The ranch lies approximately nine miles west of Choteau (population. 1,684) and is accessed by a well-maintained graveled county road. Interestingly, there are three unmanned missile sites located along this road with the advantage being that the US Air Force creates and maintains roads to their sites that are well beyond normal county standards. As a result, the road is generally a smooth, high-speed, all-weather road making the trip to town and elsewhere a quick and easy event.
State Highway 89 is the main north/south route through this region connecting multiple small communities to Great Falls and north to Glacier Park lying 90 miles distant. Great Falls, one of Montana’s largest cities, lies 55 miles to the southeast providing commercial air service via Alaska/Horizon and Delta Airlines. Choteau has a private airfield capable of handling a variety of private aircraft. The elevation is 3,947 feet and the airfield has multiple asphalt landing strips with the largest being 5,000 feet long by 75 feet wide.
The Rocky Mountain Front has a storied history. The Old North Trail, once connecting the continents, was used by early-day man and passes directly along the flank of the mountains just west of the ranch. Numerous teepee rings dot the ranch particularly along the rim above the creek bottoms. The area was settled by farmers and ranchers, and agriculture remains the primary driver of the region’s economy. Irrigation storage reservoirs were constructed long ago for impounding water and delivering it via large canal systems to area farmers. The nearby Fairfield Bench is likely the most notable part of this agricultural area containing vast irrigated and dryland fields, and is the area’s largest producer of hay and small grain crops, including malt barley for the brewing of beer. Large-scale cattle operations are still abundant and this general area has remained true to its western heritage made famous by the paintings of Charles M. Russell.
Choteau is the county seat of Teton County. This classic western town was developed around the centerpiece of the one-hundred-year-old courthouse. The town has a variety of eating establishments and an array of service providers including schools, grocers, taverns, a hospital, public swimming pool, nine-hole golf course, banks, etc. A visit to the Old Trail Museum gives insight to the era of dinosaurs that once roamed these lands nearly 80 million years ago. Paleontologists have extracted many of these creatures, including the infamous T-Rex, as well as plant-eating dinosaurs. A site known as Egg Mountain unearthed the richest and most important paleontological find ever. It is in very near proximity to the ranch on the Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Swamp lands.
The area remains slow paced and resistant to significant change. Major cities and resort communities are distant enough to keep land speculators and developers at bay. As a result, it has managed to retain its open spaces and agricultural landscape. One thing that rings true with virtually everyone whom one meets in this region is their deep appreciation for the open lands and their admiration and respect for the rugged wilderness that sprawls across their entire western horizon.
The Bob Marshal Wilderness complex parallels the continental divide encompassing over 1.5 million acres. It includes the Scapegoat and Great Bear wildernesses and collectively is the second largest dedicated wilderness that exists in the US. It lies contiguous to Glacier National Park to the north and contains some of the most rugged, wild, and scenic lands in the world. “The Bob’s” most notable feature is the Chinese Wall, which is a massive escarpment with a towering 1,000-foot headwall that extends for nearly 40 miles through the complex. The rugged mountains and dense old growth forests contain hundreds of lakes, streams, and waterfalls which collect into large trout-filled drainages that tumble out of the mountains and across the prairie. Biologically speaking, this is a high-value ecosystem and is home to an impressive variety of wildlife and claims the highest population density of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states. The Rocky Mountain Front is one of the last places where these great bears still venture out into their original habitat—the open plains.
The Bob Marshall is classic horse country due to its vastness, navigable terrain, and wide mid-elevation river valleys with abundant forage or grazing. A network of over 1,000 miles of maintained trails make their way through the wilderness giving access to more primitive trails as users venture deeper into unimaginably picturesque alpine terrain.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has acquired and preserved large-scale, ecologically sensitive lands in the immediate vicinity of Deep Creek Cattle Company through both acquisition and easement. The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve was purchased in the early 1980’s by TNC and set aside as a preserve. This represents the largest wetlands complex along the Rocky Mountain Front and is the last stronghold for grizzlies on the plains. A 500-foot sandstone butte for which it is named is the distinguishing feature of this preserve and can be seen looming on the northwest horizon of the ranch. The array of ponds and wetlands created by the Teton River and its tributaries provides a wealth of vegetation creating habitat for a diverse fauna. Volumes of conservation easements have been acquired or donated in the area of the Preserve, which remains a priority on a national level. As one moves north and south of the ranch, other areas along the Eastern Front have also been protected. The Blackleaf and Ear Mountain Wildlife Management Areas and the Boone and Crockett Club purchased a large ranch on the front just north of there. To the south, The Sun River pours out of the wilderness and into the plains creating a massive travel corridor for wildlife. Recognizing this, the State of Montana established the first state game range there, the Sun River Wildlife Management Area, spanning nearly 20,000 acres. As a result, the Deep Creek Cattle Company, and its immediate neighbors have become a critically important landscape in a virtual sea of protected lands.
As is typical for most of the Rocky Mountain Region, weather patterns are unpredictable.
Temperatures can sink well below zero in the winter or climb into the 90’s during the late summer months. Overall, most people find that the low relative humidity maintains a comfortable environment even during these extreme times and typically average temperatures remain at pleasant levels throughout the year. Average precipitation is estimated to be 11.5 inches. Snowfall in the lower elevations of the ranch and surrounding area is light throughout the winter. The snow will accumulate briefly and virtually all of it will evaporate throughout the winter months with the occasional warm Chinook winds causing large temperature swings and melting/evaporating what little snowfall remains.
Most of the rainfall occurs in May and June. The changes of seasons are always quite dramatic. Subtle hints of forthcoming seasons give way to accelerated change and with new weather patterns also comes a notable amount of wind averaging 15 mph but capable of more violent gusts and sustained wind gusts. Although the winds can seem extreme at times, it is because of them that the grasses remain available to livestock and wildlife throughout the winter.