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Cayuse Creek Ranch

$7,950,000 Big Timber, MT 4,137± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Cayuse Creek Ranch is located 20 miles north of Big Timber and consists of 4,137± deeded acres in one contiguous block. The ranch features stunning views of the Crazy and Absaroka mountains, five+ miles of Cayuse Creek, 1± mile of Spring Creek, and over 3 miles of Sweet Grass Creek, providing an owner with 9± miles of private fishing. The ranch is well-balanced, running 300± animal units with 1,129± acres irrigated with six pivots. With an impressive riparian corridor and strong upland pastures, the Cayuse Creek Ranch offers an interactive balance of recreation and production. Wildlife on the ranch covers a broad spectrum which includes whitetail and mule deer, antelope, sharptail and sage grouse, pheasant, Hungarian partridge, turkey, sandhill cranes and raptors. Extensive waterfowl populations inhabit the ponds and streams. Two houses for family and friends as well as comprehensive operating ranch buildings complete the structures. In summary, Cayuse Creek Ranch is a very rare and unique union of nine-plus miles of private fishing, superior recreational opportunities, and productive ground under pivot irrigation - all less than 90 minutes from Bozeman.

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Just the Facts

• 80 miles from Bozeman
• 25 minutes from private jet-capable strip in Big Timber
• 4,137± deeded acres in one contiguous block
• 5 ± miles of Cayuse Creek, a spring-fed prairie stream containing trophy brown trout typically in the 16 to 18 inch range with many fish in excess of 20 inches
• 3.2± miles of excellent trout fishing on Sweet Grass Creek
• 1,129± irrigated acres with 200± under flood and 929± acres under 6 pivots
    
Pivot #            Acres Planted
1                      226±   
                         76±    Roundup Ready alfalfa
                         55±    acres in grass/alfalfa hay
2                        81±    grass/alfalfa hay
3                      227±    grass/alfalfa hay
4                      125±    grass/alfalfa hay
5                      135±    grass/alfalfa hay
6                      135±    Roundup Ready alfalfa
 
•Wildlife on the ranch includes extensive waterfowl populations, whitetail and mule deer, antelope, sharptail and sage grouse, pheasant, Hungarian partridge, turkey, sandhill cranes and raptors
 
• A well-balanced 300± animal unit operating ranch
• Comprehensive livestock and ranch support buildings
• Improved and enhanced agricultural operations with new water lines and tanks recently added
• The property is currently protected under conservation easement with Wetlands America, an affiliate of Ducks Unlimited
• Extremely private - surrounded by large traditional ranches
• Two additional approved homes inside conservation easement
 
• New home - built between 1994-1995; a 2,182± sq. ft. ranch-style home includes an attached 2-car garage; 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms; nice deck
• Old home - two-story house measuring just under 2,000 sq. ft.; originally built in the late 1880s and recently remodeled; has a concrete foundation; wood-frame construction with lap siding and a metal roof; attached 420± sq. ft. single-car garage
 
Support Structures:
• Machine storage shed/shop - built in 1950 with a wood-frame structure, metal roof and metal exterior siding containing a 16’x28’ shop with concrete floors and a 44’x28’ dirt floor machine shed
• Machine storage shed - built in 1960; wood-frame structure; tin roof, painted wood siding and dirt floors; measures 22'x52'
• Calving shed: Measures approximately 36’x48’ with a squared timber construction; built on a dirt and sill foundation; exposed timber walls; built in 1950
• Open-front stock shed - measuring approximately 48’x136’; built in 1976 of post and pole construction with wood and tin siding, tin roof and dirt floors
• Horse barn - log barn built on a rock and mud sill; built around 1910; measures 28'x36'± with a second story loft
• Milking barn - wood frame barn; built on wood-skid foundation with wood siding; has a wood shingle roof and wood floors; built around 1950; measures approximately 16'x20'
• Open front stock shed - measuring approximately 30’x48’ with an additional 12’x14’ enclosed wooden shed; built in 1940 with post and pole construction, wood siding, tin roof and dirt floors
• Stone house storage shed - stone structure with dirt floors and wood shingle roof; built around 1900; measures approximately 12’x12’
• Log cabin office - log structure was built around 1900 on a dirt foundation with tin roof and wood floors; measures 16'x18'
• Corrals - recently rebuilt with wooden plank and pole construction
 
 

General Description

The Cayuse Creek Ranch is a resource rich and diversified property offering a spring creek fishery, cottonwood-lined river bottom, and six pivots. The main home is ideally situated on a bluff above Sweet Grass Creek, taking in expansive views of the snowcapped granite peaks of the Crazy and Absaroka mountains. Gentle rolling topography and a good interior road system provides easy access to the cottonwood bottoms, sage benches, irrigated crop-land and improvements.

One enters the ranch along irrigated fields and a healthy riparian corridor. Large pivots lie to the north and south, providing a mosaic of cropland giving way to the mountainous landscape in the distance. Lined with mature cottonwoods, Sweet Grass Creek carves through the ranch for over three miles and includes the confluence of the six+ mile combination of Cayuse and Spring Creek fisheries. There is a lot of potential to lengthen and enhance the two spring creek resources on the ranch and proposals are available for review. 

While the history of the ranch remains evident in its productive lands and working facilities, the recent recreation enhancements really complete the ranch, providing an abundance of wildlife, an exclusive fishery and a host of recreational pursuits. Offering such versatility, beauty and production make the Cayuse Creek Ranch offering both unique and highly desirable in today’s marketplace.

Broker's Comments

Cayuse Creek Ranch combines spectacular views of the Crazy and Absaroka Mountains, and is a self-contained agricultural operation with first-rate hunting and private blue ribbon quality fishing. This rare offering, with all of its attributes, is ideally located within easy striking distance of Bozeman, and is the most requested, yet seldom available, offering in today’s Montana ranch market. 

Learn about the locale

Location

The Cayuse Creek Ranch is located within Sweet Grass County in south-central Montana. The property is accessed from Big Timber by driving north on State Highway 191 for approximately 17.5 miles, then east 4± miles on the Cremer Road to the ranch. The town of Big Timber (population 2,500) provides all the necessities needed to operate the ranch. Major commercial air service is available within a one-and-one-half hour’s drive from the ranch, in both Billings and Bozeman. Big Timber, 30 miles, and Livingston, 50 miles to the west, have jet-capable community airports with 5,280 ft. and 5,700 ft. lighted, paved runways, respectively. 

Locale

The Big Timber area is characterized by a rare combination of multi-generational family ranches (some over 100 years in the same family), and wealthy individuals and families who have chosen this area for its western culture and rural community spirit. Even the newcomers take pride in maintaining the ranching traditions of the area. Big Timber is a self-sustaining community with galleries, banks, churches, a golf course and a world-class restaurant at the Grand Hotel, which is a lovingly restored historic hotel on the National Register of Historic Buildings. The Pioneer Medical Center in Big Timber provides medical services to the surrounding area. One of the great benefits of Big Timber is that it sits almost equidistant between Billings and Bozeman. It is just far enough away to require that the town be self-sustaining, but close enough that one can take advantage of all of the services these two important and vibrant Montana cities offer.  

If one should decide to explore the scenic backdrop of the ranch, the Crazy Mountains are one of the more impressive mountain ranges in Montana. With more than 20 peaks over 10,000 feet above sea level, the Crazy Mountains bear a resemblance to an island in the vast Montana prairie. Rock Lake, for example, which sits at the base of Conical Peak (elevation 10,748), is an easy hike for someone looking to spend the day catching golden, brook, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Bridger Bowl, an absolutely outstanding ski area that offers very challenging terrain, is just over an hour’s drive from the ranch. Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, is approximately one-and-one-half hours from Big Timber. For those searching for the excitement of a destination ski resort, Big Sky and Red Lodge Ski resorts provide year-round recreational activities and an abundance of full-service amenities.

The Cayuse Creek Ranch itself is a good-sized ranch and neighbors several other much larger ranches. It is in an area that seems relatively immune to the development pressures that afflict many other areas that are closer to the mountains. In short, this is a part of the state that has the benefit of dramatic mountain views in two directions and easy access to a more sophisticated lifestyle, but one is far enough out that one is still in ranching country — very good ranching country as evidenced by the 100-year-old family ranches in the neighborhood. One is also far enough from the mountains that these ranches are blessed with a quite tolerable year-round climate.

Climate

The elevation of the Cayuse Creek Ranch headquarters ranges from 4,640 to 4,950 feet above sea level. The climate is typically mild with the average low in January being 16.5 degrees, while the average high in July is 87.3 degrees. The ranch lies in an area that is estimated to receive between 14 to 18 inches of precipitation, with two-thirds of that expected to fall during the growing season. Early June is often the wettest time of the growing season, which on average is frost-free for 123 days.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

Deeded Acres: 4,137±

Total Acres: 4,137±

* All acreages are approximations.

Additional Information

CONSERVATION EASEMENT

The Cayuse Creek Ranch is preserved by a conservation easement for the protection of the ecological, scenic, open space and aesthetic values of the property. There are two approved homes inside the conservation easement and the current homes are allowed to be expanded or replaced. The easement is with Wetlands America Trust, Inc. (Ducks Unlimited) and was donated in 1995. A copy of the entire easement is available through Hall and Hall upon request.  

Improvements

Cleveland House:

Built between 1994 and 1995, this approximately 2,182± sq. ft. “ranch-style” home has an attached two-car garage as well as a nice deck. The home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and stunning views of the creek and mountains. 

Older home:

The two-story house measuring just under 2,000 SF, originally built in the late 1880s and recently remodeled, has a concrete foundation, wood-frame construction with lap siding and a metal roof. There is also an attached 420± sq. ft. single-car garage.

Ranch structures:

  • Machine storage shed/shop- Built in 1950, the wood-frame structure with metal roof and metal exterior siding contains a 16’x28’± shop with concrete floors as well as a 44’x28’± dirt floor machine shed. 
  • Machine storage shed- Built in 1960, the wood-frame structure with a tin roof has painted wood siding and dirt floors, which measure 22’x52’±. 
  • Calving shed- Measuring approximately 36’x48’, this squared-timber construction building was built in 1950 on a dirt and sill foundation and has exposed timber walls. 
  • Open-front stock shed- Measuring approximately 48’x136’and built in 1976 of post and pole construction with wood and tin siding, tin roof and dirt floors. 
  • Horse barn- This log construction barn built around 1910 on a rock and mud sill foundation has exposed log walls, wood shingle roof and dirt floors measuring 28’x36’± with a second-story loft. 
  • Milking barn- This approximately 16’x20’ wood-frame construction barn was built around 1950 on wood skid foundation with wood siding, wood shingle roof, and wood floors. 
  • Open-front stock shed- Measuring approximately 30’x48’ with an additional 12’x14’ enclosed wooden shed; built in 1940 of post and pole construction with wood siding, tin roof and dirt floors. 
  • Stone house storage shed- This stone structure with dirt floors and wood shingle roof was built around 1900 and measures approximately 12’x12’. 
  • Log cabin office- This log structure was built on dirt foundation with log walls, tin roof and wood floors built around 1900 and measures 16’x18’. 
  • Corrals- Recently rebuilt with wooden plank and pole construction.

Water Resources

Sweet Grass, Cayuse, and Spring Creek provide both stock and irrigation water on the ranch.

Water Rights

There are extensive water rights appurtenant to the Cayuse Creek Ranch. The water rights are broken down into stock water right claims, domestic water right claims (wells), and irrigation water right claims which adequately handle the current irrigation operation. Complete information provided by DNRC for all filed water rights is available at the offices of Hall and Hall.

Mineral Rights

All mineral rights owned by the Sellers are included with the property sale.

Taxes

Property taxes are estimated at $11,903 annually.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Fishery Resources

The ranch has over five miles of Cayuse Creek, a spring creek system with fish ranging between 14 and 18 inches with trophy browns measuring more than 20 inches. In addition to its natural flow of spring water, Cayuse Creek is used for the conveyance of irrigation waters taken from the upper Sweet Grass which, when it increases its flow, helps keep the creek cooler during key summer months. As a fishery, Cayuse Creek is almost exclusively a brown trout stream. Due to its size and relatively cooler summer temperatures it also serves as a refuge for fish from the upper Sweet Grass during peak irrigation months. Cayuse is a meandering stream that traverses back and forth as it heads south towards its eventual confluence with Sweet Grass. Cayuse Creek provides fishable hatches of mayflies (PMD’s, BWO’s, Green Drakes and Tricos), Caddis and terrestrials. During the summer months trout will be found resting in the slow shady currents along undercuts, feasting on hoppers, ants and beetles. The hopper fishing can be tremendous and offers the best chance of landing that “Monster Brown” on a dry fly.  

Adjacent to, and eventually flowing into Cayuse Creek, runs Spring Creek. Spring Creek does hold a smaller population of fish with the largest taped in recent years at 23 inches. There is a good opportunity to restore and improve Spring Creek allowing for its full potential.

In addition to the Spring Creek Fisheries, the ranch contains three+ miles of beautiful cottonwood bottoms along Sweet Grass Creek, where anglers can expect to have both brown and rainbow trout rise to flies. Wade-fishing is productive, resulting in trout ranging in size from 10-14 inches with opportunities for 16-plus-inch fish. 

On top of the many miles of fisheries within the ranch, the surrounding area includes a host of renowned waters including the Yellowstone, Stillwater and Boulder Rivers - all within an hour’s drive.  

Wildlife Resources

The diverse habitat of the Cayuse Creek Ranch offers exceptional cover and is complemented by an abundance of irrigated crop land that provides ample feed for a variety of wildlife species.  

Big Game:

The whitetail hunting is respectable on the ranch with bucks in the 120-140 Boone and Crockett class with an occasional buck pushing 150 B&C class. With some specific management, greater numbers of bigger bucks could be developed because the ranch provides ideal habitat and genetics for trophy deer. Antelope run in large herds through the native range and periodically feed in the improved pasture and hay fields. It is estimated that there are at times over 200 head on the ranch. A large number of these are bucks, with several in the 13”-15” size.

Waterfowl:

The ranch attracts an assortment of waterfowl including Canadian geese, mallards, teal and divers.  The six+ miles of spring creeks remain partially open during colder months, creating areas for waterfowl utilization later in the season.  Mallard and gadwall are the most common species found on the ranch, followed by blue-winged teal. Northern shoveler, pintail, green-winged teal, common mergansers, lesser scaup and Canada geese are all present. Goldeneye, bufflehead and an occasional wood duck are attracted to many cavity nesting sites found in large cottonwoods along Sweet Grass Creek. A small breeding population of harlequin ducks has remained in the area for several years. Crop plantings in the six pivots can greatly influence the waterfowl populations.  

Upland Birds:

The habitat for upland birds extends out of the creek bottom into the native range and pivot ground creating the desirable habitat needed to support both pheasant and prairie grouse. The primary beneficiaries of this environment are the Hungarian partridge (“Huns”) and sharp-tailed grouse. Numbers of Huns and sharp-tails could be increased considerably with specific management. Additionally, there is a large population of turkeys which reside on the ranch.

Non-Game:

Along with all the species of game animals, the ranch is also home to predators, raptors and a large variety of non-game species including breeding pairs of cranes using the ranch. Spring and fall numbers can reach up to 500 plus birds. Bald eagles are frequently seen hunting and roosting along Sweet Grass Creek. Peregrine falcons have also been observed in the county. Long-billed curlew, black tern and white-faced ibis have been observed as well as sightings of the swift fox.

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The Cayuse Creek Ranch is a highly diverse operation from both a farming and ranching perspective. Six pivots irrigate just under 1,000 acres, with roughly 100 acres of flood irrigated lands and over 200 acres of sub irrigated lands. Two of the pivots were seeded to Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2015, two-and-one-half pivots were seeded to a perennial grassland mix in 2016, and the other one-and-one-half pivots are in a grass/alfalfa mix. This cropping strategy allows all pivots to be hayed, with hay being sold as a cash crop, and then the pivots may be grazed in autumn and winter. As the new seedings establish, production is estimated to be between 1,400 and 1,700 tons annually, depending on water and fertilizer. Such a combination offers high flexibility to a joint haying and livestock operation with cash flows from hay sales.  

At over 4,000 acres that can be grazed with 26 fenced pastures, Cayuse Creek Ranch offers a highly flexible grazing operation. Cattle may graze rangeland pastures during the growing season, spend spring and fall on the perennial grass pivots, winter on pivots’ grass/alfalfa aftermath, and calve in the wooded bottoms of Sweetgrass Creek in the springtime. The ranch’s corrals and infrastructure are conveniently located to enable processing of cattle in proximity to the ranch’s grazing lands. The ranch is owner-rated at 225 animal units for the optimal grazing use and the balance of the carrying capacity would come from the hay production. Because of the dependable sources of irrigation water and land that can be used for multiple purposes, from grain and hay production to intensive grazing, the ranch offers an uncommonly high level of flexibility allowing one to take advantage of a variety of markets at different times of the year.  

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