For Sale

Lava Lake Ranch

$25,000,000 Sun Valley, ID 24,108± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Located in the Pioneer Mountains 45 miles east of the airport in Hailey, Lava 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 seven separate units and over 800,000 acres of associated US 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 Pioneers, 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, Lava Lake Ranch is highlighted by exceptional grazing resources, and its owners 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 Main Ranch (4,800± acres): Lake represents water in the most unexpected place – the otherwise porous lava that cushions the southern border of the Main Ranch. Ansel Adams photographed this unique 60± acre lake in the 1940s and included it in his iconic images of Craters of the Moon. Lava Lake Main Ranch is the operating headquarters and includes staff housing, barns, ram shed, calving corral, lambing sheds, stack yards, machine shop, equipment shed, and 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 Main Ranch holds surface and groundwater rights used to raise hay and irrigated pasture during summer months. Irrigation infrastructure includes two center pivots as well as wheel line and hand line sprinkler systems. Access to the Main Ranch is year-round via US Highway 20/26.  

Cottonwood (2,788± acres): Cottonwood is the easternmost unit of the ranch and bordered on the east and south by Craters of the Moon National Monument 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 is highly desirable summer and fall cattle grazing land. Cottonwood Creek flows off of Blizzard Mountain through the property and supports lush stands of aspen and seasonal wetlands. Access to Cottonwood is from US Highway 20/26 and follows the historic Goodale’s Cutoff of the Oregon Trail.

Lower Fish Creek (1,877 ± acres): Lower Fish Creek straddles the main stem of Fish Creek for a half-mile. The creek and surrounding bottomlands support a vibrant riparian corridor with braided channels. This property offers seasonal grazing and is a resting place for sheep bands trailing to Upper Fish Creek and grazing lands beyond. Access to Lower Fish Creek is direct from Fish Creek Road. 

West Fork Fish Creek (5,840± acres): West Fork Fish Creek encompasses iconic sagebrush country and features numerous springs, two small streams, aspen and chokecherry groves, wildflowers splashed across the hills in spring, and plentiful wildlife, including hundreds of elk in the fall. The property is well-suited for both sheep and cattle grazing. West Fork Fish Creek is unimproved and shares a border with the Lower Fish Creek unit. Access to West Fork Fish Creek is via a seasonal county road.

Upper Fish Creek (4,991± acres): Upper Fish Creek is a virtually untouched paradise for livestock and wildlife, with verdant meadows and several stunning wild canyons where five creeks join to form Fish Creek. This property is at the head of the drainage and the gateway to the ranch’s Forest Service grazing allotments to the north. Infrastructure on Upper Fish Creek consists simply of livestock shipping corrals. Access to Upper Fish Creek is direct from Fish Creek Road.

Sandy’s Meadows (157± acres): Consisting of three deeded parcels each surrounded by the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Sandy’s Meadows represents the best of the spectacular Pioneer Mountains high country. Trail Creek, which is part of the Big Lost River system, flows through these inholdings. Access is overland by foot or horseback either along Walton Creek from the Upper Fish Creek unit or from upper Antelope Creek in the Big Lost River watershed.

Muldoon (3,655± acres): Located at the head of the Muldoon Creek drainage, Muldoon consists of a 640± acre parcel that is owned by Lave 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 is the gateway to the headwaters of the Little Wood River. Muldoon is also close to the Elk Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern, Freidman Creek Wilderness Study Area, and a large tract of national forest that has been recommended for a federal Wilderness designation. With the exception of shipping corrals, Muldoon 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 a ranch with 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, 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 offers a suite of personal aircraft services, and Friedman Field is capable of handling large private aircraft. The headquarters for Lava Lake Ranch is accessed from US Highway 20/26, while other units of the ranch 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 is located in 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 landownership 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 here 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 largely unfragmented and undeveloped character of the land. The wild character of this region is reflected in the spectacular star-strewn skies at night, a de facto extension of one of the nation’s first Dark Sky Reserves centered in the Sawtooth Mountains north of Sun Valley. 

Private lands within the Pioneers-Craters landscape play a particularly important role in supporting wildlife by providing crucial habitats such as riparian areas, winter ranges, and migration corridors. Recognizing that the protection of private lands is crucial 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, largely through the acquisition of conservation easements, in eastern Blaine County, western Butte County, and southern Custer County. This work is considered by many experts as 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 Main Ranch to over 8,000 feet at the highpoints of Upper Fish Creek and Sandy’s Meadows. Snow covers Lava Lake Ranch each winter with amounts varying depending on elevation (the Main Ranch will typically have 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 seven deeded units comprising 24,108± acres and encompasses over 800,000 acres of US Forest Service and BLM grazing permits, State of Idaho grazing leases, and private land leases. The deeded units break down as follows:

  • Lava Lake Main Ranch -- 4,800± acres
  • Cottonwood -- 2,788± acres
  • Lower Fish Creek -- 1,877 ± acres
  • West Fork Fish Creek -- 5,840± acres
  • Upper Fish Creek -- 4,991± acres
  • Sandy’s Meadows -- 157± acres  
  • Muldoon -- 3,655± acres

Information on the ranch’s federal grazing permits, state leases, and private land leases are available from Hall and Hall upon request. 

Deeded Acres: 24,108±
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 US Department of Agriculture) beginning in 2001. Twelve separate easements aimed at protecting grazing resources, wildlife habitat, and open space values cover 20,973± acres of the ranch. The 3,015± acre portion of the Muldoon unit owned by MGA along with 120± acres at Lave Lake Main Ranch encompassing the headquarters and main building improvements are not under easement. The easements prevent subdivision but provide for livestock grazing and include generous building envelopes. Copies of the easements and associated documentation are available from Hall and Hall upon request. 

Improvements

Lava Lake Main Ranch features a modest but practical set of building improvements that are 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 situated on the Upper Fish Creek and Muldoon units.

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 Main 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 water rights and six stock water rights.

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

Lower Fish Creek: Two water rights from Fish Creek to irrigate up to 45 acres during the irrigation season along with six stock water rights.

West Fork: Four stock water rights. There are no irrigation rights associated with West Fork.

Upper Fish Creek: Three surface water rights to irrigate up to 125.2 acres during the irrigation season along with five stock water rights. 

Sandy’s Meadows: There are no water rights associated with this unit.

Muldoon: 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 transfer 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 $14,785.

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 during the early fall until the first hard freezes occur. 

For the angler, Lava Lake 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 and provide exceptional views as well as incredible day hiking and multi-day backpacking or horse-packing opportunities. 

In addition to hunting and fishing, the Sun Valley area offers a variety of world-class, year-round outdoor recreational activities a short distance away from the ranch. Winter activities include downhill skiing on famous Bald Mountain, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling on the area’s extensive groomed winter trail network. Cross-country ski adventure opportunities abound on the ranch, including a six-mile ski-in/ski-out into the yurt in the Cottonwood unit with views of Blizzard Mountain and the dramatic lava flows to the south. 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, which provide unlimited opportunities for one 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 across the US 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 and for significant stream and riparian corridor restoration projects and other ecosystem research efforts.

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