Along both banks of the Musselshell River, this 15,257± acre ranch is minutes from Ryegate and approximately 60 miles from Billings. With approximately 13,168 deeded acres and 2,089± acres of State and BLM lease, the Musselshell River Breaks Ranch has approximately 3,500 acres of dryland and 598± acres of irrigated farm ground. It combines the characteristics of a working ranch and farm with excellent recreational features with the focal point being 6.8 miles of both sides of the Musselshell River. The hunting of whitetail deer, waterfowl and pheasants is outstanding. Bird hunting is further enhanced by a licensed bird preserve. In addition, the upland areas of the ranch offer prime habitat for sharp-tail grouse, Hungarian partridge, mule deer and antelope. A beautiful main residence with exceptional views of the river anchors this sprawling ranch. The log home which was featured in Log Home Magazine is a 3,800± square foot, two-story house with a two car garage and guest apartment. In addition, there is a 4,000± square foot second home with detached three stall garage. The ranch is fully improved on the operational side with quonsets, barns and shops. In summary Musselshell River Breaks Ranch is a highly productive, well-balanced, fully and appropriately improved ranch that offers trophy quality hunting in a classic setting along one of Montana’s highly regarded river valleys.
Just the Facts
- Location: 60 miles NW of Billings along the Musselshell River near Ryegate
- Acreage: 15,257± (2,089± is leased from the State and BLM)
- Acreage Breakdown: 3,500± dryland crop, 598± irrigated crop, balance is high-quality native range
- Improvements: Two high-quality homes plus extensive and appropriate outbuildings in good condition
- Wildlife: High-quality hunting ranch with licensed game bird preserve. Species include pheasants, sharptails, huns, waterfowl, mule deer, whitetail deer, and antelope
- Operation: Well-balanced 600 AU operating ranch
- Summary: Outstanding operating ranch with extensive recreational amenities in one of Montana’s sought-after river valleys
Anyone who has driven US Highway 12 from Lavina to Ryegate has noted the wonderful bottomlands which comprise the pivot irrigated portion of the Musselshell River Breaks Ranch. The ranch fronts on the highway and this writer has admired the setting for as long as he has sold ranches. The Musselshell River passes through the ranch on the south side of the highway for over 6 miles. The fields are productive and are nicely highlighted by the river corridor with its beautiful cottonwood trees lining the banks. As one progresses westward on Highway 12, the ranch lies on both sides, with approximately 7,200 acres north of the highway and nearly 6,000 acres to the south. The southern portion includes roughly 1,000 acres of farmland and the balance in river bottom and range. To the north nearly 2,800 acres is farmland with the balance in native range. The terrain on the ranch varies from steep foothills to open basins and steep draws with sandstone outcroppings and a few pine trees. This range country is watered by springs, approximately 3.3 miles of Careless Creek, various sized reservoirs, wells and a pipeline system to numerous tanks. The rangeland looks north to the Snowy Mountains and west to the Crazy Mountains. There are ample ranch buildings and ancillary improvements which include two homes, one on each side of the highway. The owner’s residence sits on the bank of the river on the southern unit and is in an amazing location with easy and private access to the highway.
The Musselshell River Breaks Ranch is an opportunity to own a truly well-balanced ranch with the highly sought-after combination of agriculture and recreation. The improvements are well done and appropriate. The moment you pull in you realize the pride of ownership over the last 12 years was a priority on all fronts - from the maintenance of the buildings and the condition of the pivots to the resting and nurturing of the river’s corridor. Those features, combined with excellent access just under an hour from the Billings airport, make this an exceptionally desirable offering.
Learn about the locale
The Musselshell River Breaks Ranch, as the name suggests, is located on the Musselshell River just minutes downstream from the small town of Ryegate, the county seat of Golden Valley County. Billings, the largest city in the state is just under 60 miles from the ranch and provides the closest commercial airport. Multiple national and international carriers provide air service to Billings’ Logan International Airport.
In a brochure advertising Ryegate, published in 1914 we have taken the following quote: “The Great Musselshell Valley, of which Ryegate is a part has been well known for forty years. It being along about the year 1871 that the cattle men began to use its rich grazing lands for the special winter quarters of their stock. Ryegate is a truly western town.”
Ryegate has limited goods and services so the nearest town to acquire staples is Harlowton which is less than 30 minutes form the ranch. Here you can find the basic staples needed to operate the ranch. As mentioned, Billings is less than an hour and is the most cosmopolitan city in the region. The list of amenities available in Billings is too extensive to list here, but suffice it to say, the fact that the ranch is such an easy drive gives it a substantial premium.
The Musselshell River Valley is widely known for its easy winters and beautiful and productive bottomlands along the meandering course of the Musselshell River. Its foothill grazing land puts good gains on cattle as long as it is not over grazed. In general, the Musselshell Valley has remained an area dedicated to farming and ranching. It has only been in the last decade that the area has had any influence form from recreational buyers. There has been some conversion of rangeland to dryland farming, but otherwise there has been little change in the character of the valley over the last two or three generations. This river valley is among the best in the state for agriculturaily focused buyers.
The climate in this area is generally considered mild similar to the Yellowstone Valley to the south. Winters tend to be open without large amounts of snow accumulation. It is estimated that annual precipitation is between 12 and 14 inches. The average high temperature in summer is 83 degrees with a nighttime average of 51 degrees. The average temperature in the winter months is 38 degrees and the nighttime average is 13 degrees.
Learn more about the property
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
- 11,159± Acres of pasture and river bottom
- 450± Acres of pivot irrigated farm ground (4 pivots)
- 148± Acres of gravity flood irrigation
- 3,500± Acres pf Dryland crop
Deeded Acres: 13,168±
Total Acres: 13,168±
Lowest Elevation: 3,000
Highest Elevation: 41,000
The owner’s residence is a beautiful 4,500 ± square foot 3 bedroom, 3 ½ bath log home overlooking the river. The detached 2-car garage has a 1 bedroom, 1 bath quest room. The site is beautifully landscaped and features a swimming pool.
The second home is a 4,000± square foot older home with 5 bedrooms, 3 baths, 2 kitchens and a detached 3-car garage. The lower level has been recently updated and provides a lodge type experience for guests and hunters. Both homes have fiber optic high-speed internet.
- Four modern steel grain bins with approximately 100,000 bu. of grain storage.
- 30’X45’ shop with concrete floor and attached 45’X60’ equipment storage area which is heated by wood and propane.
- 45’X45’ storage building with concrete floor.
- 60’X90 former sale barn used as vehicle and equipment storage. Two separate interior rooms for tack , seed and miscellaneous.
- 60’X40’ steel Quonset building with concrete floor, electricity and dedicated work bench area.
- Two old barns.
- Two small steel feed storage bins.
- Four tower-style deer blinds.
- Two 500 gallon fuel tanks.
The ranch is extremely well-watered with four Zimmatic pivots irrigating 450± acres from the Musselshell River. In addition there are 148± acres of gravity flow flood irrigation from Careless Creek. The ranch owns 1,380± acre-feet of stored Deadman’s Basin Reservoir irrigation water which can be used on pivots or flood irrigation. The owner reports he usually has around 200-300 acre-feet of unused water at the end of the season which can be leased to other water users. Over 6.5 miles of Musselshell River and nearly 3.4 miles of Careless Creek are contained on the ranch. One well with 6 miles of pipeline provides water for nine stock tanks, while an additional seven wells provide water to eight other tanks. There are four large stock ponds over an acre in size with year-round water. Numerous smaller ponds with seasonal water and various springs are scattered throughout the ranch.
Taxes are estimated at $16,800 annually.
Learn about the recreational amenities
Excellent water resources, abundant feed and a diverse topography create an amazing habitat for a plethora of wildlife and birds. With a dense riparian corridor and timbered coulees, both whitetail and mule deer are plentiful. Trophy class deer have been harvested during both archery and rifle seasons. Antelope are seasonally abundant and huntable populations exist. Wild pheasant, huns and sharptail grouse are native to the ranch while a commercial bird preserve permit allows the release of pheasant, chukar and Hungarian partridge to enhance the opportunities. Waterfowl, including many species of ducks and geese, are found in the fields and on the ponds creating spectacular waterfowl hunting.
Other plentiful species on the ranch include sandhill cranes, wading birds, golden and bald eagles, swallows, gold finches, meadowlarks and doves. Numerous raptors, fur bearers and predators balance the diverse ecosystem.
Aside from the excellent hunting the ranch offers, there are numerous opportunities for recreation. The owner’s family kayaks and canoes the Musselshell River, which during the summer months is a very safe waterway. The river also provides fishing for warm water species such as catfish and bass. If you are the exploring type, fossils, Indian artifacts, and homesteader treasures are scattered throughout the ranch. With a little hiking on the ranch, amazing viewsheds of the Crazy Mountains, Beartooth Mountains, Bull Mountains, Big Snowy Mountains are enjoyed.
Learn about the general operations
The Musselshell River Breaks Ranch has been operated as a farming operation raising cash crops including spring and winter wheat, barley, corn, sunflowers, lentils and soybeans for the last 12 years. The grass is currently rented to a neighboring cattle producer. Previous to the current owner the ranch had been operated as a cattle ranch raising alfalfa and other forage crops used to balance the grazing component. The owner has currently partnered with a large-scale farmer who is interested in continuing to farm the land if a new owner so desires. The entire river bottom has not been grazed in 12 years providing cover and feed for a host of game animals and birds. Alfalfa is grown in several fields along the river for and hay and wildlife feed. The ranch has been leased to a responsible outfitter for the last two seasons providing an additional source of income. Also, there is a commercial bird preserve permit that allows stocking of pheasant, chukars and Hungarian partridge.