For Sale

Little Rocky Canyon Ranch

$8,900,000 Belgrade, MT 1,128± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Little Rocky Canyon Ranch is a 1,128± acre foothill property located 30 minutes from downtown Bozeman. This region of the Gallatin Valley is dominated by larger ranch holdings that generally encompass the entire viewshed held by a small handful of long-time ranching landowners. This ranch is held by a family whose linage dates back five generations to the homestead era. The ranch includes rolling farmlands in a mosaic of fertile soils that are used for farming winter wheat interspersed by large pockets of aspen trees where emergent flowing springs create a scenic habitat through the middle of the ranch. These springs collect in a series of unnamed tributaries of Dry Creek which produce flow rates that sustain a population of primarily brown trout. The variety of wildlife is astounding on this ranch with populations of elk, deer, and other large game combining with upland birds including pheasant and Hungarian partridge. The ranch blends perfectly a combination of exceptional mountain views, wildlife, water resources, and proximity to one of the West’s most desirable mountain communities.

Just the Facts

  • Scenic mountain landscape views 30 minutes from Bozeman
  • Private setting surrounded by larger ranch holdings and USFS lands
  • Fertile farmlands produce winter and spring wheat crops in addition to the grazing of the fringe grasslands
  • No covenants or deed restrictions
  • Beautiful forests of aspen trees surround a multitude of emergent springs
  • Springs collect and merge forming an unnamed spring creek with flows that sustain a small population of brown trout
  • Amazing variety of wildlife to include deer, antelope, resident elk, moose, pheasant, partridge, and other game and non-game species
  • Long, towering views of the Bridger Mountains with distant views of the Gallatin Valley and its surrounding mountains 
  • Owned for five generations, this is one of the best that the greater Gallatin Valley has to offer 

General Description

The ranch is commonly approached from the south arriving from Bozeman on the paved Springhill Road. Approximately five miles from the ranch, Springhill Road turns into Rocky Mountain Road, which is a graveled and maintained county road. From there, one drives a short distance west along Morgan Lane, which fronts the ranch and provides good year-round access. Alternatively, one can access the ranch from Dry Creek Road, also a maintained graveled county road. These roads continue north, essentially terminating in the ranchlands they service, keeping traffic to a minimum.  

A private lane accesses the ranch from the south, traveling roughly a quarter-mile to a classic looking farmstead complete with a main house, outbuildings, and grain bins. This is located central to the ranch with large fields of winter wheat rolling out in both directions. Flowing springs are immediately noticeable and are enshrouded by dense vegetation, including aspen complexes, willow, dogwood, alder, and a variety of other woody species.  

Primitive two-track roads meander through the ranchlands along the riparian corridors and across the tilled fields of wheat. A prime building site resides on a hill central to the ranch elevated above the forested areas taking in the full view of the Bridger Mountains extending south towards the lights of Bozeman. An existing old wooden granary currently sits on this hill marking the location. As mentioned, there is a mosaic of cultivated fields that are lined with the aspen communities. This is a very interesting and scenic attribute of the lands.  

Springs erupt all through the ranch flowing in a southwesterly direction and collecting as the headwaters of Dry Creek. Accumulated flows create a water resource that sustains a small population of brown trout which reside in the creeks and beaver ponds throughout the system.  

Views are only disrupted by the landscape within the ranch boundaries, which is a view unto itself. The ranch has a slight southerly tilt, which creates a perfect living environment. The Bridger Range rises starkly to the east, taking in a very full and long view of these beautiful mountains, which partially rise above tree line. Multiple mountain ranges can be seen from the ranch looking further across the valley with Horseshoe Hills dominating the immediate western horizon.  

The ranch’s undulating topography changes roughly 300 feet in elevation from end-to-end, cresting at around 5,200 feet above sea level.  

Broker's Comments

Little Rocky Canyon is an incredible opportunity in the Gallatin Valley, just 25 minutes from downtown and 15 minutes to an international airport. It is just far enough away to escape the traffic and “rules” associated with town, but close enough to still be convenient. It has one leg in the rural ranching community contiguous to some of the largest landowners in the region, and one leg in the highly desirable mountain community of Bozeman. Rich in natural resources with a bold viewshed of the Bridger Range and expansive Gallatin Valley, the ranch is a blank slate for someone to take the next steps in making this ranch their own. Held by the same ranching family for five generations, some things only come around once in a lifetime- or five in this case. 

Learn about the locale

Location

The ranch is located approximately 30 minutes from downtown Bozeman and 15 minutes to Bozeman International Airport, which services Delta, United, and Alaska airlines as well as two FBO’s for private air travelers. The town of Belgrade resides adjacent to the airfield, and the smaller community of Manhattan is 20 minutes to the west.  

Other area attractions include Big Sky Resort/Yellowstone Club, which is a scenic one-hour drive south and a popular destination for winter sports. Yellowstone Park can be accessed from multiple routes inside of two hours.  

Locale

The ranch is located along the west side of the Bridger Mountains, north in the Gallatin Valley, in an area referred to as Springhill, which extends from Bozeman essentially to the ranch’s location. The immediate area near town includes a higher density subdivision governed by zoning. Continuing north, the land transitions to larger tracts of lands down to 160-acre minimum size, dictating more open space landscapes on the north end of the valley. The far north end of the valley includes Little Rocky Canyon Ranch, which resides on the threshold between the communities of Bozeman and Belgrade and a vast landscape of very large and prestigious ranches that scale from 20,000 to 65,000 acres respectively. The ranch has one leg in the vibrant community of greater Bozeman and one in the rural ranch lands to the north.  

The Bozeman area has built a reputation as one of the most desirable communities in which to live in America and is the fourth largest city in Montana. With a current population of approximately 51,000, it offers a vibrant downtown, an active business community with multiple high-tech businesses, Montana State University, and a large agricultural community. In addition, the town boasts a strong social and cultural scene that is enhanced by a population that has moved there to enjoy its beautiful, expansive mountain valley setting that offers virtually every recreational amenity one could ask for in an inland location. Bozeman also serves as the hub to Big Sky Resort, which includes the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks Resort, and Moonlight Basin. This has become a global destination in recent years and has provided a strong economic boost to the local economy. Given its extensive recreational opportunities in general, the Gallatin Valley attracts visitors and residents such as skiers (both alpine and Nordic), hikers, climbers, explorers, big game hunters, bird hunters, anglers, floaters, kayakers, and Yellowstone National Park visitors, creating a truly diverse population. It has all the benefits of a resort community but very few of its detriments. Its diverse elements assure this.

Belgrade is a bedroom community of Bozeman, and although its current population is just under 9,000 residents, it has seen substantial growth in recent years. Just six miles from Bozeman, it shares the same amenities and services as Bozeman does while also hosting the airfield.  

Manhattan resides to the west of Belgrade and has a current population of just over 1,800 residents. Despite its proximity to larger communities, Manhattan embraces the small-town feel and culture. It offers simple yet adequate services, dining, and quality schools. Manhattan is in stark contrast to the valley’s urban centers maintaining its small-town appeal centered around the area agriculture.  

Climate

The Gallatin Valley experiences four distinct climates. For growers, the valley is categorized as “Zone 4” and has an average growing season of 107 days. The average yearly temperature is a comfortable 56 degrees; however, each season has its own distinct weather. Humidity is relatively low, which makes it bearable to be outside even on the hottest or coldest days of the year.  

At a base elevation of roughly 4,800 feet, anything can happen with weather, particularly with mountain peaks rising to over 10,000 feet. Winter generally sets in around Thanksgiving and extends into March. With short days early winter is typically dry and cold with average temperatures dipping to 13 degrees and the occurring high-pressure systems that can bring arctic air in dropping temperatures well below zero. As winter burns on, the days start to feel longer, and as is the case with all our seasons, spring announces itself. Warmer 50-degree days begin to melt the snow on the lower elevations, and as we get into April and May, the plants reemerge, and the valleys start to green up. Of course, early spring is also when the mountains and often the valleys receive the most snow as the pressure systems collide and cause precipitation. June is typically the start of summer and is also one of the most beautiful months as the mountain snow recedes and turn into a carpet of wildflowers. The rivers generally carry the melting snowpack out during May/June, and the area remains lush often through July as dependable daily afternoon rain showers diminish and virtually stop in August while the tempers warm to an average of 81 degrees. Like spring, fall usually makes an abrupt announcement of its arrival around mid-September as the mountains receive their first shot of snow, which is almost always short-lived. Temperatures continue to cool back into very pleasant levels as the fall colors come on and extend through October. Late fall typically extends through November into Thanksgiving time, and then winter will arrive again.  

A mountain rain shadow causes precipitation to vary from one end of the valley to the other (12-19” end to end). Little Rocky Canyon Ranch resides relatively north in the valley and receives the upper end of the precipitation levels, which promotes a lush summer landscape and continual feed to the emergent springs.  

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

  • 1,128± total deeded acres
  • 618± acres of cropland
  • 510± acres of riparian/grass range

Deeded Acres: 1,128±
Total Acres: 1,128±

Improvements

A 1,628± square foot farmhouse built in 1895 is erected central to the ranch along with an old barn, outbuilding and chicken coop. Some modifications were made to the home in 2012, including siding and a new roof. However, the buildings would require substantial additional alterations to become more suitable for an owner’s residence. Despite this, the architectural vernacular is very fitting for the site. Currently, the farmhouse is rented to a family who also performs certain caretaker duties to the ranch in the absence of the absentee owners.  

Water Resources

There are approximately 300,000 water rights on file with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). In general terms, a water right allows you to use water in a prescribed manner while the state maintains the ownership of the resource itself. Water rights in Montana have defined attributes including source, flow rate, volume, priority date, point of diversion from the source, allowable place of use, and purpose of use such as livestock water or irrigation water for crop production. Water right holders must use the water in accordance with the parameters on their water rights. One key attribute of water rights in Montana is the priority date. Montana operates under the prior appropriation system under which the most senior rights have priority to receive their water in times of water supply shortages. This concept is often referred to as “first in time, first in right”.  

Water rights with priority dates senior to 1973 go through the court adjudication process. Water uses that began after 1973 go through a permitting process through the state agency, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). Over the past few decades, the State of Montana has been going through a state-wide adjudication process to verify the parameters of the pre-1973 senior water rights. This adjudication process is anticipated to take many more years, if not decades. Due to the on-going adjudication process and the impact of historical water use on the validity of the claims, water rights are typically transferred without warranty.  Water rights in Montana are complex, and landowners should always solicit professional advice over their individual claims. 

Although the land is currently in dryland farming and grazing, there are two existing 1897 water rights for a total of 2.75 CFS that could be utilized for irrigation purposes. These include the following claims from the Montana DNRC General Abstract:

  • 41H 136733-00
  • 41H 136736-00

Multiple Stock Water Claims are also on file with the DNRC and provided upon request.  

Taxes

Approximately $4,222 annually.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Recreational Considerations

Perhaps the two greatest attributes of Little Rocky Canyon are water and wildlife. More than a dozen springs emerge on the ranch. Over the decades, a dense canopy of vegetation formed inclusive of large stands of aspens, alder, dogwood, and a variety of other woody and wetland vegetation. The waters generally flow in a southerly direction combining flows and expanding the riparian areas. Adjacent to these waterways are cropland and grasslands where the water table remains high. The croplands undulate through the varying topography and create interesting pockets of cultivated fields that allow wildlife to feed and then vanish back into the cover. These fields could not be more idyllic in nature and are the primary reason that there is such volume and diversity in the wildlife residing on the ranch.  

It is common to find elk, mule deer, whitetail and often antelope. A small resident herd upwards of 40 elk make this ranch their home. In the fall as the general big game season opens in late October, the herd expands as the neighboring animals often retreat to the ranch once the season opens. It is uncommon to find ranches that provide quality big game hunting opportunities with upland birds absent finding a place that is expansive. The ranch is unique to this with an often-robust population of Hungarian Partridge and pheasant residing on these lands and the surrounding landscape. It is also interesting to find ruffed grouse amongst the aspen groves.  

For the hunter and/or wildlife enthusiast, Little Rocky Canyon Ranch is exceptional. In addition to the more common species, one would also find moose, black bear, lion, and a multitude of other non-game species living on the lands. The Bridger Mountain Range notably plays host to one of the most impressive raptor migrations in the country. Upwards of 17 raptor species pass through the area each autumn, including one of the strongest densities of golden eagles in North America. Up to 1,800 eagles have been observed in one migration. It is spectacular.

Vallee Creek is a relatively unknown spring-fed tributary of Dry Creek. Dry Creek enters the East Gallatin River, which confluences with the Gallatin, which forms collectively with the Madison and Jefferson for the headwaters of the Missouri River just a short distance from the ranch. For an angler, this is trout rich country. The collective flows in Vallee Creek are roughly 5 CFS and being spring-fed, have consistent flows and are nutrient-rich. This presents an interesting opportunity for sustaining or expanding the already existing population of brown trout that exist in these waters. The watershed is ultra-protected by the dense woody vegetation. A multitude of beaver dams also have contributed to the habitat, and the browns have adapted to it.  

The fishing on the ranch could theoretically (through proper management and permitting) become special in the event a new landowner wants to explore the options of expanding the moving and still water resources.

Offsite, there are numerous trails to explore through the adjacent Bridger Mountain Range. There is a section of State of Montana lands contiguous to the ranch, which in turn is connected directly to the National Forest lands, maintaining public land connectivity from the ranch. For winter sports enthusiasts, one can ski at either the Big Sky Resort community to the south or Bridger Bowl on the backside of the range. Excellent Nordic skiing can be had at the groomed Crosscut Ranch adjacent to Bridger Bowl or on any of the public lands throughout the region. Of course, there are many times where Nordic skiing is available right on-site during the peak winter months. And of course, Montana accesses two national parks with Yellowstone and Glacier, which along with their associated wilderness complexes, creates a lifetime of exploration into some of the most remote and scenic lands in the world.  

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The ranch has been leased for several years to an area rancher who typically farms roughly 718± acres into dryland cereal grains, including winter and spring wheat crops. Primarily however, the majority of the cropping has been utilizing winter wheat, which dictates that the crops are seeded in the fall and harvested in late August of the following year. That field will be kept fallow the following summer until it is reseeded in autumn. Spring wheat is planted annually each spring and harvested in September but is generally not as high of a yielding crop as the winter wheat which is able to capture early moisture as the snow recedes and spring emerges.  

There are multiple ways to manage the ranch. In addition to current farming operations, the lessee brings in cattle to “clean up” the residual farming and graze the grasslands outside of farming through the fall and into the winter months. A future landowner could carry forward the existing operations as they stand with a tenant farmer, or consider new options depending on their interests. The farmland, for example, could be converted back into grass and used as a grazing operation. One could also contemplate a hybrid operation that contemplates certain forages such as sainfoin, barley hay, and other crops that can be utilized for livestock grazing but are also attractive to wildlife.  

The soils on the north end of the valley are rich. Depending on a landowner’s desires, an operational plan could be developed and implemented.  

Back to Overview

Other Properties

More Like This

The 1,048± acre ranch is located on the West side of the Bridger Mountains, 40 minutes from the recreational Mecca of Bozeman. Privately situated, the land offers spectacular views, is full of wildlife & surrounded by vast historic ranches. North Ridge Ranch is well watered by Bremmer Creek; owns 100% of the mineral rights & can carry 100 cows.

1,048± Deeded Acres
$3,900,000
View Property Details

This offering represents a rare opportunity to purchase property in the Big Sheep Creek Basin, a place rich in the ranching tradition. Beautiful scenery, large mountain vistas and great neighbors. This ranch consists of 4000± deeded acres, 6000± BLM, 6000± Forrest and 1200± State leases.

4,015± Deeded Acres
$2,975,000
View Property Details

N Bar Ranch

Grass Range, MT

Steeped in the history of the American West lies the N Bar Ranch spanning more than 60,000± contiguous acres in the foothills of central Montana’s Snowy Mountains, 100 miles north of Billings, Montana.

51,409± Deeded Acres
$45,000,000
View Property Details