Bullrun Spring Creek Ranch is a 300± acre sporting property located in Gallatin Valley north of Bozeman, Montana between the communities of Belgrade and Manhattan. This is an exceptionally livable location just minutes from International air services and all the luxuries and conveniences that the area communities hold. Despite being proximal to urban communities, the north end of the valley gives way to a more rural landscape populated by working agricultural operations- both large and small. This is within the Gallatin River Watershed which creates high groundwater tables influencing a multitude of unsung spring creeks. This property hosts an array of stocked trout ponds and is highlighted by a restored reach of Bullrun Spring Creek. Trout, mainly browns, grow to enormous proportions with several recorded over the years extending beyond 25 inches. In addition to aquatic amenities, the ranch is host to large whitetail deer and volumes of waterfowl and pheasant. The lands are impeccable and intensively managed for pure sporting fun. A small owner's cabin built using stone and 130-year-old reclaimed logs is sited central to the property and supported by a guest cabin, oversized garage, barn/shop and a gear shed. High in quality, livability, and recreational amenities, Bullrun Spring Creek Ranch is simple to own and packed with entertainment possibilities just outside of one of the West’s most desirable mountain communities.
Just the Facts
- 300± acres
- Five miles west of Bozeman
- One hour to Big Sky Resort and the Yellowstone Club
- Three-quarter miles of the headwaters of Bullrun Spring Creek. Trout have measured upwards of 30 inches and 10 pounds.
- Five large stocked trout ponds up to 2½± surface acres
- Multiple food plots for deer, pheasant and waterfowl
- Manicured trail system
- Comfortable custom-built owner’s cabin built from dry-stacked stone and reclaimed timbers from an 1800s era cabin
- Adjacent bunkhouse and oversized garage
- Large barn used for storing equipment
The urban feel quickly gives way to rural appeal as soon as one approaches the electronic gate at the south entrance to the property. The lands extending north, east and west are all uninterrupted agricultural lands held mainly by landowners who also have strong recreational interests. A graveled drive meanders in a northerly direction through manicured hay fields and riparian features arriving at a newer barn used to store equipment. The road carries along a short distance further approaching the owner’s house, guest cabin and detached garage. The property continues past the homestead into more rugged riparian habitat interspersed by hayfields and the upper reaches of Bullrun Spring Creek, which is the Crown Jewel of the property.
Nearly two decades ago, the ranch went into a massive aquatic and uplands restoration project. This included the development of an array of ponds/wetlands as well as full restoration of Bullrun Spring Creek, which created a remarkable trout fishery. Fields were planted into tame grasses, alfalfa and small grains benefiting the wildlife. Effectively the property was “forested” by way of the planting of a wide variety of trees and shrubs that today are reaching mature caliber. To a greater degree, one gets the immediate impression that the lands are sporty by nature and that the owners have paid close attention to their stewardship of the property. That sense is further bolstered by the quantity of wildlife that are apparent. Pheasant, waterfowl and large racked whitetail deer are generally present in strong numbers.
In addition to the main driveway, there are a number of maintained trails that bifurcate the property allowing for causal walks or ATV rides throughout the property. This provides relatively easy access to the creeks and ponds as well as other areas that are not accessible by vehicle.
The main house rests in a private setting overlooking a beautiful trout pond. Nestled into a grove of trees, the site is immaculately landscaped and now sheltered by maturing trees. It’s an outstanding site allowing the owners to conveniently wander over to the creek to fish, or simply enjoy the wonderful views of the Bridger Mountains which consume most of the eastern horizon. Views from this central valley location are panoramic absorbing the Bridger, Spanish Peaks, Gallatin Peaks mountain ranges as well as more distant views of ranges outside of the basin.
Bullrun Spring Creek Ranch is an excellent sporting retreat located in one of the West’s most desirable locations. Decades in creation, it is perfectly appointed with tasteful structures and embellished by hundreds of acres of quality-managed lands that were enhanced by visionary owners. The ranch is perfectly suitable as a second-home getaway while maintaining the ability to become a primary residence and on the threshold of Bozeman. It also is the perfect complement to a resort property with Big Sky located just an hour away. Convenient to air transportation and the variety of necessary and lifestyle services that are offered in the adjacent communities, this is an idyllic opportunity in the rapidly expanding market of Bozeman and the greater Gallatin Valley.
The property is located within five miles of Bozeman International Airport which services Delta, United and Alaska airlines as well as two FBO’s for private air travelers. The town of Belgrade resides just four- miles to the east, the smaller community of Manhattan seven-miles west, and Bozeman is eleven-miles east.
Other area attractions include Big Sky Resort/Yellowstone Club, which is a scenic one-hour drive south and a popular destination for winter sports. Yellowstone Park can be accessed from multiple routes inside of two hours.
The property is accessed off the I-90 corridor, which passes laterally through Montana end-to-end. Vastly, access is paved, however Weaver Road (a county road) is graveled and maintained servicing access to the ranch. Stemming off Weaver Road, a quarter-mile long private lane leads one to an electronic entrance gate along the south boundary of the ranch.
The Bozeman area has built a reputation as one of the most desirable communities in which to live in America and is the fourth largest city in Montana. With a current population of approximately 51,000, it offers a vibrant downtown, an active business community with multiple high-tech businesses, Montana State University, and a large agricultural community. In addition, the town boasts a strong social and cultural scene which is enhanced by a population that has moved there to enjoy its beautiful, expansive mountain valley setting that offers virtually every recreational amenity one could ask for in an inland location. Bozeman also service as the hub to Big Sky Resort which includes the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks Resort and Moonlight Basin. This has become a global destination in recent years and has provided a strong economic boost to the local economy. Given its extensive recreational opportunities in general, the Gallatin Valley attracts visitors and residents such as skiers (both alpine and Nordic), hikers, climbers, explorers, big game hunters, bird hunters, anglers, floaters, kayakers, and Yellowstone National Park visitors, creating a truly diverse population. It has all the benefits of a resort community but very few of its detriments. Its diverse elements assure this.
Belgrade is a bedroom community of Bozeman and although its current population is just under 9,000 residents, it has seen substantial growth in recent years. Just six-miles from Bozeman, it shares the same amenities and services as Bozeman does while also hosting the airfield.
Manhattan resides just to the west of Belgrade and has a current population of just over 1,800 residents. Despite is proximity to larger communities, Manhattan embraces the small town feel and culture. It offers simple yet adequate services, dining, and quality schools. Manhattan is in stark contrast to the valley’s urban centers maintaining its small-town appeal centered around the area agriculture.
The Gallatin Valley experiences four distinct climates. For growers, the valley is categorized as “Zone 4” and has an average growing season of 107 days. The average yearly temperature is a comfortable 56 degrees, however each season has its own distinct weather. Humidity is relatively low, which makes it bearable to be outside even on the hottest or coldest days of the year.
At a base elevation of roughly 4,800 feet, weather is diverse, particularly with mountain peaks rising to over 10,000 feet. Winter generally sets in around Thanksgiving and extends into March. With short days early winter is typically dry and cold with average temperatures dipping to 13 degrees and the occurring high-pressure systems that can bring arctic air in dropping temperatures well below zero. As winter continues, the days start to feel longer and as is the case with all of our seasons, spring announces itself. Warmer 50-degree days begin to melt the snow on the lower elevations and as we get into April and May the plants reemerge, and the valleys start to green up. Of course, early spring is also when the mountains and often the valleys receive the most snow as the pressure systems collide and cause precipitation. June is typically the start of summer and is also one of the most beautiful months as the mountain snows recede and uncovers a carpet of wildflowers. The rivers generally carry the melting snowpack out during May/June and the area remains lush often through July as dependable daily afternoon rain showers diminish and virtually stop in August while the temperatures warm to an average of 81 degrees. Like spring, fall usually makes an abrupt announcement of its arrival around mid-September as the mountains receive their first shot of snow, which is almost always short-lived. Temperatures continue to cool back into very pleasant levels as the fall colors come on and extend through October. Late fall typically extends through November into Thanksgiving and then winter will arrive again.
A mountain rain shadow causes precipitation to vary from one end of the valley to the other (12-19” end to end). Bullrun Spring Creek Ranch resides relatively central to the valley. Although most of the precipitation arrives by way of early spring snow, the central part of the valley remains reasonably devoid of measurable amounts of standing snow on the ground.
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
The ranch is appropriately appointed for its intended purpose- a sporting retreat. By design, the building footprint is capable of expansion to include up to five bathrooms with the current septic systems in place. It should be noted that water is what makes this property special and having expansive permitted septic in place is a real challenge for places like this and quite valuable to the asset.
The main dwelling is referred to as the “cabin” by the owners. Nestled in a grove of trees that are now in a mature state overlooking a trout pond, the cabin is lavishly landscaped and tastefully designed. The façade is a creation from a restacked log cabin from Roberts, Montana (circa 1890). The building was set in its current location and the additional rooms were built from dry-stacked stone and wood. This one-bedroom cabin has vaulted ceilings in the main living area that are highlighted by a sizeable fireplace with stonework extending high. A small but adequate kitchen features high-end appliances and is open to the living area. A second level bedroom and full bath make cabin living quite comfortable.
Adjacent to the owners’ cabin resides a bunkhouse. This structure was solely designed to host overflow guests and family. Although the vernacular is a conventionally framed structure, the attention to detail and wood with stone façade carry the theme of quality forward in this thoughtfully designed building. A welcoming front porch leads into the one-room dwelling complete with full bath, custom bunkbeds, A/C, and other details for guests.
An oversized garage was constructed in the same vicinity as the cabin and bunkhouse. The garage gives consideration to parking large trucks and SUV’s and is also designed with the thought of storing gear for all of the outdoor activities available on the property. An entire wall of lockers is an excellent touch and helps with organization.
Separate from the main compound a large barn, also serving as a shop when needed, is used to store the various machinery, equipment, gear and other space-consuming objects. Adjacent to the barn is a small building that was the original “clubhouse.” It has a small amount of utility storage and a room that may be used for storing gear, warming up, having lunch or as an office space. The walls are embellished by photos taken over the years of the sporting events that include images of many of the giant trout caught on the property.
Approximately $3,902.00 annually.
Under current ownership, the ranch has always been about sporting fun. It helps that several of the neighbors have similar interests, which holistically makes a positive impact on the wildlife.
Perhaps the single greatest amenity is the water. The immediate area is subject to high groundwater likely charged by the adjacent Gallatin River watershed. A multitude of springs emerge throughout the immediate area creating a variety of guarded spring creeks, many of which are high-quality fisheries. Bullrun Spring Creek is no exception. The contributing springs and small tributaries on the property creating the headwaters of this system, were all carefully developed through the counsel of an area hydrologist and aquatic excavation crew. Their efforts created what has become roughly three-quarter of a mile of incredible small stream fishery with other tributaries that offer their own level of angling fun. Exciting flows are estimated to be around 10 CFS and a sequence of riffle/run/pools were created specifically for trout. A multitude of deep pools with undercut banks hold fish that are uncommonly large. Brown trout measured as long as nearly 30 inches have been caught in these waters with smaller numbers of rainbow and brook trout in the system. It is not unheard of for giant fish like these to eat smaller 12-inch fish as they’re reeled in by anglers. When fish grow to these proportions, they are not often caught by a soft mayfly presentation that dances through a pool. Rather they carnivorously attack other fish feeding less often and growing large. They also feed on mice, which can be replicated by fly fishermen and swam across the surface of these pools at night. Though not a typical technique, it’s a fun and diverse experience.
In addition to the moving water, there are five sizeable stocked trout ponds with the larger measuring over two acres in size. Additionally, a smaller pond is stocked and there are three more with stock permits. Kamloops rainbows were introduced into these fisheries and commonly grow to enormous proportions. They are more easily caught than the largest fish in the creek and are great entertainment. The ponds are also used for swimming and paddleboarding during the summer months and aesthetically add a lot to the landscape.
Several other springs collect and move water through the entire property. More than a dozen small pools were created along their course and a woody riparian area became established creating habitat for the whitetail deer and strong numbers of pheasant. Their existence is bolstered by the careful management of the grasses which provide nesting but are also harvested for a hay crop. Three food plots consisting of eighteen acres, seventeen acres and six acres include barley as well as plantings of legumes that were custom designed by the Whitetail Institute. Those, in addition to the custom, grass mix seeded areas which are developed for upland birds, and the natural habitat on this ranch, the surrounding landscape hosts robust numbers of deer, upland birds, waterfowl and numerous other game and non-game species.
During average years the wild pheasant hunting is superb. The ranch has the perfect combination of nesting habitat, legumes, grain, water and thermal refuge to bring them through winter. Also, being central to the valley, the likelihood of hailstorms that can be devasting to clutches are relatively minimal. If hunted carefully, the experience can last through an entire season.
As fall burns on the migratory birds begin to show up and as the season extends through the beginning of January, the combination of small grains and open water are a deadly combination to attract birds. Multiple duck blinds are located both along the spring creek and on one of the primary ponds. A motorized “ice eater” is often used to keep the pond open when it gets cold and all the other still waters lock up with ice. Being adjacent to a grain field, and in the flight path of a nearby waterfowl refuge area, it is quite common to see these waters completely covered with ducks and geese as well as an ever-increasing number of Tundra Swans. On places such as this, the last six to eight weeks of the Montana waterfowl season with its generous (seven) duck and (four) geese limit may be spectacular.
It’s easy to see why the deer hunting is so good as one drives onto the ranch. Dozens of deer are often apparent and multiple deer blinds can be seen elevated 10 feet off the ground. The deer are generally attracted to the abundance of quality food and the canopy of now mature trees and shrubs create a sheltered oasis compared to the adjacent lands which are comprised of crop, pasture and sub irrigated fields. Left to grow to age, the owners have been enjoying harvests of bucks that often range from 150-160 B&C.
In addition to the hunting and fishing endeavors, there is a network of ATV trails that are used regularly both for hiking and riding. They make for an enjoyable dog walk, trek to go fish the creek or are suitable for the horse enthusiast’s daily rides.
Of course, the Gallatin Valley is blessed in location for recreational enthusiasts. Yellowstone National Park is just 90-miles to the south, Big Sky Resort and the Yellowstone Club is an hour south, Bridger Bowl Ski area is 45-minutes east, and dozens of other famous and unsung fishing opportunities exist an hour or less from the property. This would include the fabled Missouri, Yellowstone, Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers to name a few. National Forest abounds along with their associated Wilderness Areas with an abundance of access. Within a very short drive, one can completely lose a sense of civilization when entering the vast mountain complexes.
Mainly the ranch is operated for recreational purposes. This is accomplished mostly by a combination of contracting out the hayfields to be custom harvested along with the owners’ desire to plant and maintain a variety of food plots using a small tractor and implements.
Current operations find balance with the owners’ needs and desires. The grass hay fields do serve a purpose for nesting birds, but there is a preference to the aesthetics of cut fields and the further benefit of helping to mitigate weeds, which are diligently addressed. Two larger fields were seeded into the Whitetail Institute seed mix, which provides a strong attraction of legumes for the deer but also is subject to two cuttings of protein-rich hay. Fields of barley are also grown but primarily harvested by wildlife.
Although the irregularity of the field shapes and financial investment into the aquatic development would likely discourage any degree of cattle grazing, it would seem feasible that there would be space to fence in pasture for horses.
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