For Sale

River Junction Ranch

$10,000,000 Ovando, MT 612± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

Montana’s Big Blackfoot River was immortalized in A River Runs Through It, and today one can still enjoy the epic salmonfly hatch that offers the climactic moment in Robert Redford’s movie remake of Norman Maclean’s novella. The Big Blackfoot River Ranch is a 612± acre, super-premium recreational retreat located in the heart of the Blackfoot River Valley outside of Ovando. With over a mile of some of the most coveted water in the western United States, the property offers the discerning fisherman trophy architecture, outstanding privacy, extraordinary wildlife values and ready accessibility to the university town of Missoula and its active commercial airport, 50 miles away. From the 100-year old fully restored barn to the Club House, a monumental structure located high on a bluff above the river, the attention to detail in every one of the ranch’s five improvements is readily apparent. This is the most significant offering available on the river today.

General Description

The River Junction Ranch is entered on its southern boundary directly from River Junction Road, a gravel road that is primarily maintained by the few landowners that live along its length. Upon reaching the ranch entrance five-and-a-half miles from US Highway 200, one drops quickly below the River Junction Road grade and begins sloping toward the river to the north and east. Mature timber immediately engulfs the traveler, slowly breaking out into open meadows carpeted in wildflowers and tall grasses in spring and summer. After a quarter of a mile, one arrives at a fork in the road with the eastern branch steering toward the “guest home” and clubhouse, while the western branch diverts to the river pavilion, stables and restored barn. This fork in the road is actually the entry point to a vast circular drive that winds through the property for approximately five miles, joining both sets of improvements in a private network of roads and trails that takes full advantage of the rolling and varied terrain. 

Continuing to the east on this circular ranch road, one covers approximately eight-tenths of a mile before arriving at the four-bedroom main home. Passing this charming home, one approaches the eastern end of the bluff that lines the river. Providing a commanding view of the Blackfoot River valley and the swirling crystal waters below, the bluff-top road arrives a short distance further at the impressive clubhouse. Built in a monumental style that hearkens back to the standards of construction undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and most memorably noted for building public improvements from material on hand – wood and stone - the clubhouse is a landmark structure of a type rarely built today. 

Looping past the clubhouse, the road continues westerly along the river’s high bank toward the remaining improvements, a little over a mile away. One arrives first at the 100-year old barn with the stable a few yards away. Here is the working heart of the property, where guest facilities and ranch hand quarters are thoughtfully integrated with the primary recreational infrastructure. All activities are readily launched from this compound, from horseback riding to ATV rides, the launching of rafts on the river or simply the quiet enjoyment of the land on foot or in repose at the delightful river pavilion. Three-tenths of a mile past the stable, this open-air structure is nestled just off the riverbank. Constructed in the same grand style as the Clubhouse, the River Pavilion offers a massive open stone fireplace, full kitchen facilities, outdoor shower and other amenities designed to take full advantage of the riverside location. Finally, the road loops back past the old barn and rejoins its point of entry near the ranch gates a mile-and-a-half away. The privacy and sense of seclusion one enjoys throughout its length is complete. 

Bordering the ranch to the south is a massive block of State of Montana and Bureau of Land Management public land, while the Blackfoot River protects the property on the north. To the east and west large, privately held properties that enjoy the further protection of conservation easements that restrict encroaching activities in accordance with their specific provisions. In fact, the River Junction Ranch was purchased in a unique transaction where thousands of acres of lands along the river were purchased concurrently by like-minded owners who created a corridor of preservation, ensuring that the heart of the river corridor would remain forever in a substantially natural state. The new owners of this property will reap the rewards of this remarkable foresight.

Broker's Comments

The River Junction Ranch is the epitome of a trophy fishing ranch. With approximately one-and-a-half miles of “big water” on the Blackfoot River, this is no dainty little spring creek. Big flies, big casts and lively action are assured against a backdrop of classic western architectural expression. Luxury, privacy and a truly outstanding set of improvements are the hallmarks of this personal recreational retreat. A grand property by any scale, River Junction Ranch is the finest property available today along the length of the Blackfoot River. 

Learn about the locale

Location

River Junction Ranch is located two miles downstream from River Junction, the confluence of the main stem of the Blackfoot River and the North Fork of the Blackfoot River, and about 50 miles northeast of Missoula. Nearby Ovando is a classic small Montana town, with a post office, café and fly shop. The property is located approximately 85 and 55 miles respectively from commercial air services in Helena, the state capital, and Missoula where the University of Montana is located. Both Helena and Missoula provide good urban amenities, including fine dining, theater, extensive shopping and all other major services. The town of Lincoln is located 40 miles to the east and has a public airport with a 4,200 foot lighted runway.


Locale

The Blackfoot Valley is undeniably one of the most highly sought after locations in the northern Rockies. It is in the hands of some of the most prominent and ardent conservationists in the world and, as a result, it has maintained its ecological integrity and rural character, increasingly elusive features in today’s western landscape. Numerous ranches in the valley have been placed under conservation easement, forever protecting them from development, while many of the remainder are in the hands of multi-generation families intent on maintaining an agricultural lifestyle. In fact, this valley is the home of the very first donated conservation easement in the state and the valley has led the way in the conservation arena ever since. The Blackfoot Valley sits at the southern edge of the Bob Marshall/Scapegoat Wilderness complex, which gives backcountry enthusiasts immediate access to over 1,500,000 acres of wilderness. These two wilderness areas form a significant part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which sprawls to the north, offering the second largest semi-intact ecosystem within the lower 48 states, right behind the Greater Yellowstone area.


The ranch is also located at an historical junction and sits directly on the route followed eastward by Meriwether Lewis (William Clark took another route to maximize their new discoveries). The route was also used for centuries by Salish and Kootenai tribes of Native Americans and was known as the Going to the Buffalo Road. This was the traditional trail taken by west-slope tribes when they ventured eastward over the Continental Divide into the land of the buffalo each year to re-supply with food and hides. Native American history tells of the fierce defense of these hunting grounds by resident tribes and, in fact, the fearsome “Hellgate Canyon” near the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers was a notorious ambush spot for travelers heading east. Other historical uses in the valley include a variety of pioneering cattle ranches, early and modern logging operations and more recently, a mecca for fly fisherman and other outdoor enthusiasts. 


The property is surrounded on all sides by public lands or lands owned by individuals with substantial history in land conservation. This means that the viewsheds surrounding the property are all but guaranteed to remain substantially unchanged for years to come. It also means the property will be graced with a full complement of native species either as year-round residents or through migratory or dispersal patterns. 


Climate

Average high temperatures in the summer range from 71° in June, 81° in July, and 81° in August, with average lows in the low 40s. June usually has the most rainfall with an average of 2.2 inches and an annual average of 18± inches. The average high temperature in the winter ranges from 31° in December, 30° in January, and 46° in February, with average lows in the low teens. The average snowfall per month in December and January is 19 inches.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

Deeded Acres: 612±

Total Acres: 612±

Additional Information

The River Junction Ranch has a conservation easement in place. The easement permits a new owner to customize the property to their needs with the addition of a master residence in the pre-selected riverside location. Copies of the easement document are available upon request.


Improvements

The River Junction Ranch provides an idyllic woodland and riverside setting for five structures: the Main House, Clubhouse, River Pavilion, Stables and the Historic Barn. Each of the improvements has been painstakingly planned to provide the highest quality construction and a luxurious feel, while masterfully capturing the rustic ambiance of classic western architecture. Featured in Architectural Digest (Rooted in the West, June 2003), the property consistently blends the old and the new, the classic and the innovative. From in-floor radiant heat coupled with old-fashioned steam radiators to the use of massive timbers and stone juxtaposed against stainless steel chairlift cable for handrails at the Clubhouse, the architectural firm headed by Nick Fullerton, Fullerton Architects, PC, created a true western masterpiece worthy of the location on the banks of one of the West’s most iconic rivers. Interior design work was provided by Kari Demond of KLM Interiors in Austin, Texas. 

Main House (4,860± square feet, approximately)

The main house provides four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms plus a powder room situated in an intimate forested setting overlooking open meadows and small seasonal ponds. Views of the rolling Garnet Mountain range grace the southern exposures while to the north, the snowcapped peaks on the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness areas compete for attention. At capacity, the main house will sleep up to 12 guests with the capacity for two additional people staying in the comfortable studio above the garage.

Built in 2003 and designed to imitate a rustic log home with additions, the architects skillfully blended rough-hewn logs, dry-stack stonework and a variety of other finishes to create a work of art that appears for all the world to have been in place for over 100 years. A classic screened-porch gives an Adirondack feel, while a variety of floor materials gives each section of the house a different, unique ambiance. Among the home’s many special features are wood floors with a distressed blue paint finish in the guest rooms, flagstone floors, copper fixtures, barn-wood and tin roof wainscoting and a hidden media center. These design features sustain a rustic feel that was purposefully engineered to create an add-on feel that accurately reflects the ambiance of 19th century homestead while still retaining all the conveniences of 21st century construction. A separate mudroom entrance, towering stone chimney, built-in barbeque, hot tub and separate cooks quarters over the detached three-car garage are additional features that round out this home. The master suite offers several additional innovations, including a corrugated tin shower stall and dual copper sinks and a private entrance onto the hot tub equipped patio. The innovative floor plan combines the kitchen, dining and living areas into an open area like the most modern of designs, while segmenting the bedrooms to create maximum privacy under one roof. Professional-grade appliances and custom cabinetry round out the kitchen. A bunkroom on the lower level ensures plenty of space for children or grandchildren.

Clubhouse (4,306± square feet, approximately)

The Clubhouse is the crowning achievement of this property and immediately makes one feel that one is the sole resident of your own private national park. Built from massive stone blocks and pillars of old-growth western larch, this timber frame masterpiece boasts floor-to-ceiling windows high on a bluff over the river with grand views of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas to the north. The artful blending of stone, massive timbers, glass and steel perfectly captures today’s haute western architecture by blending traditional and new materials. The dry-stack rock indoor/outdoor fireplace lets one enjoy the setting in any weather and the ample square footage provides all the gaming area one could want while still maintaining an intimate feel. A classic hand-carved bar salvaged from a historic saloon provides just the right accent to create an old-time feel and the perfect backdrop for any of life’s celebrations. Even the his and hers washrooms have been carefully planned to recreate a classic 1930s Chicago feel, with real steam radiators, marble tiling and historic porcelain fixtures.

The Clubhouse is also set up for entertaining and large professionally staffed events. A full professional kitchen ensconced behind the bar equipped with stainless steel counters, a Wolfe range, Subzero refrigeration and an overflow pantry, ensure that the Clubhouse can accommodate a large catering staff and provide the ideal facility for large family events, charitable events, fundraisers or corporate functions. Overflow parking is readily available a short stroll down the ranch road. Downstairs, behind a secret stairwell there is an exercise area with dual showers and a secure wine cellar that walks out to a lower patio area below the main deck level. 

Historic Barn (2,460± square feet, approximately)

The Historic Barn was located by the current owners from a nearby homestead and painstakingly reconstructed on-site. Resting on a base of native Chief Cliff stone with a cobblestone approach, plank fencing and a spacious circular drive, this structure blends seamlessly with the landscape yet manages an understated elegance. Inside, the lower level hosts a dining/dancing area with full kitchen that hides artfully behind sliding barn wood doors. A stage has been installed at the rear of the main level, offering a venue for the talents of children or hired entertainment, as desired. This addition makes the old barn an ideal place to host evening social events such as a chuck wagon dinner or an old-style barn dance.

Upstairs, the Fullerton/Demond Team created a vignette of the old west that is unparalleled by other offerings currently on the market in Montana. This upper-level common area provides a comfortable hideaway while being situated at the heart of the recreational smorgasbord offered at the River Junction. One delightful surprise after another is discovered as one takes in the astonishing attention to detail. Period lighting and cleverly disguised utilities provide the final touches to this remarkable re-make of an historic structure.

Stable (3,840± square feet, approximately)

Located approximately 100-yards from the Historic Barn, the River Junction’s stable facility offers a six-stall, true timber frame structure complete with everything one would expect from a state-of-the-art equestrian facility. An equine shower, heated tack room, hay storage, extra equipment storage, a laundry facility, half bath, and small convenience kitchen are all just as one would expect: perfectly designed and executed and creating the ideal facility for integrating equestrian activity with the rest of the ranch’s recreational amenities. 

Upstairs, wrangler’s quarters and a large common room that could be used either as an additional indoor recreation area or as a conference/meeting facility further expand the utility of the ranch’s improvements.

River Pavilion (1,230± square feet, approximately)

The River Pavilion provides an ideal riverside luxury venue for starting or ending a float. Situated on a low bluff just steps away from a sandy beach and across the river from one of the best fishing holes on the river, this open air structure features native cedar construction with large, bark-on flared cedar logs for pillars and beams. A massive arched river rock fireplace, catering kitchen, restrooms and an outdoor shower round out this simple but elegant addition to River Junction’s amazing improvements. While the ranch’s private put-in/take-out spot is a short distance upstream, one can readily launch canoes or kayaks from the River Pavilion. Perhaps its ideal use is for mid-float stopovers as its location is conveniently about halfway between two of the river’s more famous points of embarkation. Alternatively, the facility lends itself to mellow evenings with a fly rod and a cocktail as one plies the deep hole and upstream riffles for large trout. 

Master Residence Building Site

No description of the improvements would be complete without mention of the bankside building site that has been reserved in the conservation easement with power and phone already stubbed in. This masterpiece location was selected to provide the ultimate in privacy and proximity to the river and was originally planned for a master residence (blueprints available).

Taxes

Taxes are estimated at ­­­­­$25,451 per year based on the most recent records.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Wildlife Resources

The Blackfoot River Valley is internationally famous for its wildlife and community-based conservation efforts. Through the foresight of local community leaders, landowners and various conservation organizations, the Blackfoot Valley has demonstrated some of the most successful landscape-scale conservation efforts in the world today. Sitting at the southern boundary of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, the Valley is home to a full complement of native species, from grizzly bears to wolves, from wolverine to trumpeter swans. On any given morning on the River Junction Ranch, one can look out a window to see any one of the major mammals that reside in the lower 48 states today. Much of this legendary landscape is already protected through the voluntary actions of concerned landowners and the vistas and scenery that surround the ranch will remain substantially the same as they are today.

But the star of this property is the river itself. With approximately one-mile of the famous canyon section of the Blackfoot River, the fly fishing that is available directly from this property is the essence of the very experience that made Montana’s rivers famous as Brad Pitt took to the silver screen playing the talented younger brother and expert fly fisherman in A River Runs Through It. The Blackfoot River is bull trout country, a testimony to the purity of its cold waters. Although this endangered trout is a protected species, its size can reach over three feet, providing the ever-tantalizing prospect of an accidental hook-up. Large rainbows, however, are the mainstay of the Blackfoot River’s fishery. From Mother’s Day caddis to massive salmonflies, the aquatic insect populations along the length of the river are some of the most diverse and abundant in the west today.

Because of its elevation and the diverse mix of habitat types, including aspen, dense conifer stands and open meadows, the River Junction Ranch also provides exceptionally high-quality habitat for big game, including elk, mule deer and whitetail. Elk use the area in the spring for calving, where early green-up allows them to forage on abundant native grasses. Dense cover provides security and the mild temperatures created by lower elevations make it an ideal location for rearing young. A wide variety of other Montana native species also utilize the area, including bears, wolves, bald eagles and assorted small game.

Ovando and the surrounding area offers some of the best locations for the active outdoor enthusiast. The fall brings outstanding big game hunting directly on the property and on the surrounding tens of thousands of acres of public land and wilderness areas. Winter provides an abundance of over the snow options ranging from snow machine trails covering hundreds of miles around the Lincoln and upper Blackfoot areas, while various alpine ski areas within one-and-a-half to two hours provide additional winter options. The River Junction Ranch will typically hold around two feet of snow during the winter, making cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on the property an excellent option.

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