Settled in 1897 by C. Eugene Churchill, Whitewater Ranch is an historic 118± acre wilderness homestead located deep in the heart of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest 55 air miles from McCall, Idaho. The ranch is perched above the Salmon River surrounded by millions of acres of pristine backcountry and borders both the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area and the Salmon River National Wild and Scenic River Corridor. The Salmon River is one of the longest free-flowing, undammed rivers in the country and a wilderness, whitewater, wildlife, and fishing enthusiast’s dream, while the Frank Church Wilderness is the largest forested wilderness area in the lower 48. The Salmon River Canyon and adjoining mountain ranges and forests are home to an impressive array of wildlife drawn to Whitewater Ranch’s grassy meadows and year-round creeks.
Although access to this section of the Salmon River tends to be a specialized endeavor, Whitewater Ranch is among the most accessible properties in the Salmon River Canyon and, in fact, one of only two ranches to have vehicular access. Forest Road 421, a seasonal road completed in 1938 by the CCC, originates at Red River, Idaho and winds south for almost 25 miles before descending 2,500 feet into the canyon. The road briefly crosses the property and terminates at Whitewater Campground, a primitive, lightly used Forest Service campground along the river next to the ranch that serves as a jumping-off point for hikers, hunters, and pack strings venturing south into Chamberlin Basin and the Frank Church Wilderness. Drive-time from the property to Grangeville, Idaho, the county seat and commercial center for Idaho County, is approximately three hours. In addition to driving to Whitewater Ranch, there is convenient fly-in access made possible by the property’s private 900± airstrip. The ranch can be made part of a weekly airmail route from Cascade, Idaho if desired by the owner, and the same bush pilot can contract delivery of food and supplies. One can also reach the ranch from the Salmon River by float or jet boat. An excellent boat landing with a sandy beach is located just downstream of Little Mallard Rapid and a quick walk or drive from the ranch headquarters.
Whitewater Ranch features multiple living quarters and is easily capable of accommodating a large family or group. The ranch headquarters is located in a grassy clearing at the heart of the property and is home to the main lodge, which features a large ranch-style kitchen and dining room, two large bunkrooms, and two bathrooms. Also part of the headquarters is the original ranch house built by Eugene Churchill with a kitchen, one bedroom on the main floor, a sleeping loft, and one bathroom. In addition, there are two bunk cabins at the headquarters, each with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Tucked away in the pines at the east end of the property is the main ranch house featuring a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room on the main floor and a second bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, and workshop in a walk-in basement. A large porch affords sweeping views of the Salmon River Canyon upstream of the ranch. Next to the main ranch house is an unfinished, two-story sleeping cabin with potential to accommodate more guests or family members. Between the ranch headquarters and main home is an additional cabin, called the Robertson House, with two bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen. In addition to the residential structures, there is an assortment of ranch and utility buildings, including the original log barn, generator building, equipment and storage sheds, a root cellar, and a chicken coop. All of the dwellings on the ranch have modern conveniences and are serviced by a well-maintained, refurbished hydroelectric system using water diverted from Little Mallard Creek. An internal road and trail network enables easy access to all of the structures and improvements. A Viasat satellite internet system ensures ease of communication with the outside world.
Located at the east corner of the ranch is a two-acre property referred to as the West Parcel. This tract is owned by a retired outfitter who, for many years beginning in 1968, ran commercial hunting and fishing operations from the ranch. The West Parcel has a small cabin that is used occasionally in summer and fall months by the owner and his family. Access to the West Parcel is from internal ranch roads.
With the exception of a one-acre parcel encompassing the main ranch house, Whitewater Ranch is covered by a scenic easement granted to the US Forest Service in 1993 under the National Wild and Scenic River Act to assure protection of the property and its wilderness setting in perpetuity. The easement provides for various year-round residential, agricultural, and recreational uses, including commercial guest ranching with outfitter-guide operations. In addition, the easement allows for the owner to replace or rebuild existing improvements and structures on the ranch with the right to rebuild or expand main lodge up to 3,600 square feet on the ground floor.
Just the Facts
- Unique 118± acre backcountry ranch surrounded by the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest
- Adjacent to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area and one of only a handful of deeded holdings within the 125-mile-long Salmon River National Wild and Scenic River Corridor
- Improvements include multiple living quarters, complementary ranch outbuildings, and high-capacity hydropower system
- Seasonal vehicular access via Forest Road 421
- 900± foot private runway with ten percent average slope
- Licensed irrigation, domestic, hydropower, and livestock water rights
- A multitude of wildlife is found on the ranch and in the surrounding mountains, including elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, bighorn sheep, wolves, mountain lions, black bear, ruffed grouse, and blue grouse
- The Salmon and its tributaries feature steelhead, Chinook salmon, westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and bull trout
- Located in Idaho hunt unit 20 and the Selway elk zone with general seasons for deer and elk
- Elevation is approximately 2,500 feet
- Annual property taxes are approximately $3,200