For Sale

Stillwater River Wedding Ranch

$4,900,000 Absarokee, MT 1,368± Deeded Acres

Executive Summary

The Stillwater River Wedding Ranch is located in the scenic Stillwater River Valley, three miles west of Absarokee, Montana. Containing an estimated 1,368 deeded acres, of which approximately 65 acres is flood irrigated, the ranch has over one mile of unfettered access to the Stillwater River, one of Montana’s premier trout fisheries. The river’s riparian corridor coupled with the upper grazing lands supports both livestock and a variety of wildlife. North Stillwater Road separates the river bottom from the home and the 1,270± acres of native grass which rises in elevation to allow for the magnificent views of the Beartooth Range. This is a bucolic rural setting for a very conveniently located ranch. Numerous small towns, a ski resort, and a million-acre wilderness area are an easy drive from the ranch. Billings, Montana, the largest city in the state, is less than 60 miles from the ranch gate.

Just the Facts

  • Less than one hour to Billings, MT
  • Five minutes to Absarokee, MT
  • Blue Ribbon fishing on over a mile of the Stillwater River
  • 65± irrigated acres
  • 1,368± deeded acres
  • Mule deer and whitetail deer hunting
  • Three-bedroom, three-bath home
  • Stunning views of the Beartooth Range

General Description

The property fronts on the bank of the Stillwater River. The “Stilly” rises in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness south of the Beartooth Mountains in southern Park County, near the state line with Wyoming and the boundary of Yellowstone National Park and flows for nearly 70 miles to where it confluences with the Yellowstone River. The crystal-clear pocket water of the Stillwater is at its finest as it passes through the ranch for approximately one mile. There are nearly 133 acres between the county road and the river, which offers numerous building sites with both river and Beartooth Mountain views. On the north side of the county road, the home is situated on the remaining 1,235± acres. 

Broker's Comments

The Stillwater River Wedding Ranch is an ideal property as it has all the right ingredients in a manageable package. The Stillwater River is one of Montana’s “blue ribbon” trout streams. The land along its bank sides is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Not only does it have this amazing river feature, but it is also in the foreground of the magnificent Beartooth Mountains. With its agricultural features, wildlife, and proximity to event-filled communities, this ranch is precisely what everyone is seeking.

Learn about the locale

Location

The Stillwater River Wedding Ranch fronts on the Stillwater River and is accessed from the North Stillwater River Road, an all-season county road, which is accessed from Montana State Highway 420, a two-lane blacktop, one mile west of the community of Absarokee. Columbus is 14 miles to the east and provides direct access to Interstate 90. Red Lodge, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park is approximately 40 miles to the south. Both Columbus and Red Lodge have paved airstrips capable of handling small aircraft while Billings, is Montana’s largest commercial airport providing air service through United, Delta Allegiant, Cape Air, and Alaska Airlines.

Locale

Absarokee provides a friendly place to purchase all the staples needed to operate the ranch. This community, which has never been incorporated, thrives due to volunteerism and community involvement. Several other interesting communities are within 30 minutes of the ranch: Fishtail, Roscoe, Columbus, and Red Lodge. Each has a colorful western restaurant or saloon- Roscoe’s Grizzly Bar, Fishtail’s Cowboy Bar, and Columbus’s New Atlas Bar, boasting Montana’s oldest liquor license. Red Lodge is a destination ski resort that offers several fine dining establishments, galleries, shops and all the other services associated with a thriving tourist-based community.


The community of Absarokee has 1,200 residents. It offers restaurants, gas stations, a grocery store, and a K-12 school system. Absarokee Medical Clinic has one full-time physician and one physician‘s assistant. Ten minutes to the north, Columbus has a 23-bed Critical Access Hospital with Emergency Services 24/7. Less than an hour’s drive away and less by its air ambulance services, Billings has the largest cluster of medical facilities between Salt Lake City, Denver, and Boise employing over 5,200 in two major hospital complexes. 

The immediate area around the ranch has a diverse cultural and aesthetic flavor with small to medium-sized foothill ranches and the river homes along the banks of the Stillwater River. These are owned by a mix of both full and part-time residents. Second homes along the river have been a long-time favorite for Billings area families. 

Climate

Absarokee has an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet. The climate in this area is typically mild rather than extreme. Average daytime temperatures in the summer are near 78 degrees and 21 degrees in the winter. Annually the area receives14 to 16 inches of precipitation, with more than 60 percent of that expected to fall between May and September. This precipitation in the spring can arrive as either snow or rain. It is not uncommon for have heavy wet snow during March and April, followed by warm Chinook winds bringing temperatures in the 50s. The fall season is colorful and pleasant into November, but as soon as you let your guard down, winter can show up at the front door. The Stillwater is a wonderful place to experience the treasure of all four seasons.

Learn more about the property

Acreage (Deeded & Leased)

Deeded Acres: 1,368±
Total Acres: 1,368±

Improvements

The subject includes modest improvements that are adequate to serve its other resources. These include an older home, a low-cost bunkhouse, a detached garage, and a pole/frame shed that can serve as a machine storage facility or as a livestock shed, as needed. Other small sheds have some remaining utility but have no measurable contributory value.

Dwelling

The dwelling was originally constructed in about 1920 and was enhanced by a number of additions during the next 45 years. The frame structure is covered with wood lap siding and painted steel roofing, and includes two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and living, dining, and family rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom in the half story. The main floor includes about 2,027 square feet of living area, and the half story adds about 450 square feet more. The subject is currently somewhat dated but is in fair to average condition with fair to average utility. 

Bunkhouse

The bunkhouse was constructed in the 1940s and updated in the 1970s with frame construction, wood siding, and painted steel roofing. The building has a concrete foundation, minimal electrical service, and no plumbing, and is in fair to poor condition, most suitable for storage.

Detached Garage

The concrete block garage was constructed in about 1957 and encloses about 625 square feet with a full concrete floor. Two overhead doors allow access, and the garage is considered to be in fair condition with fair utility.

Machine/Livestock Shed

The open front pole shed was constructed in the 1940s, with a pole and frame structure covered with galvanized, corrugated steel, enclosing about 2,600 square feet. The interior is divided into stalls that can house livestock or can be swung aside to allow machinery storage (although the eave is too low for much modern machinery). The building is in fair condition with fair utility.

Water Rights

Searches of Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) records revealed one water right claim appurtenant to the subject. Water Right 43C-040522 has a priority date of April 1, 1891, and claims a flow of 200 miner’s inches, or 600 acre-feet per year, from the Stillwater River for irrigation of 74 acres. Water is diverted from the Stillwater River about a mile west of the subject by a headgate into the Weir and Crawford Ditch which delivers it to the subject, where it is spread by conventional flood-irrigation. Several developed springs and wells serving stock water tanks, and wells for domestic water, are not revealed in water rights records.

Mineral Rights

No minerals are reserved by the Sellers. 

Taxes

Property taxes are estimated to be $2,255 based upon past years.

Learn about the recreational amenities

Fishery Resources

The Stillwater River provides excellent fishing for rainbow and brown trout. It is characterized by large rocks providing good pocket-water fishing with standard dry flies, such as an elk hair caddis or purple haze. It is estimated that there are nearly 3,000 trout per mile. Browns tend to be a little larger fish, but both species can exceed 20 inches, with the average trout in the 12-14 in range. Some of the most productive fishing starts in late July when the fish start looking for grasshoppers. While late summer may produce the numbers, the more challenging fishing starts in late September when the browns begin to spawn. The biggest browns are taken on streamers as they head up the Stillwater to their spawning grounds. Unlike many of the great fisheries in the area, namely the Yellowstone and Bighorn, the Stillwater is not a major float-fishing river in this section of the river. This is a blessing to those who are lucky enough to live on its beautiful banks.

Wildlife Resources

The ranch consists of several environments which support a very diverse collection of wildlife. The riparian corridor offers habitat for whitetail deer, waterfowl, turkey, and numerous other birds. Whitetail deer browse in the irrigated fields but can find protection in the riparian habitat on the ranch. On the north side of the ranch mule deer browse in the upper benches where native grasses are abundant, and good cover is available in the coulees. As you would expect from a ranch located in this ecosystem, birds of prey and predators frequent the ranch throughout the year.

Learn about the general operations

General Operations

Presently, the subject's 1,377± acres are divided among about 70 acres of irrigated cropland. 1,304± acres of native range; and 3.0 acres of farmstead. Forage production is the primary subject enterprise under current management and will likely remain the predominant use of the subject for the foreseeable future.

All of the subject irrigated hay fields lie along the southern border of the subject, in a narrow strip between the county road and the Stillwater River. Water is delivered by the Weir-Crawford Ditch meanders through the subject just south of the county road and is dispersed by flood-irrigation through ditches and spreader dikes. The delivery ditch is a private, open ditch with only two other users/owners, and there are no set annual fees. Each operator shares in repair expenses as they occur. Water is reportedly reliable, and the claimed water should be sufficient to maximize hay production on the subject’s irrigated acreage during normal years.


The subject is perimeter fenced, with the hay fields separated from the grazing land by the county road and fencing. The grazing land is further divided into two main pastures, unequal in size but appearing to be roughly equal in carrying capacity, and those pastures are watered by developed springs. Several smaller holding pastures were noted around the subject farmstead to facilitate working and feeding livestock at various times of the year.


The subject is easily accessible, just a short distance from the nearest pavement on an all-weather county road. The subject overlooks the Stillwater River, which forms about 1.2 miles of the southern border. The subject rises steeply from along the river, climbing nearly 600 feet in less than a quarter of a mile near the west end. More than half of the subject lies on a broad bench at elevations around 4,400 feet above sea level, with expansive views of the Absaroka Beartooth and Crazy Mountains from most of this area.


The subject is currently leased on a year-to-year basis at a rate of $18,000 per year. A copy of the current lease is available upon request as part of any due diligence.


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