good condition.

Three-sided Shed: This equipment shed was built in 2001 of wooden poles and metal siding. It consists of 1,980 square feet.

Livestock Scales: 40,000-pound capacity and built in 1971.

Domestic Water: One of the three wells located here is used by the house.


There is a national weather station on the mountain ranch unit. It is a NOAA station named Cascade 20 SSE. It was moved to the ranch 50 years ago from the neighboring ranch. There are 100 years of data between the Dana Ranch and the neighbor.

The base data from the station reports that the 40-year average precipitation is 14 inches. One third of this fell during the two wettest months of the year, May and June, which is of course what creates the ranch’s amazing grazing resource. The total annual average snowfall is 32 inches, although the average maximum snow depth is one inch. The maximum average temperature (day time high) on the hottest month of August is 80°F, although the evenings almost always cool into the 60s. The minimum average temperature (night-time low) during the coldest month of January is 11°F. Two thousand feet higher in the ranch, snow can drift to depths of several feet and the total precipitation there is significantly higher.

General Operations: 

Cattle Historically the ranch figures it needs only 14 acres of range to graze an animal unit for the year. The ranch can graze for 10½ months out of the year. Theoretically this allows for 4,000 animal units of grazing. However, given the amount of elk on the ranch the more conservative figure for the ranch’s carrying capacity, year in and out, is closer to 3,000 animal units. Currently the ranch is running just over 2,200 bred cows, 950 yearlings and 350 replacement heifers. For many good reasons too detailed to explain here, this unique arrangement is carried out in two herds. Currently, the usual spring calving cows consist of 1,650 and the June calving herd, 450.

Historically, the weight of the spring steer calves is 600 pounds. Montana cattleman Tommy Lane has been buying calves from the ranch for 40 years. That says something about the quality of the cattle produced by the ranch. The ranch has scales on both the Home and the Swett places and can ship from either. Consequently most cattle are sold FOB the Home place.

The way the spring calving cattle herd is managed now, the cows are trailed from the Mountain to the River units in the last week of February. They get fed starting in March for six weeks. When branded, the pairs go to the Thoroughman Place, also known as Rocky Reef. They gather them there into groups of 500 and trail them back to the Home ranch. They will be turned out on grass in early May.

Weeds As on most ranches, there are many species, especially along the river. On the Mountain Unit the main noxious species are Spotted Knapweed and Leafy Spurge. The Knapweed is mostly on the creeks and disturbed areas. The Spurge is on lower Hound Creek. Death Camas is the only toxic plant to cows and it is localized. Spring grazing needs to be avoided in only one pasture because of toxic plants. The total annual bill for the ranch for weed control is $20,000.

Stock Water The Dana has 63 miles of free-flowing water during the grazing season. The flowing creeks used for stock water purposes include Main Hound, which is fed by the following eleven tributaries: Elk, Middle Hound, East Hound, Camp (Encampment), Crooked, Hines, Whitetail, Pine Coulee, Government, West Hound and Porcupine Creeks. In addition Trout Creek, Two Creek, One Creek and Mud Gulch flow independently into the Smith River drainage.

Of the few places where pastures are without flowing water, one is on the western side of the Mountain Unit, between the BK and the Home Place. However, a large spring exists there and was developed high up the hillside into a high-pressure system, running water through 25,000 ft. of buried pipeline. Eight additional developed springs provide clean stock water to livestock and wildlife in collecting troughs.

On the River Units, the stock water is off river, to avoid winter ice and environmental issues. The Thoroughman Tract contains two reservoirs for stock watering purposes as well as drinking access at an irrigation ditch. On the Rumney Unit there is a well and three stock tanks. The Swett Place has two stock water wells for use while cattle are wintering and calving there.

Grazing Resources The Mountain Unit is virtually 100% native range. Only approximately 150 acres (out of 54,000 acres of range in this unit) were once cultivated by homesteaders. Because of 2,700 vertical feet of slope, this rangeland covers a wide diversity of types, from riparian all the way to north-slope timber. There are timbered hill tops and ravines, foothills and sub mountain range land with a mix of forbs and grasses. The diversity on the Dana ranch is a real magnet and excellent habitat for all grazing animals, domestic and wild. Indicator species tell us much. For example there is an absence of sage brush and junipers and there are willows. Another way to look at the carrying capacity of the range is that at one time, government researchers monitored the ranch over a number of years. They found 1,500 pounds of edible dry matter per acre, outside of the treed areas. By way of reference most ranchers calculate that they need around 30 pounds per day of dry matter for a cow and that 30% of the potential feed will be lost to waste and selective grazing. With a 10½ month grazing season and some 54,000 acres of grazing, theoretically there is enough grazing for over 6,000 cattle. Clearly one does not utilize every sprig of grass on every acre and in every year. Some acres are less productive and one must keep a reserve for the vagaries of nature. Also, the abundant wildlife consumes a considerable portion of the range grass. However, research certainly speaks to the productivity of the rangeland on the Dana.

Timber Resources It is estimated that there are 1,800 acres of the timber on the ranch. These are approximately 70% Douglas fir; 10% Limber pine; 10% ponderosa pine; 10% lodge pole pine. Aspen are found in copses surrounding many springs. For a frame of reference for those concerned about the pine beetle infestation that has affected large areas of the west, the pine beetle does not attack the Douglas fir which is the primary species on the ranch.

Wildlife Resources: 

To support and document the ecological values of the Dana Ranch for purposes of a once proposed conservation easement, a State Wildlife Biologist responsible for the area volunteered the following,

The Dana Ranch, has long been known as one of the most productive ranches for both cattle and wildlife not only in Montana, but in the western United States. This ranch has been managed with precision and professionalism for generations. This stewardship is evident in the quality of the habitats present today. The combination of riparian, grassland, shrub-grassland, and timbered grassland communities lends this property to numerous species of wildlife including game species such as elk, whitetail and mule deer, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion, sharp-tailed grouse, blue grouse, ruffed grouse, pheasant, Hungarian partridge, and numerous species of waterfowl. Furbearers such as bobcat, beaver, muskrat, mink and otter also occupy the property.

Wildlife habitats on the Dana Ranch consist of grassland, shrub-grassland communities, timber stands and riparian forests. What follows is a classic “recipe” for cattle, but the recipe also greatly lends itself to wildlife needs throughout the year. The most common native grassland species include: Idaho fescue, rough fescue and bluebunch wheatgrass. Common forbs that occur among the grassland complex are western yarrow, lupine, arrowleaf balsamroot, yellow sweetclover, and pussytoes. These grasslands provide valuable spring, summer and fall habitat for antelope, sharp-tailed grouse and a host of native grassland songbirds, both resident and migratory. The rich and abundant shrub stands include: hawthorne, wild rose, snowberry, chokecherry, serviceberry, current, and others that flourish in relatively moist and productive habitats. The riparian forests along Elk, Crooked, Whitetail, West Hound, Porcupine and Government Creeks, along with the Missouri River are dominated by healthy stands of black cottonwood, aspen, willow, dogwood and other riparian tree/shrub species.

Currently, 300-500 resident elk occupy the upper Dana Ranch, along with an additional 300-500 migratory elk from neighboring areas, which utilize the ranch’s mountain grassland communities as critical wintering areas -- further evidence of excellent land management practices. Not only is the Dana Ranch known for its elk habitats and hunting opportunities, don’t forget about the antelope, whitetail and mule deer. Deer numbers on the ranch vary by species and location, but the upper Dana Ranch holds a host of “mulies” and whitetails. The lower ranch "Rocky Reef" parcel also holds very good mule deer numbers. The ranch property along the Missouri River holds some of the highest concentrations of whitetails on the river between Helena and Great Falls. Located in antelope Hunting District 450, antelope numbers on the Dana are among the highest of any ranch in the district and region.

In summary, the Dana Ranch is a special place to many people, including myself. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the Dana Ranch on hunter access and wildlife management issues with Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Devil’s Kitchen Working Group the past three years. I have hunted and worked on, and with, many ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, western Nebraska and South Dakota and have yet to see many that can top the Dana Ranch as far as a successful cattle operation in its size that benefits cattle, wildlife and the neighborhood ranching community. Hopefully this great ranching and wildlife history continues for generations to come.

Some additional details are worth noting:

Big Game
The State Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department’s recent game count census includes a fly-over of the Mountain Unit. During the winter of 2010 there were approximately 4,000 elk either on the ranch or within a 15 mile radius of it. In the count, among the 2,400 elk both on the ranch and close to it, there were an estimated 650 branch antlered bulls and 150 spikes — demonstrating the management efforts which have created a nearly perfect 1:2 bull to cow ratio. With such a healthy and controlled population, the ranch has been successful in creating an environment where big bulls are quite common as the bulls do not expel all of their energy breeding and are able to survive the winter months to an older age with less stress and higher stored fat. It is not uncommon to see several hundred bulls in a single herd. To be specific, the ranch’s guests harvested two notably high quality bulls in the fall of 2009. The total harvest was 40 to 50 cows and nine bulls and the nine were taken in the first three weeks of the general season.

The Dana Ranch is where the bulls tend to congregate for most of the year, primarily due to a long series of high benches with slopes of dense north-facing timber. This is the elk’s favored habitat. This also happens to make up a critical land mass in a larger ecosystem. The area around and including the ranch connects two of the mountain ranges within the so-called Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife conservation corridor. This joint Canada-US initiative seeks to preserve and maintain the wildlife, native plants, wilderness and natural processes of the mountainous region from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon Territory.

The Dana Ranch partly connects the Big and Little Belt Mountains, which ultimately also connect to the Rocky Mountains. On the ranch in the summer it’s easy to see 500 elk anytime, typically in three cow elk groups of several hundred each. There will also be groups of 75 bulls each scattered over the ranch. In the winter there are even more. Contributory to these elk quantities is the fact that wolves are scarce, (there having been only distant sightings), grizzly bears have not been seen and black bears are only occasionally spotted. Also, the ranch’s private lands are just that, private. That includes the 14,000 acres of State leased lands included inside of the Mountain Unit. They are just as private and there is virtually no public access to them. This owes to their checker-boarded nature (no legal access across cornering sections) and the fact that, with the exception of one half-section, they do not touch any public roads.

As for deer, there are hundreds. Groups of grazing mule deer are practically always in sight on the Mountain Unit. This is classic mule deer country. The owner has typically controlled the harvest to just eight to ten bucks to insure their quality. The antelope population on the Mountain Unit is several hundred. The whitetail deer are in quantity on the River Units. The irrigated hay crops and riverine forests along the River Unit bottomlands are typical whitetail habitat and support some 200 deer. To try to keep this in control, 70-80 are harvested each year. However the largest whitetails are on the Mountain Unit. These big bucks find refuge and solitude in the densely covered valleys and coulees hidden within the girth of the Mountain Unit. It is not unheard of to find bucks well in excess of the Boone and Crocket minimum standards.

Waterfowl Ducks and geese are on the River and sloughs all the time. The Missouri is a major part of the Pacific Flyway. When grain is growing on the ranch, the numbers of waterfowl present increases significantly. That not having been a priority of the owner, the farm land is currently devoted to forage production. The same holds for the wetlands. They are extensive but have been managed with priority given to the profitability of the cattle operation. Much could be done, and with positive impact, to enhance the waterfowl experience on the ranch.

Upland Birds The most significant species on the ranch is the Hungarian partridge with sharptailed grouse in second position. For the past 25 years the now-retired professional biologist and administrator for the state’s wildlife has hunted the ranch for these birds. He relates that, the Dana Ranch has some of the best habitat in central Montana for these two species. In high production years the numbers are almost beyond belief. I’ve seen over 150 birds fly from a single brushy hillside. I never hunted much of the Dana in comparison to the total acreage, just because it wasn’t necessary. The number of birds bagged is a form of measure, but hunting the Dana provides so much more. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of hearing a bull elk bugling while at the same time watching your dog working along a hillside alive with fall colors. The mule deer and antelope were almost to the point of a bother when bird hunting! I have spent over three decades working around the state of Montana and don’t hesitate to say that the Dana Ranch is one of the richest wildlife ranches Montana has to offer. The wildlife habitat is the reason for all of this. There are thousands of acres of native prairie grasses and forbs over varying topography.

Other upland game bird species present in significant numbers include blue grouse, and occasionally ruffed grouse and ring-necked pheasant. The potential to enhance the existing wild pheasant population, especially on the River Units, is great. The same enhancements that were mentioned with regard to the waterfowl would go a long way to accomplishing this.

Non-Game There are blue heron, nesting eagles and sandhill cranes. Both kinds of eagles, bald and golden, are always present. Of the predatory terrestrials sector there are lions, bears, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, a few fox and raccoon. Of snakes there are of course many species, and here the only venomous ones are the prairie rattlesnake. They are present more in certain parts of the Rocky Reef and the Mountain Unit. As a policy on the ranch they are not killed unless they are a threat in the yard of a house. Even then ranch personnel try to relocate them. A person has never been bitten in the hundred year history of the ranch.

Fishery Resources: 

The Dana Ranch possesses two trout fishing resources. First is the 14 miles of private stream wade-fishing for cutthroat-rainbow (cut-bow) hybrids, brook and brown trout. The water is a culmination of countless numbers of emergent springs which collect and flow out of virtually every valley within the ranch, adding quality spring water into each reach of stream they enter. The result is a high quality spring fed system which maintains fairly consistent flows and temperatures favorable to trout and insects and conducive to dense populations. Twelve of the miles of private stream are the meander of Hound Creek and another two are Crooked Creek. As noted earlier, Hound Creek runs the length of the Mountain Unit offering abundant fishing along its entire course. It is most easily accessed on its southern and northern beats. However, the middle section goes through a spectacular 800 foot deep canyon strewn with boulders, creating deep pockets for lurking trout. As for the quantity and size of the trout in Hound Creek, the family scrapbook has at least one photograph of a 29-inch, nine-pound brown trout landed in upper Hound Creek.

The other trout fishing asset of the ranch is four miles of the Missouri River. The ranch fronts on a famous section of what serious trout fishermen affectionately call the “MO”. It is unquestionably one of the state’s best trout fishing rivers, and argued by many to be the best. Technically the 25 mile tailwater section below Holter Dam, which fishermen revere, ends a few miles above the ranch. Fortunately the trout have not been made aware of this boundary and fishing through the ranch is excellent and not so heavily floated by the public. The most popular way the river is fished is by drift boat. Most exit the river five miles above the ranch. Therefore, the traffic is much diminished on the ranch’s stretch of the river. Also, it makes for a nice five mile float/fish to take a boat upstream to the next put-in and fish one’s way home. There, a simple pullout ramp could easily be built next to one of the barns to house your boat. And once the river volume drops at the end of June each year, the wade fishing becomes ideal through the summer and fall. Rainbow trout of 8-22 inches are common on the MO, and the less abundant browns are commonly 14-21 inches, but the river is best known for its great number of 16-18 inchers. On a good day a dozen will be brought “to hand.” If you don’t know it, don’t laugh when you hear that there is a growing popularity and reverence among ardent fly fishermen for the MO’s carp. These fish are surprisingly alert and can be a challenge to catch, but once hooked these fish, often exceeding 10 pounds, will humble most trout rods as they make sometimes unstoppable runs well into ones backing. They are often found surface feeding near trout and can add a new level of excitement to the day.


The Dana Ranch has always been special, its history included. It was assembled almost 100 years ago by the reputed “cattle king of the Northwest,” who, at the time, had the largest purebred Hereford herd in America, Edwin L. Dana. Dana’s artistic wife, Fra, was described by her mentor and the most famous painter of Native Americans, J. H. Sharp, as “one of the finest artists he knew.” Many of her landscapes, still-lifes and portraits were painted on the Dana Ranch.

As is the case with most of Montana’s larger ranches, the Dana Ranch was assembled from smaller homesteads at the beginning of the last century. In 1913 Edwin L. Dana wanted lower operating costs than his cattle ranch in Wyoming. In the Northern Rockies one of the best ways to achieve that is by locating where the grazing season is long, i.e. free of snow, and yet still close enough to the mountains to have higher precipitation for the range grasses. Locating where Chinook winds blow is a way to accomplish that. This Native American name means “snow eater” and consists of relatively warmer winds during the winter. The Dana Ranch has this important attribute. Edwin Dana started buying homesteads and assembling them into his ranch, finishing the majority of the current configuration by 1928. When it was time for Dana to retire, he turned to his trusted banker, John Cameron, to succeed him. So, in 1943 the Cameron family and a temporary business partner took over. For the first 10 years of the Cameron’s running of the ranch they were raising and selling two-year-old steers – 2,000 of them at a time. This was quite the spectacle when it was time to run them over the bridge and through downtown Cascade to be put on the rails for Chicago.

Water Rights: 

The ranch has 41 water rights on file with the State. Of these, 18 are for Irrigation, 15 for stock, seven for domestic; and one is for lawn and garden purposes. Of the irrigation rights, two are from the Missouri River, and 16 are from creeks on the ranch. Fifteen of them date back in priority over 100 years. The seven domestic rights are sourced in three wells, three creeks and one developed spring. A full listing of the rights is available from the offices of Hall and Hall.

Mineral Rights: 

In Montana, ranch ownership involves both the rights to the surface and the rights to the underlying minerals. They are two separate issues as the mineral “estate” is often severed from the surface estate. Without knowing whether the minerals under a property contained any economic value, it became easiest and customary in transferring the deed to any property to reserve “50% of whatever they still owned.” One hundred years ago this was how the Dana was put together from its original many individual ownerships. Consequently, when the ranch recently considered placing a conservation easement on the ranchlands, but has not done so, it had a so-called “remoteness test” done. To qualify for placement of a conservation easement one must either control the mineral estate or have a qualified geologist determine that the value of the underlying minerals have so little market value that the chances of them being extracted are so “remote” as to be negligible. As certified by the geologist, this has been determined to be the case for the Dana Ranch. All owned mineral rights will be transferred with the land.

Additional Information: 

In 2004-2005 the Dana Ranch was recognized by Cascade County and Montana State Conservation Districts “for outstanding accomplishments in the conservation of natural resources.” The ranch had completed two major conservation projects. One was the redistribution of grazing and drawing away of pressure from several creek riparian zones through the development of 25,000 feet of high-pressure pipeline from a spring. The other was the stabilization and landscaping of half a mile of Missouri River bank, together with prevention of pollution of the river, through relocation of corral fences and the redirecting of drainages. Then in 2006 the Cascade County Historical Society recognized the Dana Ranch’s owning Cameron family with the Heritage Preservation Award, in recognition of the great respect the Cameron family has for Dana and his ranch. Neither the name of the ranch nor its land configuration has ever changed since Dana created it.

Broker Comments: 

Owned by two associated families for nearly 100 years, the Dana is truly a legacy. It combines the very best features of an outstanding operating ranch with the aesthetic qualities, wildlife and fisheries resources of a more recreationally oriented ranch. Hall and Hall has represented most of the finest ranches that have changed hands over the last 50 years and has never seen a better combination cattle and recreational ranch in the Rocky Mountain West. We are now looking for the right owner to continue the legacy.

The Facts: 

• Operates on nearly 60,000± deeded and leased acres. • Located within easy driving distance of Great Falls at the end of the road – incredibly private. • 18 Miles of top quality fisheries. • Successful 3,000 Animal Unit Cattle Operation. • Modest but fully adequate improvements. • Tremendous hunting/wildlife ranch for Elk, Deer, Antelope, upland birds, Pheasant, and water fowl. • Owned by two affiliated families for nearly 100 years. • Exceptionally beautiful country with enormous views. • Believed to be the finest combination cattle and recreational ranch in the Rocky Mountain West.


Following is a Montana law required disclosure.


Montana law requires that BUYER’s and SELLER’s be advised about the different types of agency relationships available to them (MCA § 37-51-102 & 37-51-321).  A real estate agent is qualified to advise only on real estate matters.  As the client or as the customer, please be advised that you have the option of hiring outside professional services on your own behalf (legal and tax counsel, home or building inspectors, accountant, environmental inspectors, range management or agricultural advisors, etc.) at any time during the course of a transaction to obtain additional information to make an informed decision.  Each and every agent has obligations to each other party to a transaction no matter whom the agent represents.  The various relationships are as follows:

SELLER's Agent:  exclusively represents the SELLER (or landlord).  This agency relationship is created when a listing is signed by a SELLER/owner and a real estate licensee.  The SELLER's agent represents the SELLER only, and works toward securing an offer in the best interest of the SELLER.  The SELLER agent still has obligations to the BUYER as enumerated herein.

BUYER's Agent:  exclusively represents the BUYER (or tenant).  This agency relationship is created when a BUYER signs a written BUYER-broker agreement with a real estate licensee.  The BUYER agent represents the BUYER only, and works towards securing a transaction under the terms and conditions established by the BUYER and in the best interest of the BUYER.  The BUYER agent has obligations to the SELLER as enumerated herein.

Dual Agent:  does not represent the interests of either the BUYER or SELLER exclusively.  This agency relationship is created when an agent is the SELLER's agent (or subagent) and enters into a BUYER-broker agreement with the BUYER.  This relationship must receive full informed consent by all parties before a "dual-agency" relationship can exist.  The "dual agent" does not work exclusively for the SELLER or the BUYER but works for both parties in securing a conclusion to the transaction.  If you want an agent to represent you exclusively, do not sign the "Dual Agency" Disclosure and Consent" form.

Statutory Broker:  is a licensee who assists one or more of the parties in a transaction, but does not represent any party as an agent.  A licensee is presumed to be acting as a “statutory broker” unless they have entered into a listing agreement with the SELLER, a BUYER-broker agreement with the BUYER, or a dual agency agreement with all parties.

In-House SELLER Agent Designate:   is a licensee designated by the broker- owner/manager (of the real estate brokerage) to be the exclusive agent for the SELLER for a specific transaction in which the brokerage has the property listed and the BUYER is working directly through the same brokerage also.  This agent may not act on behalf of any other member of the transaction and works for the benefit of the SELLER, but still is obligated to the BUYER as any SELLER's agent would be.

In-House BUYER Agent Designate:   is a licensee designated by the broker- owner/manager (of the real estate brokerage) to be the exclusive agent for the BUYER for a specific transaction in which the brokerage has the property listed and the BUYER is working directly through the same brokerage also.  This agent may not act on behalf of any other member of the transaction and works for the benefit of the BUYER, but still obligated to the SELLER as any BUYER's agent would be.

Subagent:   is an agent of the licensee already acting as an agent for either the SELLER or BUYER.  A "SELLER agent" can offer "subagency" to an agent to act on his behalf to show the property and solicit offers from BUYER’s.  A "BUYER agent can offer "subagency" to an agent to act on his behalf to locate and secure certain property meeting the BUYER's criteria. 

_____ of Hall and Hall is the exclusive agent of the Seller.

NOTICE: Offering is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice, and approval of purchase by owner. Information regarding land classifications, acreages, carrying capacities, potential profits, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have been provided by sources deemed reliable, but whose accuracy we cannot guarantee. Prospective buyers should verify all information to their satisfaction. Prospective buyers should also be aware that the photographs in this brochure may have been digitally enhanced.