With the oldest filed water right in Montana (dated 1852) which exists only in the Bitterroot Valley, White Feather Ranch has extremely productive hay ground. This 98+ acre ranch is located on the east side of the valley and is situated in the midst of approximately 7,000 acres of conservation easements. A focal point is the historic barn, one of the last still standing in this area and in great shape. This barn is 101 feet long and contains 14 box stalls, a feed room, and a heated room. A root cellar built in 1900 is also very useable. The cottonwood-lined North Bunt Fork Creek runs the entire east/west distance of the property on a year-round basis. There are three ponds that feed 6,000 feet of buried mainline used to irrigate the hayfields and pastures with three wheel lines, water guns, and hand lines. This property is currently used as an equestrian and sheep ranch but is suitable for other uses. There are multiple building sites all of which have sweeping views of the Bitterroot Mountains. It is located approximately four miles from Stevensville and three miles from the local Stevensville airport. This is the first time this ranch has been on the market in 34 years.
Just the Facts
- 98.77 deeded acres
- Historic barn
- Excellent water rights with 1852 priority dates
- Extensively irrigated
- North Burnt Fork Creek flows through for over a half mile
- Multiple building sites
- Desirable western MT climate
The property occupies lush bottom ground in the lower elevations (3,700 feet) of the Bitterroot Valley. The property is bound by North Burnt Fork Road on the north and Middle Burnt Fork Road on the south. The primary entrance to the ranch is currently at Bridle Bit Lane from Middle Burnt Fork Road. The driveway crosses North Burnt Fork Creek at the south boundary. All improvements are located just north of the creek. The creek itself travels from the southeast corner of the property in a west-northwesterly direction until it exits the property in the middle of the west boundary. Large cottonwood trees follow the course of the creek and are flanked by hay meadows.
This ranch is divided into three legal parcels. One parcel is 30.69 acres, one is 42.251 acres and the third is 25.825 acres. The 30.69 acres and the 42.251 acres each have some interior fence, a pond and a wheel line, but there are no buildings. The 25.825 acre parcel contains the barn, the house, and most of the horse paddocks and sheep pastures.
White Feather Ranch holds firmly the most sought-after ingredient of any piece of real estate… location. It is a compact but productive ranch in the midst of a highly desirable community. A new owner will have a myriad of choices as to how to brand it with their own style of stewardship.
White Feather Ranch is located in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley approximately four miles northeast of the community of Stevensville. Delta, SkyWest, United, and Allegiant Air service the Missoula airport, approximately 45 minutes to the north and is served by Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines — each with numerous arrivals and departures daily. Nonstop flights are available to Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Denver, Las Vegas, Dallas, Portland, and Seattle. Seasonal nonstop flights are available to Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco. The Stevensville airport is about 3 miles away and the Ravalli County Airport in Hamilton (a 4,200’ by 75’ asphalt runway) is about 22 miles south. Both open to general aviation.
The Bitterroot Valley is thought by many to be the most beautiful valley in Montana. The Bitterroot River runs in a northerly direction throughout the length of the valley. The western edge of the valley is formed by the towering, jagged peaks of the Bitterroot Mountain Range while the eastern edge of the valley is graced with the gentler horizon of the Sapphire Mountains. The Bitterroot Valley is one of the more populous valleys in Montana and therefore offers much more in the way of services than many other areas. The valley is dotted with small towns, the largest of which is Hamilton located approximately 25 minutes south of the ranch. The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area, located to the west, provides locals a pristine roadless wilderness area that, when combined with two contiguous wilderness areas – the Frank Church and River of No Return – accounts for the largest contiguous block of wilderness in the lower 48 states. At the south end of the valley is Lost Trail Powder Mountain, offering skiing enthusiasts 60 marked trails on 1,800 acres across two mountains with an 1,800 foot vertical drop. Across from Lost Trail is the Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Area, with 13 miles of groomed trails and 19 miles of multi-use trails appropriate for skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, and snowmobiling.
The Bitterroot Valley is one of the lowest intermountain valleys in the Rocky Mountains. Elevation at the White Feather Ranch is approximately 3,700 feet above sea level. This location west of the continental divide results in stronger Pacific Northwest influences than that found east of the divide. Consequently, the climate is mild by Montana standards. High readings of 90ºF occur less than 20 days a year. Summers are pleasant and winters are characterized by steady, but not severe, cold with daytime highs averaging in the mid-30s. High winds are rare in the Bitterroot Valley.
Acreage (Deeded & Leased)
The primary structural improvement on White Feather Ranch is the historic barn. Built in 1928, the metal roof was installed in 1987 and all of the broken windows were repaired that same year. The inside was repainted in 2004 and the outside in 2005. It is 101 feet long, 50 feet wide and 60 feet high at the peak. There are 14 box stalls, a heated work area and a feed room. The box stalls have been redesigned to foal out draft horses and to lamb sheep. There is a covered area built on the east side of the barn to shelter tractors, trailers and other vehicles. It is one of the last large historic barns still standing in the Bitterroot Valley.
The home is a remodeled mobile home with a stick-built addition. It has two bedrooms, two all new bathrooms, two walk-in closets, a kitchen with new kitchen cabinets, a large living room and a family room. It was recently repainted inside. It has an attached two car garage.
A new owner will likely choose to build a larger residence and there are a number of choice sites to consider that will absorb the dominant view across the valley to the Bitterroot Mountain range.
White Feather Ranch has 57 miners’ inches of an 1852 water right which is the oldest water right in the State of Montana. The 1852 right is sufficient to irrigate the entire ranch, but it is worth noting that there are also two junior water rights and a year-round stock water right. Documentation is available upon request.
Taxes in 2019 were $2,026.30. Taxes are subject to slight adjustment in 2020 due to a recent boundary relocation which establishes the current parcels.
Fishing is probably the most important recreational attraction in the Bitterroot Valley. The river reaches in and around Stevensville are world-renowned for their rainbow and brown trout populations, particularly on the famous skwala hatch that occurs each year in March and April and again for mid-summer’s grasshopper fishing. From the early March brown mayfly hatch to October’s caddisflies, the dry-fly fisher will find endless challenges and discoveries.
The ranch itself is a year-round home to an abundant whitetail population. Various bird species also inhabit the ranch, from migratory songbirds to Montana’s impressive raptor population. Not to be missed are the hundreds of miles of trails on millions of acres of wilderness and other national forest lands that lie just a few miles to the west in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness complex.
Golfing at its best is provided by the valley’s three golf courses, two public and one private, located in Hamilton and Stevensville respectively.
Winter enthusiasts will find no shortage of skiing opportunities, snowmobile trails and good cross-country ski locations. Lost Trail Powder Mountain lies one hour to the south and boasts the highest western Montana annual snowfall accumulation. To the north one hour is Missoula’s Montana Snowbowl, a black diamond skier’s delight, with extensive open bowl and tree skiing to challenge any level of skier. Various passes to the south, west and east provide the locations for other undeveloped winter recreation activities.
The current owners purchased the ranch in the 1980s, at which time the property had fallen victim to neglect. After several decades of strong stewardship, the ranch is thriving and has primarily been run as a sheep and horse ranch. Improvements were updated and maintained, weeds were put back under control and fence was built. Presently, about 40-50 acres of the ranch is being hayed and is yielding around 200 tons in 2 cuttings. The remainder of the irrigated lands are being used as improved pasture. There are over 6,000 feet of buried mainline and 3 permitted ponds. There is one pond on each of the three parcels and a wheel line on each parcel as well. Hand lines and water guns are used in the horse paddocks and sheep pastures. There are several miles of jack fence and sheep fence to create safe places for sheep, cattle and horses.
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