Located 33± miles northwest of White Sulphur Springs, immediately downstream of the headwaters of Eagle Creek and running along the western foothills of the Little Belt Mountains, the Eagle Creek Ranch is a 200-head mountain ranch in one of the most pristine and private settings one could imagine. Operating on approximately 14,650 deeded, BLM leased, and Forest Service allotment acres, the ranch historically was run as a cow/calf operation, but recently has been used primarily for summer grazing and the harvesting of native hay. The ranch is located in an area near the Smith River, Sheep Creek and Tenderfoot Creek drainages which are fortunate to receive plentiful moisture for growing grass and hay. The owner’s compound - consisting of a modest log home, horse barn, shop and corral - is located along Eagle Creek with open views towards the hay meadows and timbered ridges. In addition to the ranch’s cattle operation, the ranch has outstanding hunting for Northern Rockies big game species, most notably elk. The combination of abundant water, hearty stands of native grass and plenty of timber provides appealing habitat for all wildlife. It is currently being outfitted during the archery and rifle seasons. This offering is the perfect Montana mountain ranch with a summer grazing and hay operation, small stream fishing, wildlife, and plenty of privacy and seclusion.
Just the Facts
- LOCATION: Thirty-three miles to White Sulphur Springs and 113 to Bozeman via US Highway 89 and MT Highway 86
- ACREAGE: 14,650± total acres (6,910± deeded, 7,540± USFS allotments - Chapman and Eagle Creek, 200± BLM)
- DEEDED ACREAGE BREAKDOWN: 283 flood-irrigated, 2,320 forested, 4,306 grazing and one acre farmstead
- ESTIMATED CARRYING CAPACITY: 200 plus animal units
- IMPROVEMENTS: Classic Ol’ Timey log home and barn with cattle working facilities and horse corrals
- LIVE WATER: A little less than one mile of Sheep Creek and over four miles of Eagle Creek
- WILDLIFE: Exceptional elk, antelope, mule and whitetail deer hunting throughout the ranch; currently leased to an outfitter for big game archery and rifle seasons
- LIVESTOCK WATER: Extensive surface water for recreation and livestock, plus miles of pipeline to stock tanks
- SUMMARY: This property is the quintessential Montana mountain ranch in a private setting far off the beaten path
In an area surrounded by sizeable ranch holdings and Federal land, Eagle Creek Ranch lies on the western slope of the Little Belt Mountains before they descend to the Smith River and converge with the Big Belt Mountains to the west. This area has transformed over the years from mostly locally-owned ranch operations to larger ranches owned by high net worth out-of-state individuals for recreational retreats as well as valuable and rewarding cattle operations.
For all intents and purposes, the ranch is located at the end of Smith River Road, which is maintained year-round by Meagher County. When passable however, this road does continue and connects to US Highway 89 and the Kings Hill Scenic Byway.
A private driveway heads down into the valley towards Eagle Creek through a pine forest and open hillside before winding through the native hay meadows and following Eagle Creek upstream to the ranch buildings.
Arriving at the ranch and driving to the buildings, the view to the east is of the riparian area along Eagle Creek. The Park Creek drainage lies across the valley and thick stands of timber on USFS land dominates the view to the north. To the south towards Sheep Creek are scattered timbered foothills. The immediate impression is the overwhelming beauty and serenity of this private valley. The classic log home and barn are sited along Eagle Creek and provide just the idyllic setting that one would expect on a classic Montana mountain ranch.
The ranch operates over 6,910± deeded acres, 200± BLM leased acres, and two USFS grazing allotments that combined are approximately 7,540 acres. The two primary drainages are both forks of Eagle Creek and Sheep Creek which originate above the ranch on USFS lands and flow through it for many miles before their confluence with the Smith River to the southwest.
The rolling topography is a nice mixture of riparian, grassy meadows, grass and timber covered hills and draws. The upper reaches of the ranch adjoin the Lewis and Clark National Forest for six-plus miles.
Sheep Creek, a year-round trout fishing stream, flows through the property for a little under a mile. The upper reaches of the stream are heavily forested on both banks, but downstream on the ranch easy access to the stream is available for exploring and fishing.
Both forks of Eagle Creek, a small stream fishery for brookies, flows through the ranch for approximately four miles and the forks converge immediately above the ranch buildings. As the creek continues its southwesterly flow towards the Smith River, it descends through a limestone canyon which is a beautiful, interesting and exceptional habitat for wildlife.
When one conjures up an image of what a mountain ranch should look and feel like…Eagle Creek Ranch is the perfect model. A private, secluded and serene valley with surrounding rolling timbered and grass hills, plenty of water and nostalgic buildings - it fits the bill to a tee. The combination of a balanced summer ranching operation and fall wildlife hunting pursuits provide many opportunities to enjoy the amenities the ranch has to offer. The capstone of this fine offering is the overall beauty of the ranch and its surroundings.
Learn about the locale
Eagle Creek Ranch lies 33 miles northwest of White Sulphur Springs and 113 miles north of Bozeman, with its Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. Access from White Sulphur Springs is year-round on paved State Highway 360 for 15.5 miles, and then 17.5 miles on the Smith River Road to the ranch gate. This drive takes a little over two hours from Montana’s largest airport and 40 minutes from White Sulphur Springs and its paved and lighted 6,110 by 75 foot airstrip.
White Sulphur Springs lies close to the headwaters of the Smith River. It has historically been primarily a ranching community, but in recent years with the increasing popularity of hunting, fly fishing and river floating, it has become something of a recreational mecca. It is also a launching point for people embarking on the five-day float trip through the Smith River Canyon, which begins a short drive north of town. The area offers fly fishing and big game hunting and has begun to attract non-resident landowners as well as a growing interest from tourists passing through the area looking for the most scenic route between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
There is a strong sense of community in White Sulphur Springs. The town and surrounding ranch owners support a variety of local enterprises, such as the local hospital, which is critical in a community of this size that is somewhat removed from major cities. The hospital is designated one of the “Top 100 Critical Access Hospitals” in the United States, offering a 24/7 emergency room, clinic, acute care as well as both MRI and X-ray services.
The Red Ants Pants Festival is a music festival held every summer in a cow pasture just outside of town. In the past, it has featured such notable musicians as Lyle Lovett, Taj Mahal, Merle Haggard, and Emmylou Harris. It is a fun-filled family-style gathering complete with food, camping and nonstop dancing. It draws people from all over the United States and other parts of the world. The proceeds go to support the Red Ants Pants Foundation, which fosters strength and reliance in women in rural agricultural communities.
Additionally, there are a Fun Run, PRCA Labor Day Rodeo, 4th of July parade and numerous other community events held in White Sulphur Springs annually.
Summer fishing and water sports are within 30-90 minutes on three different lakes and reservoirs, including the 26-mile-long Canyon Ferry Reservoir of the Missouri River. Cross-country skiing is easily accessible on and from the ranch. In the neighboring Little Belt Mountains, hundreds of miles of snowmobiling trails are available. Downhill skiing is available at the Showdown Ski Area http://showdownmontana.com/ about a 70-minutes-drive to the east. To the south, one can also access Bridger Bowl Ski Area https://bridgerbowl.com/ in about a 90-minute drive.
It is fair to say that White Sulphur Springs is generally considered to be an area of large ranches that tend to remain in stable hands over generations. A few have passed into non-resident hands, but they have tended to add to their original holdings and continue to be operated in a serious manner. One of the great benefits of the area is that it is off the beaten path, but is rapidly growing in popularity, as witnessed by many notable ranch sales over the last ten years. Certainly, its considerable amenities are fast being recognized and appreciated.
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
- 6,910± deeded acres
- 200± BLM leased acres (57 AUMs)
- 7,540± USFS allotment acres (Chapman - 170 AUMs and Eagle Creek - 445 AUMs)
The following represents an approximate breakdown of the deeded acreage:
- Irrigated native hay land - 283± acres
- Timbered range - 2,320± acres
- Mountain foothill native range - 4,306± acres
- Farmstead - 1± acre
Deeded Acres: 6,910±
BLM Leased Acres: 200±
Total Leased Acres: 200±
Total Acres: 14,650±
The buildings on the Eagle Creek Ranch are a nostalgic step back in time. The classic log home, log horse barn, metal shop and small wood storage building were built many years ago by a well-known White Sulphur Springs ranching family, the Buckinghams. Today, they are still fully operational and continue to serve their original functions. The ranch manager lives in the two bedroom, two bath house with an open living area and kitchen. The front and side porches are a great place to relax after a long day in the saddle or chasing elk around the ranch. The main cattle working facilities are a set of newly built corrals and are located along the “hard” Smith River Road. This allows cattle trucks easy access year-round.
There are just under six miles of year-round streams between both forks of Eagle Creek, Park Creek and Sheep Creek.
The ranch owns 25 recorded water rights. The irrigation rights from multiple sources total 14.73 cubic feet per second of flow and the earliest priority dates back to 1890 out of Eagle Creek. These are used for flood irrigation and cover approximately 283 acres. There are 16 filed rights for watering livestock and they are comprised of springs, wells, and creeks. For domestic, yard and garden, and stock watering near the headquarters there are two spring
The real property taxes for Eagle Creek Ranch are approximately $7,700.00 based upon past history.
Learn about the recreational amenities
Sheep Creek is a major tributary of the Smith River, which roughly doubles the flow of the river at the confluence downstream from Camp Baker put-in. The stream on the ranch is a beautiful mountain stream with fast flows and lots of hiding pools behind large rocks and submerged logs. It is an excellent mountain small stream fishery with consistent action nymphing or on dry flies. In the spring and fall, spawning brown and rainbow trout from the Smith River also frequent this water bringing some bigger fish into the system.
As previously mentioned, Eagle Creek is a small stream and one can consistently catch brookies in the stream and beaver dams throughout its course through the ranch. This is a perfect little stream for young children to have lots of action.
Located 20 minutes from the Eagle Creek Ranch is the legendary Smith River. The 60-mile stretch of this river, downstream of Camp Baker, is well-known to fly fishermen. This float is one of the most spectacular that Montana has to offer. It is most popular in May and June, and again in September and October, when there is normally sufficient water in the river to float a raft. During these periods the float traffic is regulated by a permit system administered by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. There are other opportunities upstream of Camp Baker on a stretch of the river that is rarely floated because of the smaller size of the stream and minimal public access. This portion of the river is characterized by big bends, cut banks, shallow riffles and dark holes. The fish are numerous and the opportunity to land a trophy brown trout is excellent. Spring and early summer are the best times for the biggest fish, and late summer and early fall the hopper fishing can be exceptional.
In addition to the numerous angling pursuits located somewhat close to the ranch such as Newlan Creek, Deep Creek and Belt Creek, there are a handful of rivers and creeks to fish within reasonable driving distance. The Shields and Yellowstone rivers are located within a couple hours from the ranch and are arguably amongst the best fly fishing rivers in the state. The Missouri River, two and a half hours from the ranch, holds a tail water section of the river below Holter Dam offering world-class fishing for large brown and rainbow trout. For the lake fisherman, Canyon Ferry Lake is an hour and fifteen minutes from the ranch and offers outstanding fishing for a variety of species including walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, brook trout and Kokanee salmon. There are many mountain lakes and Newlan Reservoir in the nearby National Forest.
Other Outdoor Recreation: As previously mentioned, not only does the area offer downhill skiing at either Bridger Bowl or Showdown, but there are also plenty of other outdoor activities. Snowmobiling is a favored pastime in the area and a group called the Meagher County Little Belters organize events in the Little Belt Mountains. Horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and camping – all can be enjoyed on the Eagle Creek Ranch or within the neighboring thousands of acres of Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Eagle Creek Ranch is rich in wildlife resources. It boasts a large herd of resident elk as well as populations of mule deer, whitetail deer, and an occasional antelope. Ruffed grouse and blue grouse can be found in the aspen bottoms and timbered ridges, respectively, for those who enjoy upland bird hunting. With the open meadows, aspen bottoms, grass hillsides and dark mature timber, the wildlife habitat is diverse with three key elements - food, water and cover. Carefully managed with selective cattle grazing practices, and given the varying terrain and habitat, the property provides excellent hunting opportunities. Hunting on the adjacent national forest is an added bonus.
The big game hunting is currently leased to a respected long-time local outfitter who hunts this ranch along with other ranches she owns. The lease is year-to-year and is utilized primarily during the rifle season. Under past ownership it was also hunted by the outfitter during the archery season, but the current owner wants to keep that season open for his guests. One can tell by driving through the aspen groves on the ranch and counting the number of rubs, that there is plenty of activity during the rut so the archery hunting is undoubtedly outstanding.
The ranch is hunted by the outfitter only a day or two a week, depending on the movement of the game due to weather, pressure on adjoining ranches and adjacent public lands. Elk is the primary quarry, but hunters also have an opportunity to harvest mule or whitetail deer. The ranch has not been outfitted for antelope due to the earlier season and the desire not to interfere with the elk rut. In the past, the bull elk taken have been in the 300-340 class. The harvest by the outfitter’s clients during rifle season are three to four bulls a year which are primarily taken from stands.
Learn about the general operations
The Eagle Creek Ranch generates income as a cattle operation. The current owner leases the summer grass on the ranch to a neighboring respected rancher. This rancher also has a heavy equipment infrastructure installation business and has put in water lines and stock tanks to better utilize the range for grazing. With a long-term lease in place, the lessee has indicated that he would install additional pipe and tanks which would further improve the stocking capacity on the ranch. This simplified operation involves taking in about 450 pairs June 1st and they leave the ranch mid-October. The intent each year is to leave at least 30 percent of the grass in the pastures grazed by the lessee. The ranch is grazed in a rotational manner. The irrigated lands are used to put up native grass hay in round bales. It usually yields a little over a ton per acre, which is typical for mountain native hay land. Hay production on the ranch historically has averaged 250-300 tons per year.