For Sale

Sanctuary Ranch

$8,000,000 Roberts, MT 879± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

The Sanctuary Ranch lies about 19 miles north of Red Lodge in the center of the Rock Creek Valley. Its 879± acres encompass one or both sides of Rock Creek for approximately two miles. One third - more or less - of the property lies on the east side of Rock Creek and represents one of the most extraordinary fishing retreats we have ever been privileged to offer for sale. Besides two miles of Rock Creek which is an exceptional freestone fishery in its own right, the owners have created a 1.5-mile private spring creek enhanced fishery that is absolutely amazing – clearly a labor of love by a dedicated fisherman. There are also ninr stocked spring fed ponds to add further diversity to the angling experience. The balance of the ranch on the west side of Rock Creek consists of rolling uplands that support good populations of pheasants and upland birds. The buildings include a magnificent 12,000 plus square foot owner’s home, three staff or guest houses, and a large hangar/shop. It is truly a one of a kind fishing retreat.

Just the Facts


  • Location: 19 miles north of Red Lodge and 38 miles southwest of Billings
  • Acreage: 879± deeded acres
  • Terrain: Over 300 acres are lush river bottom land with the balance being uplands rising up from the river bottom
  • Improvements: Beautiful 12,500± square foot owner’s home plus large shop/hangar and three additional modest homes for staff and guests 
  • Fishing: 1.5-mile private spring fed trout stream, two miles of Red Lodge Creek and nine stocked ponds
  • Operation: Summer grazing and limited hay production  
  • Access: Immediate access off of paved U.S. 212
  • Views: Dramatic! Of the Beartooth Front – Montana’s highest mountains
  • Wildlife: Both deer species, upland birds, pheasants, waterfowl
  • Summary: World class private fishing retreat and great upland and waterfowl with outstanding private home and terrific access to ski resort, and great commercial air service

General Description

As one turns into the ranch entrance off of Highway 212 one can see the owner’s home in the distance like a lush oasis surrounded by tall spruce trees and aspens sitting in an elevated position next to a pond and overlooking the ranch. At the end of the driveway one passes one of the ranch’s stocked ponds, crosses the 3,300 foot graveled airstrip and enters the main compound on paved roads - one leading to the circular driveway in front of the house and the other leading to the working compound. The compound includes a large steel hangar, a four-bay machinery parking garage, and the manager’s house. 

From this vantage point, one can look out across the ranch to the west and north and see a series of meadows leading to tree-lined Rock Creek running down through the ranch to where it passes under a high rocky cliff just before it leaves the property. In the foreground meandering in an almost impossible number of S curves through the meadows is the private spring creek created by the owners who are avid anglers. Above this creek lie a series of stocked spring fed ponds. One can just see where the lower end of the creek passes into the trees before flowing back into Rock Creek under the cliffs at the north end of the ranch. 

The lands on the other side of Rock Creek are a marked contrast as they rise up toward the horizon in a series of open benches and valleys. Some areas have been farmed in the past and this part of the ranch cries out to be managed for upland bird hunting with some food plots and protection. The current owners do hunt it successfully, but the fishery has been the priority in terms of management. 

There are two additional homes on the northeast corner of the ranch. One has been used for staff and the other – recently acquired - is a nice small log cabin. 

In summary, this is an idyllic fishing retreat occupying a beautiful setting in the Rock Creek Valley just far enough from the Beartooth Front to capture its full breadth without being in its shadow. 

Broker's Comments

An exceptional fishing retreat and sporting property with the added benefits of immediate proximity to a first-class ski resort in the city of Red Lodge as well as easy access to Montana’s largest city, Billings, which offers excellent air service and a full menu of cultural, social and economic amenities. 

Learn about the locale

Location

The Sanctuary is located about four miles north of Roberts on U.S. Highway 212 or about 19 miles from Red Lodge. Red Lodge has a good airport with a 4,000’X75’ asphalt strip. The ranch, of course, has its own 3,300-foot gravel strip for lighter aircraft. This places it about 38 miles southwest of Billings - Montana’s largest city - and its busy commercial airport. Commercial air service at Billings Logan Airport is provided by American, Delta, United, Horizon, Frontier and Allegiant airlines. These airlines offer multiple flights to Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Denver with seasonal non-stops to Dallas and Chicago. 

Locale

The “Beartooth Front” bounded by Red Lodge and the Rock Creek Valley on the easterly end and Nye and the Stillwater River Valley on the westerly end is one of the most dramatically beautiful areas in Montana. The Beartooth Mountains dominate the views to the south and the foothills and valleys that emanate from this massive granite range tend to be very lush and green and the rivers and streams are loaded with trout. 

It is an area that was traditionally home to many very productive small to medium sized foothill/mountain ranches settled over 130 years ago. Red Lodge boasts annual precipitation that is over 50 percent higher than most parts of Montana, which is what made it possible for smaller homesteads to make a go of it early on. Ranching is still very much a part of life here although wealthy owners have put smaller properties together to make larger holdings. 

In addition, the Red Lodge area has become a popular recreational mecca for Billings residents. It is fair to say that, increasingly, non-resident owners from all over the world have chosen to buy ranches or recreational retreats here to avoid what they consider to be the “flash and glitter” of the Bozeman/Big Sky/Yellowstone Club area. They consider that Red Lodge, with its excellent ski area and attractive downtown, offers a full package of social and cultural amenities in a more intimate small town setting. 

As regards the immediately surrounding neighbors, there are some smaller tracts upstream with the more typical small ranches bordering to the east and north. Highway 212 borders on the west with a couple of small tracts along it. The diverse population base of ranchers, local business people and professionals from Billings, non-resident retreat and ranch owners along with the small towns like nearby Roberts provide a stimulating mix for a rural community. 

Climate

The climate is typical river valleys in the 5,000-foot elevation range east of the continental divide. Warm but not excessively hot summer days with cool nights. Winters with good snow cover and temperatures that normally run around freezing during the days and in the teens or below at night. However, the area can also suffer from extremes of cold on one end and on the other end the area is subject to Chinook winds which can bring some very warm temperatures up into the 50’s Fahrenheit range during the winter. The fall season is normally pleasant into November with occasional surprises in both directions from a Labor Day snowstorm that quickly melts to shirtsleeve weather at Thanksgiving. The area is known for good precipitation in the spring and can be subject to heavy, wet snows during March and April. This, of course, contributes to the area’s reputation for having some of the most sought-after summer grazing in the state. Average annual precipitation is estimated to be in the 16” to 20” range. Red Lodge itself gets around 23” of annual precipitation. Normally east of the continental divide in Montana one expects well over two-thirds of the annual precipitation to fall during the growing season. 

Aesthetic Considerations

Sanctuary Ranch is in a lush valley setting and controls a two-mile section of the Rock Creek valley. The ranch lies in such a manner that one feels completely private and the views of the Beartooths to the south are the icing on the cake. 

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

The ranch consists of approximately 879 deeded acres with 300 ±as river bottom land, 15± acres taken up by building sites and 564± acres of rangeland some of which is dryland crop that has been treated as rangeland. We are estimating that there are 564± acres on the east side of Rock Creek and 315± acres on the west side. 

Deeded Acres: 879±

Total Acres: 879±

Additional Information

CONSERVATION EASEMENT

Sanctuary Ranch is unencumbered by any conservation easements. It would unquestionably lend itself to an easement. The tax benefits from such a donation or the proceeds from a sale of an easement would have the effect of significantly reducing the purchase price. A portion of the property on the east side of the river has already been subdivided into 13 lots and would be ripe for subdivision. 

Improvements

The Sanctuary offers a wonderful owner’s home, three staff houses, a hangar/shop and building used to park ranch machinery. There are additional outbuildings connected to the individual houses and others that have little contributory value. The primary structures can be described as follows:

OWNER’S HOME

This is truly a magnificent home built in 1999 with a thoughtful floor plan that is designed to accommodate guests, family and grandchildren but with the public spaces artfully designed to have comfortable cozy areas for use when the owners are there alone while at the same time can be used for larger groups when the house is full or an event is planned. The main house is estimated at 12,500 square feet on two floors plus an attached four car garage. A pool house of 1,800± square feet was added in 2004 and it connects by a hallway from the downstairs. It includes an indoor pool and hot tub with a full bathroom and large doors that open to a patio. There are almost 2,000 square feet of wooden decks that line the south side of the house offering views of the Beartooth Mountains. Over half of the decks are covered which makes them comfortable for outside dining in season.

The main entrance on the top floor is accessed from an elevated circular driveway. As one enters the foyer one is immediately aware of the scale of the house and the light that is brought in from the huge windows and high ceilings. There is a side alcove there with closets for coats. To the left, there is a hallway that accesses two large guest rooms with private bathrooms. 

To the right one enters the great room where there is a massive river stone fireplace in the middle of the room rising fully two stories. This effectively divides the room into a larger more formal living room and a smaller cozier library where the owners spend their time. There are wood burning fireplaces on both sides. The far side of this room has a full large kitchen with a counter and island in the middle with a small breakfast or lunch area on the south side with access to the outdoor decks. On the north side, there is a larger dining room area which is shielded from the kitchen for more formal occasions and larger groups. 

From this central great room, a hallway leads one past a half bathroom, a wooden staircase and an elevator entrance to the master bedroom suite which also faces south and west on the end of the building. Again, this is a large room with an enormous master bathroom that includes good sized his and hers walk-in closets and separated sinks. Essentially it feels like each person has his or her own bathroom. 

If one goes downstairs from this end of the house, the owner has an extremely spacious two room office. There is also a bathroom, a utility room and a gear storage room with outside entrances on the north and south sides. One can also enter the garage on this level and the elevator makes it easy to transport groceries up to the kitchen. The garage will take four cars and is fully finished and heated. 

If one returns to the front entrance, a second staircase there takes one down to a hallway which provides access to two more very large bedrooms each with private bathroom. These are clearly set up for grandchildren to share. The same hallway continues to the pool area – also appealing to the grandchildren! 

The area around the house is beautifully landscaped with large evergreens and aspens and features a stocked fishing pond and a creek passing through just in front. Again, every window in the house is oversized so, while the house is log sided, it is incredibly light and airy which one often does not find in a log house. The finishes are all of the highest quality including natural fir flooring in the public areas and carpeting in the bedrooms upstairs. The house has in floor and hot water heat fired by propane.

YELLOW HOUSE

This is a tri-level house with a total of about 3,500 square feet of living area on the three levels. It is located on the north end of the ranch with a separate entrance off of Highway 212. Very suitable for a ranch manager or assistant manager. There is also a 36’X42’ steel pole building with an 18’X21’ “L” add-on. It has a gravel floor and would be best utilized as a garage or for equipment storage. This house would be considered in average condition.

LOG GUEST COTTAGE

Located at the same end of the ranch as the Yellow House, this building and acreage was acquired recently and has not been put to use. It is an appealing looking log structure which has been added onto with a log sided addition. It is around 1,200 square feet and includes one bedroom and two bathrooms with a loft. There is a good-sized open plan living room/dining area/office/kitchen space. It would double as a guest house or employee house. It appears to be in good condition. This compound also includes a steel garage building 25’X50’ with concrete floor. 

CARETAKERS HOUSE

Located in the same compound area as the owner’s home, it is currently occupied by a couple who takes care of the owner and the owner’s house. Estimated at around 2,100 square feet between the main floor and the finished basement and there is a 1.5 car garage attached. There are four bedrooms and three bathrooms. This is a comfortable staff house in average condition. 

RUNWAY

Adjacent to the main building compound is a graveled runway estimated at 3,300 feet that accommodates smaller twin engine aircraft including a Pilates. 

HANGAR/SHOP

Estimated at 4,000 square feet this steel building with full concrete floor is in good condition and doubles as a shop since the owners no longer keep an airplane there. It is an excellent large structure that could have multiple uses. It is high and has big wide overhead doors installed to accommodate aircraft.

EQUIPMENT STORAGE SHED

Located next to the hangar, this pole building with gravel floor functions for equipment storage and is estimated at 1,400 square feet. 

Water Resources

Sanctuary Ranch has extensive water resources with wells for each house, early 1895 water rights, multiple ponds, a private creek and over two miles of frontage on Rock Creek which passes through the middle of the ranch. Multiple springs rise on the ranch and flow through the property as well, enhancing the private creeks and ponds.

The original diversion from Rock Creek was set up to operate year-round to provide water for a hydropower plant. This plant is no longer operational and is thoroughly outdated. However, preliminary indications are that new technology in this field could easily bring it back into operation. The current owners utilize this water for their fishery project described below but the potential for the development of a new hydropower facility is very much a possibility. 

Mineral Rights

All minerals appurtenant to the property and owned by the current owners will be conveyed to the buyer.

Taxes

Based upon past years, the annual real estate taxes are estimated at $25,000. 

Learn about the recreational amenities

Fishery Resources

The fishing, of course, is extraordinary with 20” plus trout to be caught in the private stream and the stocked ponds. Rock Creek is a well-regarded fishery in its own right and offers more of a freestone fishery with a slightly smaller class of fish. The ability to fish what amounts to a meandering spring creek, a freestone river and an outstanding still water fishery all within a short walk from one’s front door is what makes Sanctuary such an extraordinary property. 

The private fishery on the ranch was created by the current owner who has been an avid lifelong angler. The ranch originally had a hydropower facility and the right to divert water from Rock Creek year-round. It also has extensive springs that rise on and above the ranch and flow through it en route to Rock Creek. He immediately realized the potential and created from scratch the meandering fishery that, if stretched out, would exceed 1.5 miles. He utilized the springs to create the ponds that are now stocked and produce very large fish in excess of 20 inches. The main creek fishes very well and produces large trout in the same class. 

Wildlife Resources

Wildlife on the ranch includes both species of deer, occasional visits from moose, and a full complement of sporting birds from ducks and geese in season to pheasants, sharptail grouse, and Hungarian partridge. With its extensive water resources, lush meadows, riparian woodlands and uplands it acts as a magnet for virtually every species of wildlife and bird to be found in the area.

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

The east side of Rock Creek has been maintained as a sanctuary for fish and wildlife with the owners contracting with an area rancher to put up hay on the meadows. The dryland acreage to the west of the river accommodates the yearling heifers from the owner’s larger ranch operation in the Columbus area. For a new owner, we recommend working with a local rancher to utilize the ranch’s hay and grazing. This can often be done on a quid pro quo basis whereby one trades the hay and grazing for other services from caretaking to equipment rental.

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