Located an easy 30-minute drive on good gravel roads from Big Timber, the Morris Place Ranch is a quintessential private retreat located just below the southeast corner of the Crazy Mountains. Views near and far are incredible as the mountain vistas rise above treeline to over 10,000 feet. The property is encapsulated by two large operating ranches that have been in the same family ownership for generations. There are three drainages that pass through the ranch. The middle one is seasonal with a large perennial spring and the other two are live year around streams. These transitional mountain valleys are impressive, containing large patches of timber and a rich riparian corridor. The lands that tie these valleys together are open rolling grasslands. The building compound includes the three-bedroom owner’s home overlooking a beautiful trout pond, a two-bedroom guest cabin, a three-bedroom guest cabin, a caretaker’s apartment and a “bunkhouse” that contains 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a tack room, and storage. These are all attractive reclaimed log, wood and stone buildings in a vernacular that makes them look like they have been there since homestead days, although all have been built since 1995. The headquarters setting is magnificent tucked into a protected valley but with big views overlooking a large trout pond. The ranch contains 1759 deeded acres and provides seasonal grazing for livestock, although the owners prefer to leave a lot of forage for wildlife. Hunting for trophy quality elk and mule deer is exceptional as the ranch lies in a protected area that has been a haven for wildlife for many years. This is primarily because the habitat is ideal for these species with good water and large blocks of timber interspersed with high quality forage. In summary, the Morris Place is an appropriately and comfortably improved, good sized private retreat within easy range of one of Montana’s great small towns.
Just the Facts
- Location: 30 minutes’ drive northwest of Big Timber
- Acreage: 1759± all deeded
- Terrain: Two dramatic, partially timbered valleys tied by foothill rangeland
- Improvements: Attractive building compound including a three-bedroom owner’s home, two guest cabins, and staff quarters
- Views: Big views out over Yellowstone Valley and Crazy Mountains immediately above
- Hunting: Outstanding private elk hunting in protected area for potential 380 class bulls - also mule deer, antelope and upland birds
- Wildlife: Extensive with elk, mule deer, bear, antelope, ruffed grouse, Hungarian partridge, mountain lion and Sharp Tail grouse
- Summary: A classic well-located Montana retreat with a near perfect set of buildings and great big game hunting
One heads north from Big Timber and turns west on the Swamp Creek Road passing through three good sized ranches – two of which have been in the same family since homestead days - with the Crazy Mountains directly in front dominating the horizon. Just before reaching the base of this dramatic island mountain range, the road turns to the south, crosses the headwaters of Little Timber Creek and rises up to approach the Morris Place Ranch from the north. In the middle of a broad open plain, the ranch entrance gate appears almost dead center of this grassy expanse which initially appears to go on forever to the south. To the west of the gate, one can see the boundary fence running right up into the mountains. After entering the ranch, one suddenly arrives at a bit of a precipice where the road angles down the face. One cannot help but be awed as one looks down into the incredibly picturesque Cort Creek valley where a complex of buildings begins at the edge of a small lake and are spread out up to the beginning of the tree line as the upper reaches of this valley are timbered. Cort Creek runs from northwest to southeast across the property.
One then crosses this valley, climbing up through the foothills, passing over an unnamed seasonal drainage which contains a substantial developed spring and finally one drops into the Sawmill Creek valley that is even more scenic and picturesque. Saw Mill Creek is an emergent spring-fed stream supporting a very healthy, robust and mature riparian corridor. The most impressive part of this valley are the stands of giant Douglas Fir that line its northerly facing slopes some of which are well over a century old.
The Crazy Mountains of course literally tower over the ranch and the views out to the expansive Yellowstone River valley are equally grand in a different way. Distant views of the Beartooth Front and the Yellowstone River are impressive on clear days. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the ranch are the stands of massive mature Douglas Fir that blend with the cottonwood lined riparian corridors and the expanses of open grasslands that tie them all together. This combination offers an absolute haven for wildlife.
The Morris Place Ranch is a classic Montana mountain retreat ranch within a short drive of Big Timber – one of Montana’s most sought-after small towns. Its primary feature is that it is a first-class family hunting ranch that the family also treasures as an idyllic spot to enjoy all the seasons in an incredibly comfortable building complex. In fact, if we were asked to tell a client precisely what to build on a ranch to create the most value, one would have to describe the Morris Place Ranch building compound. The convenience of the location and the views and the setting must be experienced to be truly appreciated. It is indeed a magical spot.
The Morris Place Ranch is located about 25 miles northwest of Big Timber just past the end of the Swamp Creek Road which is a well-maintained graveled county road that dead ends just below the ranch. The balance of the access road is by way of a private recorded easement across the neighboring ranch. Since the Swamp Creek Road passes through private land and dead ends in the middle of a private ranch, it does not provide any meaningful public access to the area which assures the privacy of Morris Place Ranch and the quality of the hunting.
Big Timber is the county seat and provides a full menu of services from galleries and fishing shops to fine dining, banks, churches and a grocery store. There is a good FBO that offers jet fuel and a paved airstrip which will take mid-size jets. There is a larger strip with more sophisticated approach systems that will handle all private jets available 35 miles away at Livingston. Commercial air service is almost equidistant to the east and to the west at Montana’s two largest and most active airports - Billings and Bozeman. Both are a little over an hour’s drive from Big Timber on Interstate 90.
The eastern face of the Crazy Mountains is well known for being tightly held with some families having been there for over 100 years. The Morris Place Ranch is the original homestead of the Morris family and the current building compound is built on the site of their homestead. One of the guest cabins occupies the site of the home which was too far gone to rehabilitate when the current owners arrived over 20 years ago. They are only the third owners in the ranch’s history.
The ranch is basically surrounded by two large ranches that have been in the same hands for multiple decades – one since homestead at the beginning of the last century. The rest of the immediate neighborhood is also an area of good-sized serious ranch operations. The exception, of course, is the near neighbor of the National Forest which begins just above the ranch and takes in the Crazy Mountain chain that runs northerly from the Morris Place. Fortunately, the primary public access points to this part of the Crazies are many miles to the north or to the west so this area is controlled by the two private ranches that front it.
Big Timber, of course, is the focal point of this region and is one of Montana’s truly charming small towns. It benefits from easy access to the Bozeman/Livingston area to the west and to Billings to the east. Yet it maintains its own distinct personality. Many wealthy and/or famous personalities have made the area home along with a stalwart cadre of local ranchers who take pride in their ranching heritage. Big Timber also attracts retirees and a full cross-section of local residents with ties to and love for the area. It is not a town that is any danger of fading away as has been the fate of other small towns in Montana. It also is reported to have one of the lowest crime rates in the State.
The ranch sits at just over 6,000± feet in elevation. It is high enough to maintain cool temperatures in the summer but not so high as to be uncomfortable. We are estimating annual precipitation in the 14 inch plus range although there are no nearby reporting stations. The property can be accessed in the winter, but it will require some snow removal depending on the severity of the winter.
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
There is no cultivated land on the ranch although there are two areas that appear to have been historically cultivated. The soils are good in these areas and a serious hunter of elk and upland birds would be well advised to consider appropriate crops for these areas. Currently, the ranch is made up of open to timbered grazing land with small riparian corridors in the valleys.
The building complex on the Morris Place Ranch has the look of having been there since homestead days, although construction of the buildings that exist on the site of the original homestead actually began in 1995. The buildings are briefly described as follows:
Owner’s Home: This is a comfortable ranch home designed after a European hunting lodge with a lovely front porch that overlooks the ranch’s trout pond. On the main floor there is a dining room, living room, entrance hall, kitchen, pantry and two guest bedrooms each with a bathroom. The upstairs contains the expansive and comfortable master suite. This residence also has a large basement for wine storage, laundry and a gun vault. The log siding was reclaimed from a sheep shearing barn in the State of Washington.
Guest House: Immediately above the owner’s home is a guest cabin that includes two bedrooms and two bathrooms along with a sitting room and small kitchen.
Bunkhouse: Affectionately referred to as “the bunkhouse”. This building contains two bedrooms, bathroom, tack room, equipment storage and covered parking for two vehicles.
Caretaker’s Apartment: Main level consists of a kitchen, sitting area, bathroom and single car garage. There is a small apartment upstairs with a bedroom, sitting area, kitchenette and bathroom for either a caretaker or additional guests.
Sophia’s Cabin: Named for the owner’s daughter, this cabin was built on the site of the original homestead house which had to be taken down. Well-regarded local builders TJ Construction sided this charming small house with reclaimed wood from a local area barn giving it the appearance of having been there since early in the last century. It has a kitchen/dining room/living room area and 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms and, like the other two houses, an appealing front porch that draws one out to overlook the compound, the lake below and the Yellowstone Valley.
The primary water rights involve stock water and two domestic wells utilized by the building compound including irrigation of the lawns. There is one frost free well on the upper end of the property and four springs which provide excellent year around water for livestock, horses and wildlife. Both Cort Creek and Sawmill Creek are live streams that pass through the ranch. The big spring on the unnamed drainage between Cort and Sawmill has been developed and is a real draw for the big mature bulls that hide out on the ranch. There is also a lovely pond below the building compound that supports rainbow trout.
All the interest in minerals owned by seller will transfer to buyer upon sale of the ranch. Little is known of the mineral ownership.
Based upon past years the real estate taxes are estimated at $5,869.
There is a trout pond on the ranch, but the primary benefit of this location is that it puts one within a short drive of many large and small fisheries such as the Boulder River and the Yellowstone River – both just over 30 minutes’ drive.
Certainly, wildlife is the primary focus of the Morris Place Ranch. It offers exceptional habitat and hunting for mule deer and elk. This is a very tightly held area that has been managed for trophy quality animals that are rarely seen these days. Big mature bulls are even known to die of old age in this area partially due to the fact that the greater area does not have public access and the animals generally reside on private lands. There is selectivity in the harvest which adds to the overall quality.
This is also excellent habitat for both Hungarian Partridge and Sharp Tail Grouse. Utilizing farming practices on the arable lands would certainly improve and attract the partridge and expand the overall quality of the hunting.
Bear, antelope, mountain lion, grouse, raptors and multiple smaller species are all at home here. Because the headquarters of the neighboring ranches are many miles away and the National Forest gets very limited public use, the Morris Place Ranch is a true outpost in the wilderness – yet only a short drive from the amenities of Big Timber.
Second only to hunting, horseback riding is the preferred activity on the Morris Place Ranch. Miles of trails are maintained to further the enjoyment of riding horses and ATVs. The nearby National Forest begs for adventure with its multitude of alpine lakes and array of wildlife that resides there including mountain goats which can regularly be seen from the ranch. In southwest Montana, there is never a loss for adventure and the ranch is a great base camp for enjoying recreational pursuits across the greater region in addition to what it offers privately within the confines of the private lands. It is indeed a quintessential recreational retreat - a place where one can enjoy everything from hiking and hunting to snowmobiling and four wheeling.
This is primarily a “retreat” property. It does accommodate seasonal grazing for livestock. The owner has tended to only graze it occasionally as he prefers to leave excess feed for the estimated 100 head of elk and the owner’s private horses that reside on the ranch.
At Hall and Hall, we make your financing needs our top priority. Whether you’re looking for a ranch, farm, or recreational land loan, our competitive rates and equitable minimums ensure you lock in the best financial package available.
With the goal of making land ownership an enjoyable and trouble free experience, Hall and Hall’s management group continues to be a leader in providing management and consulting services to landowners across our region.
Since launching Hall and Hall Auctions in 2010, we have become a leader in investment quality rural real estate auctions and have produced hundreds of millions of dollars in closed transactions.