The Million Gulch Ranch is the epitome of a classic Montana ranch property that has immediate access to full range of goods and services, yet feels completely removed from the bustle of urban living. Consisting of 1,027± acres bordering the Bitterroot National Forest on the coveted west side of the Bitterroot Valley, the ranch offers a scenic redoubt among some of the strongest wildlife populations in the west. Rich and biodiverse, the property offers springs, wet meadows, dense underbrush, open stands of mature Ponderosa pine and verdant irrigated fields. A resident elk herd, dense whitetail deer populations and turkey mean daily wildlife sightings. Located minutes from a 24-hour supermarket and the excellent school system of Montana’s oldest incorporated community, Stevensville, the Million Gulch Ranch offers a foot in the wild Rockies without sacrificing any modern conveniences. The property supports seasonal wildlife grazing of around 100 head. A three bedroom, two bath western-styled owner’s quarters and shop complex make it ready to occupy on closing.
Just the Facts
- 1,027± acres on west side of Bitterroot Valley
- National Forest borders
- Excellent hunting for elk, whitetail, turkey and bear
- Improved wildlife habitat with pond, springs and enhanced forage areas
- Elevated position on west side provides panoramic views
- 5 minutes from Stevensville and supermarkets, cafes and general services
- Well-established water rights provide excellent irrigated pasture
- Runs over 100 yearlings
The Million Gulch Ranch rises to the west from Salish Trail, a well-maintained county road that serves as the eastern boundary to the property. A custom metal security gate with a large artistic depiction of bull elk greets one’s arrival on the property. From the gate, a good gravel road leads to the west and into the heart of the property, traversing the northern edge of a quality irrigated pasture that has been used for hay production in the past.
The majority of the property occupies the valley floor, marking the western edge of the Bitterroot Valley and the transition zone between meadows and the forested hillsides that leap up the western ramparts of the Bitterroot Mountains. From the eastern gate to the western boundary and United States Forest Service border, the property stretches two miles as the crow flies. The bottom - or eastern – half of the ranch consists of open irrigated meadows. As one rises in elevation, the middle portion of the ranch is characterized by a mix of mature ponderosa, Douglas fir and western aspen, while the westernmost quarter-mile transitions into steeper, forested ground where the valley bottom gives way to steeper slopes. In this section of the ranch, a series of 4-wheel dive two-track trails accessible by four-wheeler or other all-terrain vehicle lead the Forest Service boundary. While this section is steep and timbered, a variety of flat benches, ridges and spurs offer a haven for bedding wildlife and create some of the best wildlife viewing and hunting on the ranch. This mix of habitat types makes for one of the most diverse holdings in the area and is favored by a wide range of species. Improvements on the ranch currently occupy an elevated position on the lower end of the property near the transition from meadow to timber and provide sweeping views to the east. Watching the weather and season shift and change across this beautiful vista is one of the great pleasures the property offers.
Flowing water on the property is considerable as well. Four drainages bisect the property: Sharroott Creek, Silverthorn Creek, Kennedy Gulch and Million Gulch. A new pond recently stocked with fish, is in the middle portion of the ranch and acts as an additional wildlife attractant.
Approximately one-and-three-quarter mile of Forest Service border allows access to thousands of additional acres for recreational use. At the extreme western edge of the property, a Forest Service road (gated and locked from autumn through spring) winds back and forth across the boundary and leads deeper into the Bitterroot on an extensive network of old logging roads.
The Million Gulch is an exceptionally large holding for the Bitterroot Valley. With its desirable west side location minutes from downtown Stevensville, close proximity to the Missoula Airport and National Forest borders, there are few comparable properties in western Montana available today. Combined with outstanding wildlife values and quality improvements, the hobby rancher, sportsman or sportswoman will find abundant reasons to linger. No conservation easement makes this property an ideal candidate for a new owner looking to establish a conservation legacy or take advantage of potential tax advantages.
The Million Gulch Ranch is located in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, approximately two miles south of the community of Stevensville, Montana’s oldest incorporated community, and 18 miles north of Hamilton, the valley’s largest community with a population just under 5,000. Commercial air service is provided at Missoula by Delta, United, Allegiant, Frontier, and Horizon, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines, while the nearby Ravalli County Airport is a private, jet-capable airstrip with a 4,200-foot runway and 24-hour FBO services.
The Bitterroot Valley is arguably the most beautiful valley in Montana, if not the Northern Rockies. When combined with its immediate accessibility to modern goods and services, it is hard to find a more desirable setting. The towering, jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountain Range descend to the western edge of the valley, while the eastern edge of the valley is graced with the gentler horizon of the Sapphire Range. The Bitterroot Range is also the eastern edge of the largest wilderness complex in the lower 48 states. The Selway, Frank Church and River of No Return Wilderness Areas total nearly 3 million acres of wild and scenic terrain serviced by an extensive network of trails that originate along the valley’s western flank.
The Bitterroot Valley is one of the more populous valleys in Montana and therefore offers an array of services that is often lacking in more remote locations. The valley is dotted with pastoral Montana towns, the largest of which is Hamilton located approximately 20 minutes south of the ranch. Finally, the literal and figurative heart of the valley is the Bitterroot River itself. Running over 75 miles in a northerly direction to its confluence with the Clark Fork River in nearby Missoula, it provides legendary dry fly fishing from March through October, an unusually long season that owes its existence to the Bitterroot’s mild climate. The nearby Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area, located about 50 minutes to the south, provides deep powder and reliable, high-quality alpine and cross-country skiing in a family-oriented setting.
The Bitterroot Valley is one of the lowest intermountain valleys in the Rocky Mountains. The base elevation at the Million Gulch is just under 3,400 feet above sea level. This location west of the Continental Divide results is a stronger Pacific Northwest influence that is found east of the Divide. Consequently, the climate is mild and the Bitterroot is often referred to as the “Banana Belt” of Montana. High readings greater than 90F occur less than 20 days a year and daytime highs in winter are typically in the mid-30s. High winds are uncommon in the Bitterroot Valley.
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
The improvements on the ranch were designed to provide maximum utility to the current and future owners. A 36’ by 78’ architecturally designed shop and living quarters blends beautifully with the landscape and offers a spacious three bedroom, two bath apartment on the upper level that occupies the entire second floor and consists of approximately 2200 square feet of livable space. Quarter-sawn floors and custom woodwork provide a rustic feel while preserving all the amenities of a modern home. The master bedroom with walk-in closets is advantageously located on the east end of the building offers a walk-out deck from which to enjoy sunrise views and the start of a new day. On the west end of the building, the open floor plan kitchen/living area has a deck with exterior stairs that leads to a separate outside entrance and enjoys western sunset views of the Bitterroot front. On the first floor, a fully set up shop boasts multiple side rooms for storage to support whatever activities take the owner’s fancy. The hunting enthusiast will be thrilled with a full 8’ by 8’ walk-in cooler and processing kitchen adjacent, while the main ground floor area has enough open space to house any manner of equipment, from a Class-A motorcoach to haying equipment and tractors. This building is supported with two 1000-gallon buried propane tanks, a wood boiler and back-up generator. An audio-enabled picnic pavilion is located on the south side of the main building.
Secondary features of this building include extra insulation, a heat pump system to reduce utility costs, forced air heat and laundry facilities. The entire structure is wired for sound, and the driveways are fully curbed.
Additional outbuildings include a 36’ by 48’ shop and a 50’ by 120’ open-sided hay and equipment storage. A full set of working corrals is located near the entry drive for ease in handling and shipping livestock. All structures were built new in 2011 and 2012.
Water rights dating to 1910 irrigate the lower portions of the ranch, while additional rights are established for a domestic well and stock water. Details are available upon request.
Annual property taxes are approximately $4,703.
Fishing is one of the major recreational resources of the Bitterroot Valley. The Bitterroot River, a few minutes drive from the ranch, is a well-respected world class fly fishing river flowing south to north through the valley for over 70 miles until its confluence with the Clark Fork of the Columbia River in Missoula. It has an exceptionally long dry fly season with the legendary Skwala hatch beginning in mid-March and October caddis lasting late into the autumn. Rainbow and brown trout up to 28 inches in length are occasionally landed here as well cutthroat trout up to 21 inches or more.
The wildlife habitat on the ranch is a rich and varied as any in Montana. A host of native species call the Million Gulch Ranch home, including a nice resident herd of elk, large whitetail, moose, black bear, mountain lion, Merriam’s turkey, bald eagles and more. The forested land is a combination of diverse deciduous understory, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and aspen, with wet meadows scattered throughout the property, a rarity in the arid west.
The sportsman and sportswoman will easily be able to fill their quota of big game licenses within the property’s confines on an annual basis. If that should not prove an adequate challenge, the three million acres of public wilderness that borders the ranch will. Backing on National Forest for 1.75 miles, the Million Gulch is the gateway to the largest publicly-designated Wilderness in the lower 48 states. The Selway/Frank Church/River of No Return wilderness areas comprise a vast stretch of the uninterrupted wild country running from Highway 12 just north of the ranch to central Idaho near Stanley and the famed Sawtooth Mountains. Trailheads accessing this wild country begin less than five minutes from the ranch and, indeed, one need not even begin there with immediate access to National Forest available directly from the ranch’s western boundary.
The current owners of the Million Gulch Ranch run about 100 head of yearlings on their irrigated pastures and lush upland. Between the naturally occurring springs and seeps that dot the mid-elevations of the ranch and the water rights that flood irrigate the lower meadows, there is ample forage for a cattle operation as well as the abundant wildlife.
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