Mill Creek Ranch
Location: Los Molinos, California
Price: $29.5 Million – SOLD
This Tehama County, California cattle ranch, including 25,614+/- deeded acres, is comprised of pasture, foothills studded with blue oaks, and wilderness. It borders huge blocks of public land including Lassen National Forest and the Ishi Wilderness Area. The Nature Conservancy’s Dye Creek Preserve also shares a boundary with the ranch. An immaculately maintained 7,388 square foot Spanish Colonial home sits on an elevated plain with a sweeping view across the range with Mt. Lassen’s snow capped peak looming in the distance. Other improvements include a foreman’s house, ranch manger’s house, caretaker’s house, barns and cattle facilities. Mill Creek, a major Steelhead and Salmon spawning ground, and home to wild Rainbow Trout, flows through the ranch for over 15 miles. Wildlife abounds with bobcat, mountain lion, hawks, eagles, turkeys, quail and one of the largest deer herds in the State migrating through the ranch. Water rights are extensive and fully adjudicated. The ranch is divided into 211 parcels and is ripe for a conservation easement. Carrying capacity is estimated at 500 head of cattle. The ranch is 15 miles southeast of Red Bluff and its jet-capable airport.
Mill Creek Ranch is located on the eastern edge of the small ranching community of Los Molinos, California (population 2,000+) in the upper reaches of California’s Sacramento River Valley. The property is accessed directly off Tehama-Vina Road just east of Highway 99. Red Bluff (population roughly 14,000), the Tehama County seat is just 15 miles north of the ranch. Red Bluff has a municipal airport (KRBL) with a 5,700 foot runway at an elevation of 348 feet above sea level. With flights from Las Vegas and San Francisco, United Airlines services Chico (CIC), the home of Chico State University, less than 30 miles from the ranch. United Airlines also services Redding (RDD), California one hour from the ranch. Sacramento International Airport (SMF) is approximately 2 hours from the ranch and is serviced by a number of airlines. The San Francisco Bay Area is a 3 hour drive from the ranch.
The Northern Sacramento River Valley is rich in its farming and recreational appeal. Crops include walnuts, olives, and many row crops, including strawberries. Large cattle operators also use the productive grasses in the surrounding foothills for their winter range. The recreational aspect of this area is mainly based around horses, hunting and fishing. The world famous Redding Rodeo and the Red Bluff Roundup are two of the best known gatherings for horse enthusiasts. In addition to the large migrating deer herds, hunters seek out pigs, quail, turkey, dove, and migrating ducks and geese. The Sacramento River with miles of boating has some the best salmon and steelhead fishing in the country. Also close by are Lassen Volcanic National Park, Mount Shasta, Shasta Lake and the Trinity Wilderness.
The ranch is accessed from its western end at an elevation of 240 feet above sea level. Mill Creek flows in a southwesterly direction along and inside the north boundary of the property as it descends from snow-capped Mount Lassen in the Pacific Cascade range. Big Dry Creek forms the southern boundary. The creek bottoms at the lower end of the ranch are lined with Sycamore and Cottonwood trees flanked by groves of Valley Oak and Blue Oak. In between the riparian zones of the north and south there is a vast expanse of annual, native grasslands referred to as “Vina Plains” that provides abundant winter feed for wildlife and cattle. The main home is sited at the western edge of the plains. With the exception of the caretaker home at the front gate, all other improvements are located in a loose cluster near Mill Creek closer to the north boundary. Traveling east from the plains the terrain becomes more rugged and rocky with the dominant landscape feature being Mill Creek Canyon. Scrub Oak and Live Oak become the prominent trees in this area with very few conifers mostly consisting of Digger Pines. Mill Creek Canyon is full of splendor with sheer rock faces and steep slopes covered with grass and a myriad of seasonal wildflowers. Mill Creek itself rushes through the canyon tumbling over rocks and through narrow crevices.
25,614 deeded acres, more or less (211 parcels)
200+ acres irrigated pasture
10,000+ acres Flat to Rolling grass lands
15,000+ acres Rolling to steep oak and pine covered range land
Behind wrought iron gates and past a large courtyard fountain, the ranch’s main home stands like an oasis at the western end of the 25,614 acres. The Spanish Colonial estate consists of 7,388 square feet in addition to over 6,000 square feet of covered outdoor living area. Hand-hewn beams, doors and trim set the tone for the quality of finish. Handcrafted alder graces mirrors and cabinets. The exquisite tile work in the kitchen and master bath, depicting ranch scenes, was painted and fired by a local artist. Polished marble seamlessly tops the counters. Wrought iron accents serve both form and function. An authentic mission bell greets visitors from the campanile in the courtyard.
The great room is just inside the main entry and includes a huge fireplace, comfortable seating, a large story-telling bar and pool table. The kitchen has a massive center island, three refrigerators and all expected appliances. “Smart House” panels control security, climate and entertainment systems. There are also video monitors for the two entry gates. Off a large hall are two spacious guest suites, utility and storage rooms, a guest powder room and utility mud room and bath including a dog shower. The hall terminates in the over-sized and heated three-car garage.
The master wing, accessed through large double doors on the north side of the great room, consists of a fully equipped office, his and hers bathrooms and dressing areas, and a stately master bedroom with large bay windows overlooking the helicopter pad and the entire ranch. A convenient door leads to the heated spa. A private second story retreat can be accessed from the master wing as well. Breath-taking views of ranch and mountains can be seen from the 30’x70’ heated swimming pool.
Under the house, the mechanical room houses compressors for nine zones of air conditioning. All household heating, pool and spa equipment and piping are readily accessible. There is a water filtration system and a large emergency generator here as well.
The owner’s residence is supported by three other houses. A residence for the caretaker also serves as a gate house with video and intercom to the main house. The three bedroom foreman’s home and garden are at the northwest corner of the ranch accessible by private road. Older bunk houses for ranch workers are nearby. Just down the road from the foreman is the former ranch house, now serving as a charming two bedroom ranch manager’s house. Several large barns and other out buildings used in ranch operations are located in this compound.
Red Bluff, 15 miles north of the ranch, records average high temperatures ranging from the mid-50s in December and January to the upper nineties in July. Average low temperatures range from the high 30s in December and January to the mid-60s in July. Annual average precipitation is 24 inches with the bulk of that coming from November through March. With the exception of the midday heat at the height of the summer the climate is quite comfortable year round.
The ranch’s carrying capacity is estimated at 500 head. It currently does not run its own herd of cattle. Instead, grazing is leased out to a larger livestock operation running mostly black white faced cattle. The herd is calved out in the fall during the months of September and October. If run as a winter range operation, the ranch can typically carry around 1,200-1,300 head. The winter range season runs from mid to late October through late May to early June. Feed is best April, May and June.
The headwaters of Mill Creek begin as trickling snowmelt on the southern slopes of Lassen Peak. Springs, seeps and seasonal streams in the foothills contribute their share, until eventually rivulets become a 60-mile-long, year-round, whitewater creek winding its way down to join the mighty Sacramento River. The Mill Creek watershed drains an area of about 134 square miles, within Tehama County. Confined within a steep-sided, narrow canyon, with occasional mountain meadows, Mill Creek boasts the longest free-run salmon water course in California. Over 15 miles, or fully one quarter of the entire waterway, is within bounds of Mill Creek Ranch.
Numerous stock ponds and reservoirs are scattered about the vast ranch, some served by the irrigation system. The ranch has well documented and fully adjudicated water rights from Mill Creek (details available upon request). The houses are served by private water wells.
Mill Creek Ranch is a part of what The Nature Conservancy calls, “one of the largest un-fragmented and most biologically diverse landscapes in California,” in reference to their Lassen Foothills Project. Native grasslands, pine and oak woodlands, Blue Oak Savannah, Chaparral, and riparian corridors interweave to create a lush tapestry of habitat. Animal species sighted on and near the ranch include Quail, Golden and Bald Eagles, Pine Marten, Mountain Lions, Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs, Redtail Hawk, Beaver, Spotted Owl, Great Horned owl, Woodpeckers, Western Pond Turtle, Bobcat, Beaver, Peregrine Falcon, Otter, Rough Skinned Newt, Pacific Treefrog, Wild Turkey, Boar, Black Bear, Great Blue Heron and even White Pelicans on occasion.
The East Tehama Migratory Deer Herd is the largest migrating population of deer (35,000-40,000) in the state. They come down from higher elevations in fall and inhabit the lower Mill Creek watershed throughout the winter and spring foraging for acorns and green grass. Riparian corridors become breeding grounds in winter and the dense woodlands provide secure cover.
Mill Creek supports Fall Run Chinook Salmon, Spring Run Chinook Salmon, Central Valley Steelhead, some Brown Trout and mainly wild Rainbow Trout in most reaches on the ranch. “Mill Creek as it flows through the Mill Creek Ranch is an extraordinarily prolific, rare native fishery. The stream and its surrounding lands are breathtaking. The fishing, by all accounts, is even better. Through careful and enlightened management this precious resource should provide habitat for native species, as well as outstanding fishing, indefinitely. I have rarely seen such a tantalizingly attractive trout stream.” Stephen Trafton, California Policy Coordinator, Trout Unlimited (2001)
In addition to the hunting and fishing mentioned above, other recreational activities include horseback riding, hiking, four-wheeling, riding ATV’s, and trap shooting.
Mill Creek Ranch is replete with history. Mt. Lassen to the east and Mt. Shasta to the north, both dormant volcanoes, have witnessed massive changes to the human landscape over the years.
Lassen Trail – The Lassen Trail was broken in 1848 by a Danish immigrant, Peter Lassen, who yearned for an empire like John Sutter’s to the south. He advertised his trail as much safer than the treacherous route undertaken by the Donner Party, and for five years, scores of wagon trains and prospectors followed it. The Lassen trail conveniently led through Lassen’s Land Grant holdings, right up to the doorstep of his trading post in the town of Vina. Unfortunately, due to inhospitable terrain, hostile natives, and a steep, rugged pass over the Warner Mountains, his trail was not measurably safer than any of the others that led into California. In addition, it was longer, extending migrations into the dangerous winter months. Word got around, and immigrants began to choose more direct southerly routes in the state, especially once gold fever hit. The Lassen Trail became rarely used. The Trail cuts a northeasterly route through Mill Creek for 20 miles or so. In fact, this high, narrow, rough road is the ranch’s only vehicular access to the backcountry. Archaeological surveys have revealed substantial physical evidence of the trail’s heyday on the property.
Ishi – On a warm summer day in 1911, “Ishi”, a living anachronism and the last surviving member of the Yahi Indian tribe previously thought to be extinct for a generation, walked out of the Mt. Lassen foothills and into the 20th Century. This fascinating and primitive man lived the remainder of his life at the University of California in San Francisco, assisting scholars in understanding his language and culture. Ishi returned to visit the area in 1914, shortly before his death. Companions from the University accompanied him, and together, they were able to compile a rich trove of knowledge about the life ways of Ishi’s people and the landscape that had sustained the Yahi’s indigenous culture for millennia. Ishi’s memory is honored by the preservation of 41,000 acres of Yahi homeland as public wilderness, bearing his name, adjacent to Mill Creek Ranch. The largest concentration of petroglyphs known to exist in the Southern Cascades was discovered along Mill Creek, and countless archaeological artifacts documented on the ranch are a testament to long occupation by Ishi’s people.
There are two zoning classifications pertaining to the ranch. The majority of the ranch is zoned Upland Agricultural District (U-A) under the Tehama County Zoning Code. The purpose of the U-A classification is to support grazing by operators and protecting them from incompatible uses. Permitted uses include livestock grazing, agricultural production, residential accessory to agricultural purposes, low intensity commercial recreation (hunting, fishing, riding, hiking, boating, etc) and mineral exploration. Minimum size parcel is 160 acres or vested nonconforming parcels. A narrow portion of the ranch, along the western boundary and adjacent to Los Molinos, is zoned Exclusive Agricultural District (E-A). This zoning classification supports similar permitted uses for the purposes of supporting crop production. Minimum lot size is 40 acres, or vested nonconforming parcels.
The property consists of 211 legal parcels. Building permits for single-family residences on any of these parcels are subject to proof of sewer and water capability and fire protection requirements.
2010-2011 Property Taxes were approximately $48,623.42. Approximately 90% of the ranch is in the Williamson Act (California Land Conservation Act of 1965), for reduced property taxes for those portions of the ranch that are used for agriculture.
Five cubic feet per second of adjudicated water rights from Mill Creek.
All mineral rights owned by Seller will be transferred with the sale.
There is a substantial inventory of personal property that is included in the sale. An inventory will be provided upon request. Larger items include numerous vehicles (including 2 ATVs), shop equipment, all furniture, and a D-4 Caterpillar.
Mill Creek Ranch is a true legacy ranch. Its massive size provides a collection of diverse habitats from the grasslands in the lower regions to the rugged, rocky terrain of the higher elevations. Mill Creek Canyon, with its stone monoliths and cliffs, and the water flowing through it is an unparalleled resource. The land is a continuing mystery and marvel; emerald green in winter and flaxen gold in summer. In short, this is a precious, unspoiled terrain in a landscape that can be found only in California.
TERMS: Cash at closing.
Terry Hundemer at 530-265-5774 or 530-913-8095 for more information or for a private showing. Co-listed with Bill McDavid of Hall and Hall.
NOTICE: Offering is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change orwithdrawal without notice, and approval of purchase by owner. Information regarding land classifications,potential profits, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have beenprovided by sources deemed reliable, but whose accuracy we cannot guarantee. Sale may be subject to court approval.