Elk Mountain Ranch

Location: Saratoga, Wyoming

Price: $19,950,000 – SOLD


Elk Mountain Ranch is located approximately 40 miles northeast of Saratoga, Wyoming, 41 miles east of Rawlins, Wyoming, and 56 miles northwest of Laramie, Wyoming. Access is via Interstate 80, the main east west route across the Rocky Mountains. Saratoga is known for its Western town charm, blue ribbon trout fishing on the North Platte River, and the historic “Old Baldy Club”, a private resort with 18 hole golf course whose members are a Who’s Who of American business. Saratoga has a lighted 8,400 ft. runway with jet A fuel. A little over an hour drive southeast is Laramie’s airport with commercial service 3 times daily to Denver.

Elk Mountain Ranch is an enormous canvas comprising 51+ square miles of every type of ecosystem found in the Rocky Mountains. From the top of 11,000 ft. Elk Mountain it descends through talus covered summit habitat, through high alpine meadows and timbered slopes onto aspen and spruce choked ravines opening onto lush meadows and broadening into ever more gentle slopes leading to 1,000s of acres of broad meadows, interspersed with lakes (there are 5 lakes on the ranch),thence prairies and sage covered hills. The 22,041 deeded acres combined with the 10,805 acres of leased lands are blocked up together in a combined habitat for elk, buffalo, Rocky Mountain Mule Deer, pronghorn antelope, black bear, and cougar. This vast ecosystem within the ranch was described by an officer of the Nature Conservancy as “equivalent to a National Park-type landscape”.

Guests on the ranch might choose to fish for trophy trout in one of the several lakes, viewbirds of enormous variety, including golden and bald eagles, prairie and peregrine falcons, ride horseback through prairies, timber, and meadows, hike Elk Mountain to its 11,000 ft. summit, take fishing guides to the nearby North Platte and Medicine Bow Rivers, windsurf in the big lake (100± acres), or view big game animals including bison, elk, mule deer, and antelope.

Exploration can include following the seven miles of the original Overland Trail which passes through the ranch, see the stone carvings of the cavalry soldiers, explore around the early pioneers’ log cabins, visit the memorial to the two deputy sheriffs shot on the ranch by notorious bandit “Big Nose George”, watch a horse logger dragging logs through the forest with huge draft horses, explore for arrowheads and artifacts of the pioneer days, catalogue the prolific wildflower varieties, ride horses or hike to the summit of Elk Mountain, and in winter ride snowmobiles to the summit to downhill ski over 3,000 ft. back to a warm fire.

Elk Mountain Ranch is the complete example of “Wild Spaces, Working Places”, where the raising of buffalo mirrors times gone past when all the animals shared the landscape and where man is dovetailing the environment with a working ranch.

Prior to the 1920s, the Wyoming plains were home to the Shoshone Indians, who along with the Northern Cheyenne, the Arapahoe, and the Utes all passed through this area which was then populated by thousands of buffalo as far as the eye could see. These plains are intersected by the majestic Medicine Bow Mountain range running north and south, terminating at 11,156 ft. Elk Mountain, almost all of which is on the Ranch.

A short drive east of the ranch, an early trapper named Jacques Laramee built a cabin at the juncture of the Laramie and Platte Rivers but was killed by Indians around 1820, thus giving the name “Laramie” to the river and the present day town, now a thriving community of 28,000 with shops and restaurants, and home to the University of Wyoming as well as a commercial airport with regular service to Denver.

During the 1850s and 1860s settlers from the east made the long, arduous trek out to open up the west, and the natural route was to skirt the north end of the mountains at Elk Mountain as they followed the Overland Trail from Denver through Laramie to points west.

In order to protect the pioneers from Indian attack west of Laramie, in 1862 the U.S. government built Fort Halleck on today’s Elk Mountain Ranch. Soldiers stationed here were mostly volunteers who chose to avoid the Civil War and go out west to fight the Indians. Remnants of the fort today are the original blacksmith’s shop (Wyoming historical site No. 40), the Fort Halleck cemetery, and Ohio 11th cavalry names chiseled into the rock in the 1860s, and still legible today.There are also artifacts, shell casings, arrowheads, etc

Robert Foote, who had been the Fort’s sutler (provisioner), raised hay and developed early irrigation ditches, along with Michael Quealy, who homesteaded and filed for the first water rights on the ranch in 1866. In the 1890s, the west end of the ranch was occupied by “Frenchy” an early day trapper whose cabin was recently renovated by the present owner. In 1899 a large log barn was built by Quealy which is still used on the ranch. The Quealys farmed hay, ran cattle and sheep, and leased so much federal land that in 1916, when he passed the ranch on to his children, he was running 4,000 cattle and 12,000 sheep on more than 150 sections of land (150 square miles).

After 81 years of ownership, the Quealys sold the ranch in September, 1948 to the Palm Livestock Company, who were to be one of the largest sheep operations in the State. Electrical power first came to the ranch in 1956; and, finally, after the Palms had run sheep and cattle on the ranch for 45 years, they sold to the present owner, Elk Mountain Ranch Co., LLC., only the third owner in its history.

Since that time, the ranch removed the cattle and began a long term project to bring back the historic range of the buffalo so that now there are approximately 600 buffalo resident on Elk Mountain Ranch.

As modern day interest developed for blue ribbon fly fishing, hiking, and horse back riding, the Medicine Bow Mountains drew summer travelers, particularly to the charming town of Saratoga (40 miles south), known for its soothing hot springs which are open to the public even today year around. The quaint streets with western store fronts, restaurants, numerous fishing guides, and world renown fishing on the North Platte are all draws for summer visitors.

In 1962 a group of prominent eastern families founded the “Old Baldy Club” in Saratoga, replete with private 18 hole championship golf course. Today it remains one of the most exclusive private residence resorts in the country, home to numerous business luminaries.

Deeded Acreage:

High mountains and grazing lands:
Sub irrigated meadows/creek bottoms:
Building compound:
Irrigated meadows and pasture:
Sub total:

Leased Acreage **:

Bureau of Land Management (BLM):
State of Wyoming:
Grand total:

approx. 18,307
approx. 2,486 *
approx. 10
approx. 1,238*
approx. 22,041

approx. 8,186
approx. 2,720
approx. 32,947

* According to the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, there are 3,103 acres of adjudicated water rights, more than 80% of which are believed to be the oldest or second oldest waterrights in the State of Wyoming.

** Two lawsuits protect the ranch from public access: When a group demanding access to the trophy hunting on the mountain sued, the Federal District Court ruled the road accessing the mountain must remain closed to the public. The other was a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a ranch nearby which ruled it is trespass if you step over public section corners when private sections complete the corner.

While heavy winter snows accumulate on the mountain, the base of the Elk MountainRanch lies in a “rain shadow”, meaning that the ranch receives little buildup in snowfall around the headquarters and in the lower valley floor where the buffalo graze. Summer temperatures will average in the low 80s with cool nights in the high 40s. Winters will see average temperatures in the mid 20s, but it can drop below zero occasionally. Fall and Spring are wonderful seasons, averaging about 50 degrees.

Though historically operated as a sheep and cattle ranch, the present owner has reverted the ranch to its original range for American buffalo (Plains Bison). While he continues to utilize the early water rights to irrigate the pastures, in keeping with the effort to raise Buffalo in a natural landscape, he does not farm any hay. He also operates a guest ranch limited to family or corporate groups and utilizes an outfitting business for hunters in theFall.

The main ranch headquarters is a classic mix of older ranch buildings with modern upgrades, 2 new guest cabins, and a new 3 bedroom, 2 bath Manager’s lodge. For the business operation, the owner puts up guests in the bunkhouse with 4 bedrooms, 3 baths which is in turn attached to a rustic log trophy room, where everyone gathers in the evening.

There is also a cookhouse with 1 bedroom, 1 bath together with living room and dining facilities for 14 guests. More historic buildings include the old Quealy horse barn (1899), the original schoolhouse, now a guest cabin, and the Fort Halleck blacksmith’s shop dating from the 1860s. Various other ranch buildings are utilized in the compound.

Elk Mountain Ranch, runs from the plains and valley floor at 7,400 ft. to the alpine reaches of an 11,000 ft. peak, described by The Nature Conservancy as “having a National Park- type landscape”. The owner has managed this vast canvas of ecosystems to maximize all the big game species of the historic West in their natural habitat.

According to Wyoming Game & Fish, as of two years ago the ranch was home to an estimated 950 elk, with 275 mule deer, and 250 antelope migrating through during the year. There are approximately 600 buffalo grazing the meadows, as well as black bear, cougars, and a veritable menu of smaller creatures. Bird life includes blue grouse, bald and golden eagles, peregrine and prairie falcons, and numerous species of birds.

In addition, the ranch has 5 fishing lakes, one of which is approximately 100 acres in size and home to trophy rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. During the prior ownership, fishermen paid to become members of a fishing club on the ranch in which they would bring their campers and stay on the ranch to fish these prolific lakes

In 1998, the present owner placed a conservation easement on Elk Mountain Ranch to preserve forever the natural landscapes found so infrequently today. The terms of the easement do not allow public access but restrict the ranch from further subdivision or development except as specified. Future allowed development includes maintaining, or rebuilding, any of the current headquarters’ buildings together with the right to build two new main homes together with ancillary structures on a 79 acre building area deemed by the owner to be the most desirable building spot on the ranch. This area is also nearby the headquarters with a right to construct a road to it. In addition, the owner omitted from the Easement a 5.7 acre area around the off ramp to I-80, and purchased a 960 acre in holding later, also not in the easement.

There is an allowance for logging on the mountain which is done by draft horses (no rubber wheels allowed unless horse drawn). There is also provision for placing 5 temporary structures (eg. yurts, tents, etc.) anywhere on the ranch without permanent utilities.

Elk Mountain Ranch encompasses 51+ square miles (larger than the entire City of San Francisco). Its wild high mountain landscape with vast forests contrasts vividly with its thousands of acres of meadows, streams, lakes, and Laramie plains, home to countless pioneers as they trudged westward for 7 miles along the historic Overland Trail through the ranch. Big game numbers are unusually high for any private property due to very limited hunting allowed, and in which the elk herd has grown almost 4 times its numbers just a dozen years ago.

Whether it is fishing, hunting, hiking, riding, birding, camping, windsurfing, or viewing big game species, this ranch offers all the ecological features so hard to find in a trophy ranch.

With four major peaks, one could explore a lifetime and still not visit all the land on this rare and dramatic landscape.

PRICE: $19,950,000.00

Contact Exclusive listing Broker:
Nick Chickering
The Chickering Company
(530) 426-0440, e-mail nrc@chickeringco.com

co-listed by:
Doug Hart
Hall & Hall Billings, Montana

NOTICE: Offering is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice, and approval of purchase by owner. Information regarding land classifications,potential profits, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have been provided by sources deemed reliable, but whose accuracy we cannot guarantee. Sale may be subject to court approval.