For Sale Reduced

Lava Lake Ranch

$21,000,000 Sun Valley, ID 24,108± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Located in the Pioneer Mountains 45 miles east of the airport in Hailey, Lave Lake Ranch is an expansive agricultural, conservation, and wildlife property that is easily accessible to the amenities of Sun Valley and communities of southern Idaho yet instills a sense of being a world away. The ranch encompasses a footprint of approximately 825,000 acres and features 24,108± deeded acres in five separate units and 800,000± acres of associated U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing permits, state of Idaho grazing leases, and private land grazing leases.

From the Snake River Plain north to the crest of the Pioneer Mountains, Lava Lake Ranch spans 125 miles of diverse ecosystems within the Pioneer Mountains-Craters of the Moon landscape that consist of mountain peaks, foothills, canyons, sage steppe grasslands, forests of fir and aspen, and free-flowing rivers and streams. This vast, undeveloped landscape includes over 95,000 acres of conserved private lands and the 750,000-acre Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Wildlife here is prolific and includes wide-ranging species such as mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and sage grouse; carnivores such as gray wolves, mountain lions, and bobcats; and iconic species such as mountain goats and wolverines.

Year-round recreational opportunities on the ranch are almost endless and include big game hunting, wingshooting, trout fishing, birdwatching, trail riding, cycling, hiking, ATV touring, and cross-country and backcountry skiing. Established in 1999, exceptional grazing resources highlight Lava Lake Ranch and its owners, who have focused on producing the highest quality grass-fed lamb and beef while restoring and preserving the lands used by the ranch. Building improvements on the ranch are modest but practical and sufficient to serve current operations. A series of conservation easements cover the majority of the ranch and allow for a broad set of agricultural, residential, and recreational uses.

General Description

Lava Lake Ranch is made up of seven separate deeded units totaling 24,108± acres. The following are descriptions of the deeded components that comprise the ranch:

Lava Lake Home Ranch (4,840± acres): Lava Lake represents water in the most unexpected place – the otherwise porous lava that cushions the southern border of Lava Lake Home Ranch. Ansel Adams photographed this unique 50± acre lake in the 1940s and included it in his iconic images of Craters of the Moon. The Home Ranch is the operating headquarters for Lava Lake Ranch and includes staff housing, barns, a ram shed, a calving corral, lambing sheds, stack yards, a machine shop, an equipment shed, and a kennel for the ranch’s working dogs.  

In addition to Lava Lake, there are three spring-fed wildlife ponds, a five-acre irrigation reservoir, and several miles of Copper Creek. The Home Ranch holds surface and groundwater rights to raise hay and irrigate pasture during summer months. Irrigation infrastructure includes two center pivots, wheel line sprinklers, and hand line sprinklers. The Home Ranch is bordered almost entirely by BLM lands and includes over four miles of boundary with Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. The Home Ranch also encircles approximately 1,000 acres of BLM lands that are part of the associated Lava Lake grazing allotment. These lands expand the Home Ranch's physical footprint and are inaccessible to the public. The Home Ranch enjoys excellent year-round access via U.S. Highway 20/26.  

Cottonwood Ranch (2,748± acres): Cottonwood Ranch is the easternmost unit of the Lava Lake Ranch. It is bordered on the east and south by Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and on the northwest by Blizzard Mountain, which, at 9,313 feet, is the last high point before the Pioneers plunge dramatically into the Snake River Plain. Private, rugged, and teeming with elk and mule deer, this is a hunter’s and wildlife lover’s paradise. And with native grasses higher than a horse’s withers in the meadows, Cottonwood Ranch is highly desirable summer and fall cattle grazing land. Cottonwood Creek flows from Blizzard Mountain through the property and supports lush stands of aspen and seasonal wetlands. Access to Cottonwood is from U.S. Highway 20/26 and follows the historic Goodale’s Cutoff of the Oregon Trail.

Iron Mine Ranch (5,308± acres):Iron Mine Ranch is a virtually untouched paradise for livestock and wildlife, with verdant meadows, forested hillsides, and several stunning wild canyons where five creeks join to form Fish Creek. This property lies at the head of the drainage and is the gateway to the ranch’s Forest Service grazing allotments to the north. Iron Mine Ranch also includes three deeded parcels called Sandy’s Meadows, each surrounded by the Salmon-Challis National Forest. Featuring the upper reaches of Trail Creek, Sandy’s Meadows represents the best of the spectacular Pioneer Mountains high country. With the exception of livestock shipping corrals, Iron Mine Ranch is unimproved. Access to the property is direct from Fish Creek Road.  

Two Forks Ranch (7,557± acres): Encompassing iconic sagebrush country, Two Forks Ranch features a half-mile of Fish Creek, the headwaters of West Fork Fish Creek and Bradsfield Creek, vibrant riparian corridors, numerous springs, and aspen and chokecherry groves. The property is well-suited for sheep and cattle and is a resting place for sheep bands trailing to Iron Mine Ranch and grazing lands beyond. Two Forks Ranch is unimproved, and access is direct from Fish Creek Road. 

Muldoon Ranch (3,655± acres): Located at the head of the Muldoon Creek drainage, Muldoon Ranch consists of a 640± acre parcel owned by Lava Lake Ranch and 3,015± acres owned by Muldoon Grazing Association (MGA). Lava Lake Ranch has a controlling five-sevenths interest in MGA, and there is one other member of the association with a two-sevenths interest. Contiguous with the Sawtooth National Forest, Muldoon Ranch is the gateway to the headwaters of the Little Wood River. Muldoon Ranch is also close to the Elk Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Freidman Creek Wilderness Study Area, and a large tract of national forest recommended for a federal Wilderness designation. Apart from shipping corrals, Muldoon Ranch is unimproved. Power and phone service are available to the property, and access is via a year-round county road.  

Broker's Comments

Large ranches in the Sun Valley area, particularly ranches of the size, scale, beauty, productivity, and reputation that Lava Lake offers, tend to remain in multigenerational ownership and rarely change hands. In addition to preserving open space and agricultural resources, this land tenure situation has helped to insulate the area from growth and development pressures experienced elsewhere in the northern Rockies. Lava Lake Ranch represents a rare opportunity to own a substantial property and ranching operation in a tightly held section of our region and combines seclusion with proximity to all the amenities and services of a premier resort community. 

Learn about the locale

Location

Lava Lake Ranch is located in the Pioneer Mountains, 15 miles east of the farming and ranching community of Carey, Idaho, and 55 miles southeast of Ketchum, Idaho, and the Sun Valley Resort. The city of Hailey, the county seat for Blaine County and 12 miles south of Ketchum, is approximately 50 minutes northwest of the ranch and offers a full range of services and amenities. Carey, with a population of 600, is the agricultural base for eastern Blaine County and home to basic commercial services that support the area’s numerous working farms and ranches. Commercial air service and a private fixed-based operation, Atlantic Aviation, are located at Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Field. Delta, United, and Horizon Airlines service the airport and offer daily and seasonal flights to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Atlantic Aviation provides a suite of personal aircraft services, and Friedman Field can handle all sizes of private aircraft. The headquarters for Lava Lake Ranch is accessed from U.S. Highway 20/26, while other ranch units are accessed from year-round or seasonal county roads. Estimated driving distances to the nearest urban centers are as follows: Boise, 160 miles to the west; Twin Falls, 80 miles to the south; Idaho Falls, 95 miles to the east; and Salt Lake City, 275 miles to the south.

Locale

Lava Lake Ranch lies at the heart of the Pioneer Mountains-Craters of the Moon landscape, one of the jewels of natural heritage in the northern Rockies. Supporting an array of wide-ranging and migratory wildlife, the roughly 2.4 million-acre Pioneers-Craters landscape ranges from sagebrush steppe, grasslands, and lava flows to river, foothill, and mountain ecosystems. The core of the landscape is an intricate patchwork of land ownership that includes over 150,000 acres of private lands managed primarily as operating farms and ranches. These working lands connect large swaths of federal and state lands to the north and south that feature extensive inventoried roadless areas, wilderness study areas, and primitive areas managed by the Sawtooth and Salmon-Challis National Forests, BLM, and Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (jointly managed by BLM and the National Park Service). 

Wildlife finds refuge in a dramatic range of elevations over a short distance (from 4,000 feet to 12,000 feet), long free-flowing reaches of rivers and streams and their associated riparian habitats, and the land's largely unfragmented and undeveloped character. Private lands within the Pioneers-Craters landscape are vital in supporting wildlife by providing crucial habitats such as riparian areas, winter ranges, and migration corridors. Recognizing that the protection of private lands is essential to holding together the entire Pioneers-Craters landscape, a coalition of ranchers, farmers, local residents, conservationists, agency officials, and elected officials came together in 2007 to accomplish common goals centered on large-scale private lands conservation and economic opportunities for local communities in the region. An important outcome of this effort has been the protection of over 70,000 deeded acres, mainly through the acquisition of conservation easements, in eastern Blaine County, western Butte County, and southern Custer County. Many experts consider this work to be one of the most significant private-public conservation initiatives in all of North America. 

Climate

The climate for the area can be described as semi-arid, with an average humidity of 30 percent and annual precipitation of 14 inches. Summers are warm, with temperatures occasionally reaching into the low 90s and cooling to the mid-50s at night. Winters are cold, with an average maximum temperature from November through February of 35° and an average minimum temperature during the same period of 13°. The elevations of the ranch’s deeded units range from approximately 5,200 feet at the south end of the Lava Lake Home Ranch to over 8,000 feet at the high points of Iron Mine Ranch. Snow covers Lava Lake Ranch each winter, although accumulations vary depending on elevation and orientation of the land. The Home Ranch typically has between 12 and 24 inches through the winter. South-facing slopes at the southern end of the ranch usually begin shedding snow in March, while higher elevation areas and areas with northern exposures typically hold snow into early summer.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

Lava Lake Ranch consists of five deeded units comprising 24,108± acres and encompasses 800,000± acres of U.S. Forest Service and BLM grazing permits, state of Idaho grazing leases, and private land leases. The deeded units break down as follows:

  • Lava Lake Home Ranch -- 4,840± acres
  • Cottonwood Ranch -- 2,748± acres
  • Iron Mine Ranch -- 5,308± acres
  • Two Forks Ranch -- 7,557± acres 
  • Muldoon Ranch -- 3,655± acres

More detailed information on the ranch’s federal grazing permits, state leases, and private land leases is available from Hall and Hall upon request.  

Deeded Acres: 24,108±
Total Leased Acres:
Total Acres: 24,108±

Additional Information

Conservation Easements

In keeping with their commitment to preserve the ecological integrity of Lava Lake Ranch, the owners entered into a series of conservation easements with The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture) beginning in 2001. Twelve separate easements designed to protect grazing resources, wildlife habitat, and open space values cover 20,973± acres of the ranch. The 3,015± acre portion of Muldoon Ranch owned by MGA and 120± acres at Lava Lake Home Ranch encompassing the headquarters and main building improvements are not under easement. The easements prevent subdivision, provide for livestock grazing and recreational uses, and include generous building envelopes. Copies of the easements and associated documentation are available from Hall and Hall upon request.  

Improvements

Lava Lake Home Ranch features a modest but practical set of building improvements sufficient to serve current ranch operations. These improvements include a manager’s home, barns, ram shed, calving corral, lambing sheds, stack yards, machine shop, equipment shed, and kennel for the ranch’s working dogs. The only other building improvements on the ranch are sets of livestock shipping corrals located at Iron Mile Ranch and Muldoon Ranch.

Water Rights

Lava Lake Ranch holds multiple adjudicated, certificated water rights that are of record with the Idaho Department of Water Resources. The following is a description of the rights associated with the ranch: 

Lava Lake Home Ranch: 15 surface, groundwater, and storage rights to irrigate up to 586.2± acres during the irrigation season. The main ranch also has two wildlife and six stock water rights.

Cottonwood Ranch: Two rights to irrigate up to 49.9 acres during the irrigation season, along with two stock water rights.

Iron Mine Ranch: Three surface water rights to irrigate up to 125.2 acres during the irrigation season, along with five stock water rights. 

Two Forks Ranch: Two water rights from Fish Creek to irrigate up to 45 acres during the irrigation season, along with ten stock water rights.

Muldoon Ranch: Two rights to irrigate up to 137.7 acres during the irrigation season, along with eight stock water rights.

More detailed information on the ranch’s water rights is available from Hall and Hall upon request.

Mineral Rights

All mineral and subsurface rights owned by the Seller will be transferred to the new owner at closing. Based on a review of the original patents to the ranch, it is estimated that 13,260± acres have associated federal mineral reservations.

Taxes

Annual property taxes are approximately $16,000.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Recreational Considerations

South central Idaho and the Sun Valley area offer some of the best hunting and fishing opportunities in the Intermountain West, and Lava Lake Ranch lies at the heart of it all. The mountains, foothills, and high desert areas teem with elk, mule deer, and antelope. The ranch is located in hunt unit 49 and the Pioneer elk zone and qualifies for landowner appreciation permits for controlled big game hunts in the unit. The area is rich with upland birds and waterfowl. Chukar partridge and forest grouse are plentiful on the hillsides, ridgelines, and rock outcroppings throughout the ranch. Hungarian partridge and sage grouse can be found in good numbers in sagebrush stands and grasslands adjacent to agricultural fields. The area is an important stopover for migrating ducks and geese on their way to wintering grounds further south along the Snake River. Early-season waterfowl hunting is available on the ranch on Lava Lake and nearby at Carey Lake Wildlife Management Area. Doves are plentiful on the ranch from early fall until the first hard freezes occur. 

For the angler, Lava Lake Ranch offers easy access to the area’s best collection of trout waters. The Big Wood, Little Wood, and Big Lost Rivers, along with world-famous Silver Creek, are excellent fisheries with plenty of public access. Muldoon Creek, below its confluence with Copper Creek, flows through the ranch for approximately two miles and offers private fishing for rainbow and brook trout up to 13 inches. Stillwater fishing can be found nearby in Fish Creek, Little Wood, and Magic Reservoirs, while the surrounding Pioneer Mountains offer dozens of alpine lakes with excellent trout fishing opportunities. Most of these mountain lakes are found at elevations between 9,000 feet and 10,500 feet providing exceptional views and incredible day hiking and multi-day backpacking or horse-packing opportunities. 

In addition to hunting and fishing, the Sun Valley area offers an array of world-class, year-round outdoor recreational activities a short distance away from the ranch. Winter activities include downhill skiing on Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on the area’s extensive groomed winter trail network. During the summer and fall, the area’s diverse topography offers unparalleled hiking, backpacking, and mountain bike riding. Blaine County is also blessed with hundreds of thousands of acres of BLM and national forest lands, providing unlimited opportunities to experience the best of Idaho’s backcountry. 

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

Established in 1999, Lava Lake Ranch has been managed to utilize the ranch’s outstanding grazing resources in a sustainable manner to produce the highest quality grass-fed lamb and beef. At its height, the owners ran as many as 9,000 head of sheep and several hundred head of cattle across the ranch’s 825,000± acre operating footprint. The owners successfully marketed their lamb and beef nationally through a variety of premium channels. The owners are now looking toward retirement and are currently operating the ranch with minimum inputs and significantly reduced livestock numbers. In addition to carrying out traditional ranching operations, the owners developed and operated the Lava Lake Injured Veterans Equine (“LIVE”) Program in collaboration with the Veterans Administration to offer injured veterans the opportunity to experience the benefits of equine therapy in a wilderness setting. Lava Lake Ranch has also been the site for highly regarded research on wildlife migration, predator-livestock coexistence, and sustainable grazing practices. 

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