Circle Bar Ranch is a highly productive ranch in the scenic Potomac Valley with excellent agricultural production, big game hunting and scenic splendor offering an owner an attractive lifestyle balancing agriculture and recreation. In the same family since 1888, the ranch includes 1,734± acres and senior water rights with a large portion of the acreage irrigated. The terrain consists of approximately 554 acres of irrigated hay, grain and pasture, over 750 acres of forested terrain, and the balance in wild hay and grazing pastures. Multiple small creeks lace the landscape and create small wetlands and sub-irrigated areas that are frequented by elk, whitetail deer, and turkey. Extensive irrigation systems including center-pivot sprinklers and wheel lines along with extensive cross-fencing and a variety of pens and holding areas are the heart of the operation. The ranch compound includes two older homes, two barns and a number of other outbuildings. Missoula is only 20 minutes away allowing easy access to services and an international airport. Conservation easements are in place on a majority of the acreage, with approximately 617 acres outside of the existing conservation easements.
Just the Facts
- Highly productive ranch in same family since 1888
- 1,1734± acres with 554± acres irrigated and 200± acres in timber
- Paved access 20 minutes from Missoula in scenic Potomac Valley
- Two homes, two barns and multiple outbuildings
- 1883 priority water rights, with recently added center-pivot plus two older pivots
- Outstanding hunting for elk, whitetail, and turkey
- Multiple streams and creeks flow through property
- Conservation easement allows for choice of two building sites for an additional home, plus an additional 60 acres are outside of the conservation easement and provide a super-premium build location.
The Circle Bar Ranch lies on the Camas Prairie in Western Montana’s Potomac Valley. The valley is modest in size measuring roughly 8± miles from east to west and 4± miles from north to south though in some places the valley floor is less than a mile wide. The entire valley is surrounded by timbered hills with the Garnet Mountain Range rising south of the valley.
The property fronts on Highway 200 to the north and has two points of access. The primary access is from the east off Potomac Road approximately ¼ mile south of the Highway. Here, the improvements are clustered in immediate proximity to paved, county-maintained roads. From this point looking westward one can see the irrigated fields which remain green throughout the irrigation season (late spring, summer and fall). Four creeks enter the property along the eastern or southern edge of the property and generally flow in a northern and westerly direction. A couple of different timbered ridges on the property protrude onto the valley floor and can be seen to the south and southwest from this location as well.
The other access is from Morrison Lane on the west side of the property. Morrison Lane is located ¾ mile west of Potomac Road on Highway 200. The northwest corner of the property can be accessed from Morrison Lane approximately ¼ mile south of Highway 200. Morrison Lane either borders or drives through the property for approximately 2.5 miles. It begins by following the property’s western boundary for approximately 1/3 mile before it turns east at the base of the timbered ridge at which point it takes in both sides of the road with a timbered ridge to the south and the first of three pivot sprinklers to the north. The road then turns back to the south after ¼ mile and holds the same timbered ridge to the west, and the second of three pivot sprinklers to the east, along with another timbered ridge further east. Morrison Lane then continues along the property’s western boundary until it crosses through the wildlife-rich timbered acreage in Section 35.
The Circle Bar Ranch is an original homestead property being sold by descendants of the original settler. It is a highly productive hay ranch in a quaint valley full of agrarian charm within a short drive of a vibrant city. The ranch is priced to sell quickly at current market conditions.
Learn about the locale
Circle Bar Ranch is located in Missoula County, Montana in the Potomac Valley. The property is accessed directly off Highway 200 about twenty minutes northeast of Missoula, Montana. Delta and United Airlines serve the Missoula airport from their respective hubs in Salt Lake City/Minneapolis and Denver with several arrivals and departures each day. Missoula is also served by Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, providing nonstop service to the West Coast. As well as Allegiant Air that flies direct to Las Vegas, Phoenix and, seasonally, Oakland, California.
The Potomac Valley is a small agricultural community located on the outskirts of what one writer penned as “the most sophisticated small city in America” – Missoula. The valley serves as a gateway to Montana’s famed Blackfoot Valley, one of the most highly sought-after locations in the Rockies due to its rural charm and the strong conservation ethic that has kept it that way. Paw’s Up, the legendary western luxury resort, is just a short distance down the road. At the other end of the spectrum, the nearby Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness complex gives backcountry enthusiasts access to over 1.5 million acres of roadless wilderness.
Nearby Missoula is the quintessential “college town”, home to the University of Montana. With over 150 restaurants, numerous theaters and community programs and a population of over 70,000, Missoula offers everything imaginable in the way of services and entertainment. Snowbowl Ski area is located about 20 minutes north of Missoula and offers great downhill runs for intermediate to expert skiers and snowboarders, while locally, the Garnet Mountain Range to the south provides endless winter recreation on a vast system of public lands interlaced with an extensive network of publicly accessible logging roads. The specific locale of the Circle Bar Ranch perfectly bridges an “away-from-it-all” appeal with immediate proximity to one of the best small cities in America.
Summer is mild with temperatures only occasionally reaching into the 90’s. Spring is variable with rains providing needed moisture for the native range. Fall is arguably the most beautiful time of year with cold nights (20’s and 30’s) and cool days in the 50’s and 60’s. The tamaracks (western larch), quaking aspens and cottonwoods are vibrant with color in September and October. Winter snow depths average 12-18 inches with temperatures falling below zero at times.
Precipitation Zone: 10 – 15 inches annually
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
Irrigated (hay, pasture and grain and other annual crops) - 554± acres
Timberland - 209±acres
Wild Hay and Grazing Land – 404± acres
Homestead 10± acres
Deeded Acres: 1,734±
Total Acres: 1,734±
There are two conservation easements in place, both are held by Five Valleys Land Trust (www.fvlt.org). The easements allow for the construction of one additional residence within one of two building envelopes at the northern end of the property (as shown on brochure maps) as well as an additional building site on the southern portion of the ranch. Additionally, the southern 617± acres have no conservation easement and are restricted only by county subdivision and development rules, which provide for a broad array of possibilities. Full documentation is available upon request.
Improvements are clustered in a compound and include the following:
- Main Home – This home was built in 1941 and includes 1,100 square feet on the main floor with a full basement. There are 3 bedrooms and 1 bath.
- Bunkhouse – The 2 bedroom 1 bath bunkhouse was built in 1892 and remodeled in 1988. The bunkhouse contains 600 square feet on the main floor with a second story totaling 492 square feet. There is an Artesian Spring behind this home.
- Barn – Built in 1900 the barn has 3,120 square feet
- Horse Barn – Built in 1960 the horse barn has 3,666 square feet
- Horse Barn – Built in 1997 including a large riding arena that was moved and reconstructed from another location.
- Several miscellaneous sheds and grain bins (located along Morrison Road to the south)
The Circle Bar Ranch has excellent stock and irrigation water rights with priority dates ranging between 1882 and 1934. There is a total of 16 water rights for irrigation, stock and domestic use, in addition to two wells. Of the 16 recorded rights, eight are designated for irrigation, six are designated for stock use and one for domestic use. All of these rights are sourced from Union, Ashby, Camas and Arkansas Creeks or their unnamed tributaries. The two wells on the property are 120 feet and 80 feet deep respectively and when last flow tested, produced 10 and 20 gallons per minute, respectively. Copies of all known water rights are available upon request.
The final water rights adjudication process in Montana is not yet complete and buyers are encouraged to obtain an independent analysis and report relating to all water rights on the property. The information reported above was obtained from The State of Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and is subject to independent verification
Annual property taxes are approximately $4,048.
Learn about the recreational amenities
The Circle Bar Ranch contains ideal habitat for whitetail deer and elk. The current owners allow limited hunting by permission and their waitlist is at least a year long. While whitetail are resident on the property, the elk move back and forth between hay meadows and planted crop ground and the timbered ridges that surround the property on three sides.
Circle Bar Ranch is also situated less than 5 miles from the Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor, a 30 mile stretch of river that benefits from a cooperative agreement between the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and private landowners allowing the public access to an outstanding fishery. The Blackfoot can provide excellent fishing for rainbows, browns and cutthroat trout. The Blackfoot is also one of the last strongholds of the endangered Bull Trout which can grow upwards of 35 inches. There are also a multitude of fishable small streams and creeks in the area, including Ashby and Camas Creeks. The entire area is home to a diverse array of wildlife that in addition to the above deer and elk includes mule deer, bears (grizzly and black), mountain lions, bald eagles and a host of other birds of prey native to Montana. Finally, the detached 60± acre parcel at the south end of the ranch provides direct access to a vast network of public lands, directly bordering State of Montana lands that, in turn, give way to a huge checkerboard of Bureau of Land Management and additional state lands.
Learn about the general operations
The current operation is managed by two different owners and represents a family combination of portions of an historic homestead ranch. The northern 380± is actively managed as a small ranch production unit and residential home site, with livestock and hay as the productive elements. Because this portion of the ranch is managed individually by the owner, stocking rates are below carrying capacity, but sufficient to produce a livelihood for the owner. At the time of this writing, the property holds about 30-40 mother cows, a small group of sheep and about a half-dozen horses. The owner of this portion of the property indicates that the ranch has a carrying capacity of approximately 75 cow-calf pairs if production were optimized. Hay production on this portion of the property varies from 300-600 tons which comes from one cutting on all but 40 acres where the owner sometimes takes a second cutting.
On the remaining 1,354± acres, the property is managed for a combination of crop production, timber, and wildlife. There are two fields watered by wheel lines and two pivots. From north to south, the first wheel line, which sits east of the northern pivot in Section 23, waters approximately 30 acres and uses the second priority water right from Ashby Creek as well as some of the second and third rights from Arkansas Creek. The northern pivot in Section 23 covers around 90 acres and utilizes the same water. This northern pivot will typically produce between 60-80 bushels/acre (up to 90 bushels/acre on good years) and the crop typically planted was a winter wheat variant. Converted to grass, the owner estimates this area would produce between five and six tons per acre of grass hay or a grass-alfalfa mix.
Moving south, there is a full pivot in Section 26 that covers around 100+ acres. This is an older water-driven pivot that is gravity fed from the first water right on Ashby Creek, which consists of approximately 60 miner’s inches or around 675 gallons per minute. The total acreage under this pivot is between 100 and110 acres. The last few years it has been planted in peas, but is currently fallow as the owner considers 2018 options. Just south of this area is the second wheel line field, covering around 38 acres, it uses the same first right from Ashby Creek.