PN Ranch

Property Map

PN Ranch

  • PN Ranch

PN Ranch - Recently Sold

Winifred, Montana

The 48,594± acre PN Ranch lies just north of the small community of Winifred, about 55 miles north of Lewistown, at the confluence of the Judith and the Missouri rivers. It includes approximately fourteen miles along the south side of the Missouri and nine miles of both banks of the Judith, and portions of the ranch are a part of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, and the Dog Creek Wilderness Study Area, giving it importance and credibility on a national stage. Its 20,722± deeded acres contain extensive bottomlands with 561± irrigated acres that include three pivots. When combined with good basic operating improvements and nearly 48,000± acres of strong grass country, of which 4,200± is improved pasture (formerly CRP) and 657± acres are currently enrolled in CRP though 2021, the ranch is estimated to support 1,500 animal units on an average year with the future capacity to run even more. Lewis and Clark set up camp on this site in 1805. Fifty-one years later it became the first military post in Montana Territory providing a base of commerce for fur traders and riverboats. As the territory was settled and livestock was introduced, these lands became established as the PN Ranch, representing one of the oldest working cattle ranches in Montana. The lands are also home to a rich variety of wildlife including whitetail and mule deer, elk, antelope and upland birds which thrive in the thousands of acres of tall grasses. The deer, in particular, grow large and many likely die of old age in this rugged Missouri Breaks country. There is also a large population of big horn sheep and many believe that these rams may be amongst the largest in the world. With modest but practical improvements that include an historic home, the PN Ranch is a remote, scenic and wild operating cattle ranch that has played an important role in the history books of Montana.


This central Montana ranch is located in Fergus and Choteau counties and is accessible via a year-round, relatively high-speed, all-weather graveled road from Winifred 22 miles away.

The town of Winifred provides a few basic services. Lewistown is the nearest “larger” community - a relative term used in this remote part of Montana, with a population of just under 6,000. It includes a variety of hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, banks and other services. Lewistown Municipal Airport at 4,100 feet elevation has 6,100 and 4,100 foot crosswind runways, GPS approaches, and jet and Avgas fuels. The nearest commercial air service is 160 miles west of the ranch in Great Falls. The greatest number of daily flights is in Billings, 180 miles to the southeast of the ranch.

The ranch lies at the confluence of the Judith and Missouri rivers. This area is known as Judith’s Landing. This is the heart of the dedicated White Cliffs section of the Wild and Scenic River Corridor of the Missouri Breaks National Monument. The ranch is one of the places discovered by Lewis and Clark in the summer of 1805. They camped here on part of what remains a vastly unpopulated and federally protected 135 mile free-flowing river corridor. These waters served as the “super-highway” of the western frontier. They remain virtually intact and unspoiled today.


The region surrounding the ranch is some of the most sparsely populated in the state. In addition to the large ranch holdings that characterize the area, it includes the vast 1.1 million acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge 40 miles downstream. The region is also known as the Missouri River Breaks, in reference to the eroded, elevated bench lands cascading toward the river. They have been sculpted by eons of wind and water crumbling sedimentary soils and thereby creating stunningly beautiful cliffs and rock formations with intermittently steep and rugged topography.

Above these slopes, much of the upper bench is dryland farmed for small grains, hay and improved pasture. Below these benches and cascading hillsides lie fertile creek and river bottom lands. Soils are deep and often well watered. Much of this farming is irrigated. Wheat, barley and alfalfa hay crops are grown either for cash crops or to support cattle operations, or both. Regardless, agriculture remains the economic driver of the economy throughout this region. Two state highways and the Montana Rail provide transportation of goods and convenient marketing outlets for agricultural products and livestock.

The rural communities throughout this region are all quite small and the pace is refreshingly slower. There is an uptick in activity during the fall hunting season and the occasional summer river canoe paddler armed with copies of Undaunted Courage to relive the journey of Lewis and Clark in a place where in many ways nothing has changed over the last 200 years.

General Description: 

The over-arching single greatest feature of the ranch historically, as well as today, is water-flowing surface water, rivers and creeks - an abundance of it. The northern border of the ranch encompasses 14 miles of the Missouri River. Cutting through the ranch, perpendicular to and tributary to the Missouri, is nine miles of another river and two large creeks -- the Judith River, Dog Creek and Arrow Creek.

This landscape of the ranch is in a predominately native state. It is made up of steep arid coulees, cottonwood-lined bottomlands and gentler rolling grass hills with patches of evergreen timber, grass and sage. One exception is over 4,200± acres near the center of the ranch that have been tilled and improved with tame pasture grasses. A second exception would be the 561± acres of irrigated cropland along the Judith River.

Dozens of miles of interior ranch roads are found throughout the ranch with bridge crossings over all three drainages. These bridge crossings are substantial and built to the highest standards using concrete and steel and have stood against torrential flooding in recent times. Unlike many areas within the Missouri Breaks, the ranch is highly accessible with relatively drivable roads that only in part consist of the infamous “gumbo.” Largely, these roads are useable year round and in most weather conditions.

The ranch is mostly contiguous but interspersed with BLM and State lease lands.

Acreage Breakdown: 

15,364± acres native range
4,773± acres improved pasture
561± acres irrigated
24± acres farmstead
22,722± total deeded acres

657± total acres of CRP
157± acres expiring in 2020
500± acres expiring in 2021

9,714± acres State lease (1,683 AUM’s in 7 leases)
18,158± acres BLM lease (2,276 AUM’s in 6 allotments)
27,872± total leased acres
48,594± total acres


With the exception of the very historic buildings, the improvements on the PN Ranch are very adequate for ranching purposes. There are two separate compounds located along the Judith River, each constructed in 1980.
These include three homes used for employees and a trailer house used by the owner and guests. Two of them are wood-frame, one-story rancher style houses built in 1980 and include:

  • 2,016± sq. ft., three bedroom, one and one-half baths
  • 1,754± sq. ft., four bedroom, one and one-half baths
  • The third employee house is a manufactured home built in 2008, consisting of 1,620 ± sq.ft., three bedrooms, and two baths. 

There are also a variety of barns, sheds, shops, grain bins and corrals (including a scale) located in and around the two sites. Utilities include propane gas, fiber optic high-speed internet and land-line telephone service.

The historic buildings are located in an ancient grove of cottonwoods near the confluence of the Missouri and Judith Rivers. The 3,136± sq. ft., two story “mansion” was built in 1880. Although abandoned as a residence long ago, the house was recently stripped down inside and a new cedar shake roof and partial shake siding were installed to insure that structural integrity is maintained and to preserve the option for a new owner to make it livable again. The mostly-intact remnants of the commissary, stone warehouse and log schoolhouse are all located near the home.


The region has a climate typical of the semi-arid Great Plains Region. This is marked by abundant sunshine, low relative humidity, moderate winds, low precipitation, wide daily and seasonal variations of temperature and a relatively long growing season. The summer season has hot days with abundant sunshine which is tempered by cool nights.  The winters are moderately cold, but as a rule they are not prolonged and are broken frequently by comparatively long periods of mild weather.  Normal frost-free days number 131 and average precipitation is just under 14 inches.  The average daytime high temperature in the hottest month of August is 87 degrees Fahrenheit. The average nighttime low temperature in the coldest month of December is 12 degrees above zero.

General Operations: 

The PN is currently being run with commercial cattle on a conservative stocking regime well under its actual capacity. This is primarily because the owners have not wanted to stock up to accommodate additional capacity that has come on line – more on this below. Irrigated haylands produce more than enough for winter feed needs. All dry cropland is now being grazed. What makes the PN unique is both productivity and flexibility. Its various land classes - from native range to dry crop to irrigated crop - are able to be utilized in multiple ways. This allows an operator flexibility to maximize profits by adjusting to changing weather, commodity prices and operating capacities. One can maximize cattle profit with an all-cow regime, or flex with the weather with a part-cow/part-yearling program. A base cow herd can be maintained and excess grass can be leased out to others. One can also diversify by raising more cash grain and hay crops.

The ranch terminated a CRP program in 2013 which kept 4,200± acres of tame pasture off limits to grazing. During the period in which it was enrolled, much of which coincided with several years of severe drought, the ranch carried a herd of 750-900 cows, received payment to not use the CRP acres and sold excess hay. The owners are electing to continue to graze the lands lightly with 800 pairs in an effort to avoid stocking-up while in a sale mode. This regime is also calculated to leave lots of grass for a new owner.

Recently the PN Ranch acquired a 3,718± acre in-holding, expanding their deeded footprint and adding substantial grass to the operation. The 2015 acquisition was taken subject to CRP contracts covering 657± acres which expire in 2020 and 2021. As part of the transaction, the CRP contracts were assigned to a neighbor and former lessee who will take the payments through the remainder of the term. The lands enrolled include a robust stand of tame grass and dryland alfalfa which could ultimately produce an additional 700-1,000 tons of forage or the equivalent in grazing capacity. Three pivots covering 425± acres pump from wells and typically provide an average of 4½ tons to the acre from two cuttings, leaving regrowth for fall aftermath grazing. Additionally there are 109± acres of flood-irrigated land along the south end of the Judith that are leased to a neighbor for hay production. The PN then comes in and fall grazes the aftermath. There are several fields of improved pasture that include dryland alfalfa which yield 1 to 1½ tons per acre and could potentially have higher yields with fertilization.

Taking into account the additional acreage recently purchased and the CRP now available for grazing, we are estimating an overall carrying capacity of 1,500 animal units based upon average precipitation. Essentially the ranch produces enough winter feed for 1,500 animal units for a 5-month feeding season and there is often enough summer grass to support additional livestock on a seasonal basis. It goes without saying that additional capacity is available or will come on line as current leases and CRP contracts come to an end.

The ranch is being offered inclusive of cattle and equipment. It includes approximately 800 pairs on the ranch that consist of commercial Black Angus cows bred to 30 Charolaise bulls. This herd is of great quality with high performance and a top reputation in the industry. The bulls and cows are culled to fairly young ages and are up to the rigors of this rugged ranch. Calving begins in March extending through April, and calves are weaned and shipped in late October. Steer calves have averaged 620 pounds while the heifers have weighed in around 580 pounds. The inventory of cattle will, of course, vary through the season and will be formally updated at the time of the purchase contract.

A list of equipment will be made available to qualified buyers. It is extensive and includes an assortment of tractors and implements. Included is quite a bit of heavy equipment such as excavators, road graders and bulldozers, which contribute to the self-reliance of the ranch in this remote location.

The pastures are large and include several catch pens located throughout. Stock water is provided by creeks, developed springs, wells and catch basins. A newer well pumps water to a pipeline and stock tanks in the tame pasture on top of the main bench. The ranch is fully fenced and that fence is in various states of repair. This includes numerous miles of new fencing and gates, with plans for more.

The ranch employs three full-time cowboys. Additional help is employed during summer haying and spring calving. Immediate family members of the employees are occasionally hired on an as-needed basis.

Wildlife Resources: 

Wildlife abound, both in quantity and diversity, along the riparian corridors, coulees, canyons, croplands and grasslands of the PN Ranch. Sixty species of mammals, 230 breeds of amphibians and reptiles call this region and the ranch their home. The riparian habitat is ecologically some of the most important in the breaks. The diversity throughout the ranch is ideal for whitetail and mule deer, which have been carefully managed for many years with assistance from a local outfitter. However, it is a certainty that many large deer simply die of old age in this country as they have a propensity to find solitude in the more rugged terrain.

Elk and antelope also roam the ranch, although not in the same numbers as the deer. Big horn sheep are also found here. They have been for over 200 years, as noted in Lewis and Clark journals. Sightings of these sheep are an everyday occurrence. However, there is nothing common about their size, because these sheep are exceptional. In fact, many believe the next world record may come from this region.

The upland bird population is robust. In 1998 the ranch seeded thousands of acres into tame grasses and legumes providing exceptional habitat for sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge. Pheasant are always present and their population expands proportionately with the amount of grain being grown. This resource could easily be expanded.

Traveling the river by motorboat or canoe is also a recreational consideration. As mentioned, the river is mostly unchanged from the days of Lewis and Clark and one can float the river from Fort Benton to Judith Landing along this 88-mile stretch that has primitive camping along the way. This stretch of the Missouri River is a warm water fishery. Forty-nine species of fish have been identified in this reach of river including sport fish such as sauger, northern pike, sturgeon and walleye. The waters also support one of six remaining paddlefish populations left in the nation. Paddlefish can reach well over 100 pounds.


The Corps of Discovery departed St. Louis in 1802 on one of history’s most storied expeditions. As the late Roy Appleman put it, “they carried the destiny as well as the flag of our young nation westward.” The Lewis and Clark expedition set up camp on what is now the PN Ranch in 1805 near the confluence of the Judith and Missouri at the mouth of Dog Creek. Standing there today, one can only begin to imagine the challenges they faced as they endured this journey to the Pacific Ocean. These lands were Blackfeet Indian territory, and were often in conflict among the Blackfeet, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine and Cree, along with multiple mountain tribes who came there to hunt.

Lewis and Clark became enamored with the rugged scenery around them, particularly noting the geologically unique White Cliffs area located upriver from this site. Also notable were the cool and clear waters flowing from the Judith River, which Lewis named after his soon-to-be wife.
In 1855 the Lame Bull Treaty allowed the US Government to build roads, military posts, and telegraph lines within the Blackfeet territory, and to navigate the river in return for annual annuities. Eleven years later Camp Cooke became Fort Clagett, the first military outpost in Montana Territory. More than 400 soldiers were stationed there. In 1869 James Wells, in partnership with T.C. Power (the “P” in PN) and I.G. Baker built the Judith Landing Mercantile trading post site. The sandstone and granite warehouse, post office and a ranch house were built in 1884 and are still standing on the ranch today. The shell of this so-called “Mansion” has been preserved. Sitting next to it is the original log schoolhouse.

Fueling the demand for the Judith Landing Mercantile trading post were western settlers who came for fur trading and gold. The Missouri River was their by-way. The first steamboats made their way on Montana’s stretch of the Missouri in 1860. Enterprising “woodhawkers” cut, stored and sold cottonwood and Ponderosa pine wood to the riverboats to burn for steam. Remnants of their storage sites still exist. During the period between 1860 and 1890, countless tons of freight and thousands of people made their way through this stretch of geography. By then the Whoop-Up and Mullan Trails had become established. At the end of this time the railroad had been built, ending the need for the inefficient and slow riverboats.

While the river may have become silent, more people meant more demand for beef.


axes are approximately $32,761 annually.

Broker Comments: 

The ranch is being sold with livestock, equipment and feed on hand. Depending upon the time of year, these “non-real estate assets” are likely to be worth in the range of $3,000,000. However the value of “located” livestock cannot be over emphasized. The new buyer can move in tomorrow and continue with the existing base of livestock, equipment and even staff that has already proven itself to be of top quality.   It is difficult to put a price on these assets as they cannot easily be duplicated. 

Additional Services: 

MANAGEMENT SERVICES – Hall and Hall’s Management Division has a very clear mission–to represent the owner and to ensure that his or her experience is a positive one. Services are customized to suit the owner’s needs. They often begin with the recruiting and hiring of a suitable ranch manager or caretaker and are followed by the development of a management or operating plan along with appropriate budgets. Ongoing services include bill paying, ranch oversight, and consulting services as needed. Even the most sophisticated and experienced ranch owners appreciate the value of a management firm representing them and providing advice on local area practices and costs. Wes Oja, Jerome Chvilicek, Dan Berstrom or Brant Marsh at (406) 656-7500 are available to describe and discuss these services in detail and welcome your call.

RESOURCE ENHANCEMENT SERVICES – Increasingly the value of a ranch is measured by the quality of each and every one of its resources. Coincidentally, the enhancement of a ranch’s resources also increases the pleasure that one derives from the ownership of a ranch. Our management services have included the assessment of everything from wildlife habitat to bird habitat to water resources and fisheries and the subsequent oversight of the process involved with the enhancement of these resources. Wes Oja, Jerome Chvilicek, Dan Bergstrom or Brant Marsh at (406) 656-7500 are available to describe and discuss these services in detail and welcome your call.

AUCTIONS - Hall and Hall Auctions offer “Another Solution” to create liquidity for the owners of Investment-Quality Rural Real Estate.  Our auction team has experience in marketing farmland, ranchland, timberland and recreational properties throughout the nation.  Extreme attention to detail and complete transparency coupled with Hall and Hall’s “Rolodex” of more than 40,000 targeted owners and buyers of rural real estate help assure that there are multiple bidders at each auction. In addition, the unique Hall and Hall partnership model creates a teamwork approach that helps to assure that we realize true market value on auction day.  For more information on our auction services contact Scott Shuman at (800) 829-8747.

APPRAISALS - Staying abreast of ancillary market influences in ever-changing economic conditions requires a broad professional network to tap into. Finding an appraiser who not only understands the numbers but also the differences in value from one area to another is a critical part of making an informed decision. The appraisal team at Hall and Hall, formed entirely of Accredited Members of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA), has that critical network of brokers and lending professionals. This professional network coupled with diverse experience across multiple regions and market segments allows our appraisal team to deliver a quality product in a reasonable timeframe.  For more information contact our appraisal team at (406) 656-7500.

SPECIALIZED LENDING - Since 1946 Hall and Hall has created a legacy by efficiently providing capital to landowners.  In addition to traditional farm and ranch loans, we specialize in understanding the unique aspects of placing loans on ranches where value may be influenced by recreational features, location and improvements and repayment may come from outside sources. Our extensive experience and efficient processing allows us to quickly tell you whether we can provide the required financing.

Competitive Pricing  |  Flexible Terms  |  Efficient Processing
Tina Hamm or Scott Moran • (406) 656-7500 
Mike Hall or Judy Chirila • (303) 861-8282
Monte Lyons • (806) 698-6882
J.T. Holt • (806) 698-6884


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.