This 1,189± acre mountain ranch offers hunting, fishing and livestock grazing. It provides semi-private access to an adjoining state lands section. The extensive wildlife assets include elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear, mountain lion, and antelope. Rainbow and brook trout fishing appear to be possible in the currently unstocked one-half-acre pond and three-acre reservoir. The views are of the ranch’s timbered mountains and the adjoining Big Belt Mountain range. Access is year-round on a good highway paved for all but the last few of its 35-minute drive north of White Sulphur Springs, where are found all the basic services.
Just the Facts
- 1,189± deeded acres including 70± acres of timber and 117± acres of improved pasture
- Two miles of Kettle Hollow Creek
- Three-acre Kettle Hollow Reservoir and one-half acre Kettle Hollow Pond
- 24 miles northwest of White Sulphur Springs
- 100 miles northwest of Bozeman and its international airport
- Semi-private access to adjoining State Lands section
- Huntable populations of elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear, mountain lion, and antelope
Elk Basin Ranch lies in the middle of the Big Belt Mountains, on their eastern slope. The ranch consists of 3,193± acres comprising two units of land that lie one mile apart. The three principal drainages are Benton, Thomas and Kettle Hollow Creeks, which originate just above the ranch and flow through it for many miles to the Smith River. The ranches’ 3,193± total deeded acres consist of 2,004± acres in the EBR Benton Creek Unit and 1,189± acres in the EBR Kettle Hollow Unit. A county road connects the two.
The EBR Kettle Hollow Unit of the ranch lies a mile to the north of the EBR Benton Creek Unit. Kettle Hollow Creek flows through the ranch on its way to join Benton Creek. This hidden mountain valley has swamps, two miles of creek, and both a one-half-acre pond and a three-acre reservoir lying below the rocky, timbered ridgelines. These ponds and wetlands are unique features providing superior elk rutting habitat. An appendage of this EBR Kettle Hollow Unit provides access to an adjoining section of landlocked state land.
What the writer loves about this ranch is its peace, beauty, and recreational diversity as well as the comfortable “turn-key” improvements and simple, hands-off operation. Its easily accessible location affords a place to escape to nature. Its viewscapes of timbered hillsides, mountains, creeks, ponds, along with passing wildlife, are captivating and satisfying. It’s a place to come and play, or sit and enjoy.
Learn about the locale
Elk Basin Ranch lies 24 miles northwest of White Sulphur Springs, and 100 miles northwest of Bozeman and its international airport. Access is year-round on paved State Highway 360 all the way to within two miles of the ranch gate. This drive takes two hours from Montana’s largest airport and 30 minutes from White Sulphur Springs.
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 for people embarking on the five-day float through the Smith River Canyon, which begins a short drive north of town. The area, in general, also offers both fly fishing and big game hunting, and has begun to attract nonresident landowners as well as a growing interest from tourists passing through the area as they look 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 like the local hospital, which is critical in a community of this size that is relatively far removed from other major towns. 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, held every summer in a “cow pasture” just outside of town, 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.
Summer fishing and water sports are within 30-90 minutes on three different lakes, including the 26-mile-long Canyon Ferry Reservoir of the Missouri River. Cross-country snow skiing is easily accessible on and from the ranch. In the neighboring Little Belt Mountains, hundreds of miles of snowmobiling roads and trails are available. Downhill skiing is available at the Showdown Ski Area, about a 60-minutes-drive to the east. To the south, one can also access Bridger Bowl Ski Area 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 nonresident hands, but they have tended to increase in size and are operated seriously. 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.
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
Improved pasture.............. ................117± acres
Mountain foothills rangeland..............1,002± acres
Timber lands ...................................... ..70± acres
Total Acreage ................................. . 1,189± acres
Deeded Acres: 1,189±
State Leased Acres: 640±
Total Leased Acres: 640±
Total Acres: 1,829±
Development of the Elk Basin Ranch is partially limited by conservation easements, which encumber 66% of the deeded land on both of the Units: EBR Benton Creek and Kettle Hollow. These restrictions generally allow for most normal uses except for subdivision. The building of additional houses as well as commercial mining and guest ranching are all allowed. Copies of the private agreements are available at the offices of Hall and Hall.
There are six miles of year-round streams between Benton Gulch and Thomas Creek, and another two miles of the ephemeral Kettle Hollow. Three ponds have a total surface area of four acres – one is on the EBR Benton Creek Unit and the other two are on the EBR Kettle Hollow Unit.
And the EBR Kettle Hollow Unit taxes are approximately $844.
Learn about the recreational amenities
The three-and-one-half miles of Benton Gulch make for good trout fishing on the EBR Benton Creek. A resident trout population includes brook and rainbow trout usually in the 8 to 14-inch size range. During the month or so of rainbow trout spawn, there are very large fish in the creek migrating up from a nearby reservoir. These include sizes delivered to hand up to 24 inches. As is typical of smaller mountain meadow streams, the existing willows along the creek inhibit back-casting and a serious fisherman would want to thin them to increase fishing access to more to the stream.
There are no fish currently in the ponds, however, both the Thomas Creek pond, on the EBR Benton Creek Unit, and the ponds on the EBR Kettle Hollow Unit appear to lend themselves very well to stocking with trout.
Located 10 minutes from the Elk Basin 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 usually sufficient water in the river to float a boat. During these periods the float traffic is regulated by a permit system administered by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
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 trophy brown trout potential is excellent. Spring and early summer are the best times for the biggest fish, and late summer and early fall hopper fishing can be explosive.
In addition to a plethora of recreational pursuits located close to the property, there are a handful of rivers and creeks to fish within reasonable driving distance. The Shields and Yellowstone rivers are located within 90 minutes of the ranch and are arguably some of the best fly fishing rivers in the state.
The Missouri River, 90± minutes from the ranch, has the tailwater section of the river below Toston Dam offering world-class fishing for large brown and rainbow trout. For the lake fisherman, Canyon Ferry Lake is 60 minutes from the ranch and offers world-class fishing for a variety of species including walleye, rainbow trout, northern pike, brook trout and Kokanee salmon.
There are many mountain lakes in the nearby national forest. These include a unique group of lakes that overlook the property offering productive trout fishing. Access to them is by 4-wheel drive, horses, biking, or hiking.
Elk Basin Ranch is rich in wildlife resources. It boasts a large herd of resident elk as well as huntable populations of mule deer, whitetail deer, black bear, and mountain lion. There is also a large flock of wild turkey.
The EBR Kettle Hollow Unit of the ranch lies a mile to the north of Benton Creek, and Kettle Hollow Creek flows through the ranch on its way to join Benton Creek. Also mentioned earlier, this hidden mountain valley has two miles of creek, a three-acre reservoir, and a half-acre pond, all lying below adjacent rocky, timbered ridge lines. These ponds and wetlands are unique features providing excellent elk rutting habitat. During any given rut, one can count dozens of wallows. A deeded land extension of this EBR Kettle Hollow Unit provides limited and direct access to a landlocked adjoining section of state land. With strategic hunting plans and designated sanctuaries, the elk are almost always on the ranch during hunting season. The hunting pressure from neighbors in the area cause the elk to seek refuge on the property. Because of the high elk density in the area, it is possible for one and/or an unlimited number of family members or guests to obtain two elk licenses per hunter per season - one bull/cow tag and one cow. As of this writing the Hunt District including both of these ranch units also has an extended, so-called Shoulder Season, adding another 6 weeks of cow hunting to an already 11-week archery and rifle season.
A huge benefit of the ranch’s deeded lands is that they adjoin an inventoried roadless area of national forest lands for five miles. This makes public hunting access limited and gives the ranch owner a real advantage in a very good hunting area. This, along with the national forest land that is adjacent, provides the ranch owner unique access to an area that supports a resident elk herd of 200-300 head in addition to the large resident herds of mule and whitetail deer. There is also a high population of black bears with all color phases, as well as good numbers of ruffed and blue grouse on the property. Opportunities for hunting are endless with the combined Elk Basin Ranch and bordering national forest.
The hunting is currently leased to a respected long-time local outfitter who leases this ranch along with several neighboring ranches. This applies to both the EBR Benton Creek and EBR Kettle Hollow Units. His one-year lease reserves two days per week for the ranch owner’s own hunting. His clients are few and selective, so the harvest has been quite light.
Not only does the area offer downhill skiing at either Bridger Bowl or Showdown, but there is always a plethora of outdoor entertainment nearby. Snowmobiling is a favored pastime in the area and a group called the Meagher County Little Belters organize events in the neighboring Little Belt Mountains. Horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking, biking, wildlife viewing, or camping – all can be enjoyed on the Elk Basin Ranch or within the neighboring thousands of acres of Helena National Forest. The aforementioned Red Ants Pants Music Festival draws music lovers to the small town of White Sulphur Springs to partake in the well-known festival at the end of July. There is also a Fun Run, Labor Day Rodeo, 4th of July parade, and numerous other community events.