For Sale

Black Mountain Ranch

$13,900,000 Ennis, MT 3,850± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Black Mountain Ranch is a scenic working cattle ranch located in the desirable Madison Valley near Ennis, Montana. The ranch is loaded with recreational amenities and complemented by a full set of newly built improvements which include an attractive manager’s home, shop and a custom-designed owner’s residence reminiscent of a barn. The ranch is in immaculate condition including new pivot irrigation systems, roads, equestrian pens, outdoor arenas, new fencing and landscaping, all of which is less than five years old. A road right provides access through private lands leading into the renowned Big Sky Resort community to complement the seasonal activities. Wildlife enthusiasts and hunters will enjoy the vast herds of elk that inundate the valley through the fall and winter months as they pour out of Yellowstone Park to the south and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area which adjoins the ranch on the east end. The fabled Madison River pushes through the valley from south to north and may be directly accessed across the adjoining BLM lands off the west end of the ranch. For a busy executive and family, the ranch has fiber optic and communications to keep one plugged into the world while enjoying the incredible mountain vistas including the iconic Sphynx Mountain which is framed in the viewshed from the ranch. Black Mountain Ranch is being offered turn-key, inclusive of furnishings and equipment and everything one would need to walk right in and begin to enjoy all that the ranch and greater area have to offer. This is further complemented by outstanding management who not only run operations and ensure that everything is maintained to a higher level, but also ensure that the owner’s time is maximized to its greatest enjoyable capacity completely easing the often cumbersome nature of ownership.

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Just the Facts

  • 4,490± acres, 3,850± deeded and 640± State of Montana Lease (284 AUM’s)
  • Adjoins the Gallatin National Forest and Lee Metcalf Wilderness
  • Madison River is accessible over BLM lands adjacent to the ranch
  • Top-shelf custom-designed and built improvements include owner’s residence, manager’s home, shops and outbuildings all in impeccable condition and less than five years old
  • Two pivot irrigation systems new or in newer condition
  • Miles of new fencing
  • Robust herds of elk and deer plus bear and moose
  • Exceptional sweeping views of towering peaks
  • Private road access right into the nearby Big Sky Resort
  • 10-minute drive from Big Sky Airport (FBO)
  • 15-minute drive to Ennis, one hour to Bozeman or Yellowstone Park
  • Outstanding professional management in place and willing to stay
  • Crop production and cattle leases in place with reputable neighbors

General Description

The land lies in a contiguous block that is six miles in length and up to three miles in width from Highway 287 to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness boundary. Approaching the ranch from Highway 287 on the western boundary, one looks across the Cameron Bench east towards the Madison Range and the prominent Madison Valley landmark, Sphinx Mountain. The Cameron Bench is a large alluvial fan that stretches from the Madison River up to the base of the mountains. Along cottonwood-lined waterway, the Indian Creek Ditch, runs across the bench flowing north providing irrigation water for adjoining ranches. The Indian Creek Ditch also provides the irrigation water (1,500 shares) for the irrigated land on the Black Mountain Ranch as well as a lovely seasonal (April to December) stream upon which to site one’s buildings. The owner states that he believes it is one of the most dependable sources of water in the valley. Crossing the Bear Creek Loop (a county road), the topography changes to rolling grass covered foothills and, as one approaches the mountains, there are fingers of timber and aspen groves with year-round springs lined with willows traversing the open mountain meadows.

Broker's Comments

The Black Mountain Ranch represents an opportunity to own a ranch that embodies all of the features most desired in a working Rocky Mountain ranch: 

  1. A simple, balanced, turn-key cattle operation with outstanding management in place
  2. An exceptional, complete and totally appropriate set of improvements all built within the last four years
  3. An enviable location relative to attractive towns, airports, and important recreational outlets such as Blue Ribbon quality fishing, Yellowstone National Park, mountain resorts, etc. 
  4. High quality wildlife and recreation
  5. A mountain foothill setting next to a wilderness area
  6. Absolutely stunning views of craggy peaks, multiple mountain ranges, and a dramatic, expansive open valley
  7. The Road Use Right to the Jack Creek Road accessing Big Sky and Moonlight Basin is a benefit that makes this offering stand out amongst others

There is nothing comparable on the market today. 

Learn about the locale

Location

Black Mountain Ranch is located 15 miles south of Ennis and 60 miles north of West Yellowstone on the east side of the Madison Valley at the base of the Madison Range. It lies in one contiguous block between Highway 287 and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area. Access is off of Highway 287 at Cameron onto the Bear Creek Road - a paved county road that changes to gravel for four miles before entering the ranch and eventually connects back to Highway 287. Alternatively, one can enter the ranch directly off of Highway 287 about five miles south of Cameron and drive through the ranch to the ranch buildings on an improved gravel road. 

A small jet-capable airport and fixed base operation complete with fuel is located approximately 15 minutes to the north of the ranch between Cameron and Ennis. The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is located at Belgrade, approximately an hour and 15 minutes from the property. Delta, Horizon, and United offer multiple daily flights (jet and turboprop operated) to and from their respective hubs of Salt Lake City/Minneapolis, Seattle, and Denver. Additionally, Frontier and Allegiant also service this airport. It should also be noted that during the summer and winter tourist seasons, there are many non-stop flights to other major US metropolitan areas such as Chicago, New York, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This airport also has a customs station to accept international passengers. The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is now the busiest airport in the state of Montana. It also has two fixed based operations providing a variety of services to those who utilize private aircraft. 

Locale

The Black Mountain Ranch is in the enviable position of being located in one of the most beautiful valleys in the Rocky Mountain region. The Madison Valley is world famous for its superb fly-fishing and dramatic mountain scenery. The valley was created millions of years ago by glacial action leaving a broad river valley, expansive alluvial benches, deep canyons coming out of the surrounding mountain ranges and towering granite peaks. The Madison River starts at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbons Rivers in Yellowstone National Park and flows north to the headwaters of the Missouri River at Three Forks where it converges with the Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers to form the Missouri. The main part of the Madison Valley is encompassed by the Centennial Range to the south, the Madison Range to the east, the Gravelly Range to the west and the Tobacco Root Range to the north.  

The ranch is situated in an area that is known for its large well-run cattle ranches. The Sun Ranch, CB Ranch and Carroll Ranch lie to the south, the Bar 7 Ranch to the west and Granger, Sphinx Mountain, Cedar Creek, Valley Garden and the Jumping Horse Ranches lie to the north. In addition to its agricultural surroundings, as previously mentioned the ranch borders the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area that is an important component of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It is also contiguous to the State of Montana Bear Creek Game Management Area that is used primarily for elk winter range and calving. One of the major benefits of land ownership in the Madison Valley is that over 85,000 acres of privately held lands are protected from future development by conservation easements and the surrounding mountain ranges are federally owned, providing unimpeded views in perpetuity. These conservation easements assure that these lands will be enjoyed by future generations as open space.

The Black Mountain Ranch is conveniently located to enjoy much that Southwest Montana has to offer. Ennis, a very attractive small town of 800 and the headquarters for fly fishermen destined for the Madison River, is a 20-minute drive north of the ranch. It offers good restaurants, art galleries, fly shops and guide services in abundance. It is also a trade center for the geographic area, which includes the Madison Valley and the eastern slope of the Tobacco Roots to the north.

Bozeman is just over an hour’s drive from the ranch. With a population of roughly 45,000 residents, Bozeman is home to Montana State University and another 16,500 student residents. It boasts the Museum of the Rockies and an active community theater and arts group. A major opera production is offered each spring. The city is a commerce center, providing virtually every service one might require. It has been a leader amongst Montana cities in attracting preferred industry.

From the ranch, one has easy access to all the recreational pursuits one might wish to enjoy. Fishing on the Madison is actually immediately accessible from the ranch by way of BLM lands that adjoin the ranch to the west. The Yellowstone, Gallatin, Jefferson, Henry’s Fork, Beaverhead, Big Hole, Ruby and Missouri are all within a two-hour drive from the ranch.  

Hiking, horse pack trips, camping and wildlife watching are out the back door. The Bear Creek Trail is a major trailhead into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and is within five minutes of the ranch boundary. One could ride quite easily off the ranch and into the Wilderness. For the winter sports enthusiast, superb skiing is available at Big Sky Ski and Summer Resort, around an hour and a half driving time by way of the ranch’s private access to the Jack Creek Road which also provides access to multiple golf courses seasonally. It is notable that the ranch is located just eight air miles from the Yellowstone Club. Theoretically, one could ride a horse or fly a helicopter from one to the other should members be interested in ownership. 

Climate

Ennis, positioned within the middle of the Madison Valley, typically has 90 frost-free days and receives 11.5 inches of precipitation annually. The Black Mountain Ranch, with its location at the foot of the mountains, would normally have about 75 frost-free days and receive between 14 and 16 inches of precipitation. With the Continental Divide at the south end of the valley, the prevailing wind is from the south. In the winter months, this wind, commonly known as a Chinook, bares the snow off the benches and ridges allowing winter grazing for the livestock and wildlife which is evident by the thousands of elk seen throughout the valley during this season. In the summer months, thunderstorms build over the mountains. One often enjoys the cooling effects of these rain showers during the afternoons and evenings in the valley.

The elevation at the ranch runs from 5,412 feet at Highway 287 up to 7,020 feet on the Wilderness boundary. As previously mentioned, the lower lands on the ranch consist of the relatively flat lands of the Cameron Bench with the upper elevations consisting of steeper foothills leading into more alpine terrain.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

210 Acres---sprinkler irrigated hay land consisting of:

  • One “Lockwood” 7-tower pivot irrigating 140± acres
  • One “Reinke” three-year-old, eight-tower pivot system irrigating 70± acres

4,280± Acres---grazing and timber lands (including lease land)

Deeded Acres: 3,850±

State Leased Acres: 640±

Total Leased Acres: 640±

Total Acres: 4,490±

Acreage Breakdown

Acres of Irrigated Crop: 250±

Acres Range: 3,671±

Acres AG Total: 3,921±

* All acreages are approximations.

Additional Information

Conservation Easement

Due to the unique nature of the Madison Valley, its world-class fishing and wildlife, the wilderness areas, and its significant impact on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, it became quite apparent 30 years ago to a number of conservation organizations that the Madison was quite worthy of saving from the impending development pressures. As a result, to date, over 85,000 acres in the valley have been protected in perpetuity from development. Previous owners of the Black Mountain Ranch recognized the significance of the ranch in the overall scheme of the Madison Valley conservation efforts and placed the ranch in a conservation easement with the State of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Giving the easement to the State of Montana was a natural because of the State’s efforts on the adjoining Bear Creek Game Management Area. A copy of the recorded easement document is available for review at the offices of Hall and Hall. It essentially limits building to three designated home site areas and prohibits subdivision. There is no limit on agriculturally related improvements and the main building site will still accommodate a larger owner’s home. 

Road Use Right

A Road Use Right on a private gated road between Ennis and Big Sky, commonly known as the Jack Creek Road, shall transfer with this ranch to the new owner. The right shall be appurtenant to, and used, in connection with the Black Mountain Ranch and is non-transferrable.  This road is considered one of the most beautiful in the State traversing between the Spanish Peaks and Madison Range of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the Jack Creek drainage. It is fully maintained year-round and the limited number of owners pay a relatively small amount annually for this maintenance. This right is truly a major benefit to whoever owns the ranch. Having easy and convenient access to the Big Sky area and all of its recreational amenities makes this offering stand out in the market.

Improvements

Black Mountain began as a blank canvas five years ago with only a marginal set of corrals, one pivot, and perimeter and cross fencing. With the guidance of highly regarded local architect, Kipp Halvorsen of Faure Halvorsen Architects and Battle Ridge Construction, the current set of improvements comes very close to perfection. There is an owners home that is magnificent but totally understated, an exceptional manager’s home designed to attract and keep a top-quality manager and his or her family, a shop and an equipment storage barn. These buildings are all attractively sided to carry a common theme and both compounds are thoughtfully and creatively fenced and landscaped. Tremendous pride of ownership is evident everywhere. The owner has rebuilt over 12 miles of suspension fence which is wildlife friendly. The original corrals have been entirely replaced and a new pivot has been added. The fencing around the building compounds is all post and rail. The owners compound also features a 60’ round pen for working horses, a 120’ X 240’outdoor arena and 3 small paddocks – one with a loafing shed. It should be noted that an additional larger owners home has been architecturally drafted and would reside next to the current structure. The site is prepped with utilities and a well might be built and utilized by a future owner. The structures are described as follows:

MAIN HOUSE

This is a unique three-story structure that presents as a barn. The siding is stone and half log so it appears as a log structure but is fully insulated and of traditional “stick frame” construction. The entire building is air-conditioned and heated and contains 6,773± square feet on three levels. The main floor has a broad array of functions and separated spaces to accommodate them. The central area on the north side functions as an expansive entrance hall/mud room where people can shed and store their gear. They then can walk up the staircase to the residential area. The main floor has five automatic garage doors which allow drive-through parking of vehicles as well as an area to bring in horses where there are two stalls with runs and a tack room. Other rooms include a large vault secured gun room, a bathroom, a pantry that includes both food storage and a second refrigerator and freezer, a shop, and storage areas for everything imaginable. There is also a comfortable covered stone patio under the second-floor balcony that accesses from the main floor.

The residential area is on the second floor. It is a simple design with two good sized guest rooms on the west side – each with full bathrooms. The master bedroom is on the east side. Since this building is like a barn, this reclaimed flooring is like the haymow of a barn and the ceilings are two stories high. The central area is a great room encompassing a dining room, living room, a kitchen and a balcony. The biggest views are to the Madison Range to the south from the great room and to the east from the master of Sphinx Mountain. These views are captured by windows that are nearly two stories high and take in the entire wall. The great room includes a massive and beautifully executed stacked stone fireplace and the fixtures there, and throughout the house, including the three huge chandeliers, are all handmade to order and are magnificent. One can also climb upstairs behind the fireplace to a “bridge” which overlooks the great room. It measures 185± square feet and serves as a sitting room or office. It leads to a fourth bedroom that is over the two guest bedrooms below. There are four bathrooms plus the half bathroom on the ground floor. The floors are all reclaimed wood. The owners have thoughtfully included a dumb waiter in the design for transporting groceries and firewood to the second floor. 

Landscaping by Wagner Nursery and Landscaping around this building is imaginative and creative and adds tremendously to the ambiance of the structure.

MANAGERS HOUSE

This 3,559± square foot home is a combination of wood and log siding with stone accents. It contains five bedrooms and four bathrooms plus an 874± square foot log sided garage. There is 2,035± square feet on the main floor and 1,531± on the second floor. It has a lovely stone porch off the back with stone columns and a deck on the front side. It is a cozy and attractive home designed to be appealing for a ranch manager’s family. 

SHOP/OFFICE

This 1,862± square foot building is multipurpose and includes an office, half bath, a room for processing game with a full walk-in cooler, and garages for working on and storing equipment. 

POLE BARN

This is an attractive barn-like building that is used simply for equipment or hay storage. It has a dirt floor. 

Water Resources

The current owner spent $25,000 to completely research and firm up the ranch’s water rights. There are flowing mountain springs on the upper part of the ranch. The Indian Creek Ditch provides irrigation and stock water passing through the middle of the ranch and there are three wells that provide domestic, landscape and livestock water near and around the improvements.

Water Rights

Indian Creek Ditch runs across the bench and provides irrigation water for the pivot and wheel lines on the ranch.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Wildlife Resources

As previously mentioned, the Black Mountain Ranch is ideally located to explore the fishing opportunities of Southwest Montana and Eastern Idaho. One of the most compelling features of the ranch is its proximity to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness and Bear Creek Game Management Area because of the big game animals that call this protected area home. In addition, southwest of the ranch located on the west side of the Madison River is the Wall Creek Game Management Area. Between these three substantial game reserves, the ranch is blessed with some of the best big game wildlife populations in the lower 48 States. Elk, mule deer and antelope are primarily seen on the ranch, but one may occasionally see grizzly and black bears along with grey wolves traversing below the timber along the Wilderness boundary. Nineteen elk and over twenty antelope were harvested on the property in 2017 with the largest measuring 352 Boone and Crockett. The ranch lies in Hunting District 360. 

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The Black Mountain Ranch has been operated as a cow/calf ranch in the past and we estimate the carrying capacity to be around 250 cow/calf pairs. This would consist of approximately 200 cows with the appropriate number of bulls, replacement heifers and horses necessary to carry the operation. To winter cattle in the Madison Valley, historically ranchers have fed two to two-and-one-half tons of hay between December first and May first. The 210 acres of high producing irrigated lands would provide enough hay production to carry 250 animal units but is currently used as a cash crop. The ranch is nicely balanced between spring and early summer grazing on the Cameron Bench lands, summer and early fall grazing in the mountain lands and aftermath grazing on the irrigated meadows in the later fall and early winter. 

The current owner leases the pasture and hay ground to a local ranching operation. More than 200 cow/calf pairs are brought in each year to graze the ranch. The hay crop is put up on a crop share basis. The Black Mountain Ranch manager retains control over the pasture use when the cattle are on site to maintain the integrity of the grasses. Management also oversees the crop production under the pivot systems all in an effort to maintain and operate the ranch at its highest capacity while deploying the best farming and grazing practices to maintain the health and aesthetic values important to the lands. This commands a premium by way of the lease to the neighboring ranching operations. The current tenant has been running on the ranch for many years and would likely be interested in continuing the lease.

The current manager and his family are some of the best one will find anywhere and have a strong desire to continue on with the next owner and carry forward operations. In our collective opinion, managers of this quality are hard to find and are a great asset to the ranch adding to the ease of ownership.

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