Willow Creek Ranch
Location: McCloud, California
Price: $25 Million – SOLD
Willow Creek Ranch, located on the lower flanks of California’s towering Mt. Shasta, is a 4,000± acre ranch affording total privacy and a host of recreational opportunities for owners and their guests. The varied terrain is laced with a network of 20 miles of riding and hiking trails along with almost 50 miles of private dirt roads, suitable for horse-drawn wagon rides, leisurely hikes, and bike and ATV rides. An outdoor corral and indoor riding arena provide further year-round riding opportunities. Three miles of Squaw Valley Creek, the principal tributary of the world famous McCloud River, flows through the ranch. Several of California’s best trout fishing streams are situated within an hour’s drive of the ranch. A private five-acre lake, situated at the edge of one of the ranch’s several meadows, is an ideal setting for boating, cookouts and relaxing.
The ranch features extensive improvements, with nearly 50,000 square feet under roof. Comfortable housing is available for owners, their guests, and ranch staff, including a welcoming main house with rustic style and ambiance, a two-bedroom, two-bath bunkhouse for guests, and a larger three-bedroom, threeand-a-half bath guest house which could equally be the main ranch house. There is a residence for the ranch manager and a separate house for the horse manager, a main barn with an upstairs apartment, and a horse barn with an indoor arena and two large apartments. Other improvements include a water treatment plant, workshop, a scenic lookout tower, multiple garages, and numerous storage buildings for ranch toys, hay storage, and heavy ranch equipment.
More than 3,000 acres of forested land surround ranch facilities, ensuring tranquility and privacy. The ranch shares a two-mile boundary with Shasta National Forest. Wildlife is abundant, with regular sightings of deer, turkey, quail, geese, and bear.
While California is heavily populated, Shasta and Siskiyou counties, in which the ranch is situated, are lightly populated: only 22 people per square mile. Willow Creek Ranch is a welcome getaway from the rigors of urban life.
Siskiyou County is named for the Siskiyou Mountain Range and is a popular tourist destination because of its natural beauty and recreational resources. Dominated by 14,179 feet high Mt. Shasta, the lightly populated county has less than 45,000 people. Yreka is the county seat.
Like neighboring Siskiyou County, Shasta County is heavily forested and is an extremely popular region for recreation. It stretches from the upper Sacramento valley to the southern reaches of the Cascade Mountain range. Nearly half of its 182,155 residents live in the county seat, Redding.
Willow Creek Ranch is approached from the north, about five miles south of the small town of McCloud. The primary access road enters the property on its east side at the rough midpoint from north-south. The acreage is configured in a large, contiguous block with little chance of intrusions to the privacy it offers. The topography ranges from flat meadows and pastures on the valley floors, then gently rising into the surrounding forested hills and mountains. The south boundary is a two-mile stretch of Shasta National Forest which greatly expands the “backyard” for additional recreational opportunities for additional recreational opportunities.
The two-story main house of approximately 4,228 square feet dates back to the early 1900s, with the most recent major remodel in the late 1980s to early 1990s. The house consists of three bedrooms, three full baths, and two half baths. Built with the rustic charm of cedar siding and indoor paneling, a comfortable living room with open beam ceiling, stone fireplace, and larger picture windows looking out over the ranch and mountains beyond. The formal dining room, state-of-the-art-kitchen, media room, private offices, and outdoor entertaining area with a spa and an inground pool, provide the owners a resort-like feel in the mountains. There are 1,266± square feet of covered porch as well as a 300± square foot open deck.
Located a short stroll from the main house, the single-story bunkhouse built in the early 1990s is the perfect accommodation for guests. It consists of 1,400± square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, and relaxing covered porch (with 800± square feet) for reading or talking about the day’s fishing or hiking stories.
This is one of the original ranch structures dating back to the late 1800s when it was operated as a dairy farm. Today, this 3,216± square foot structure is much more than a barn. It includes the ranch manager’s office, a bathroom, and a modern updated 865± square foot upstairs apartment. It also has a tack room and generator room with an on-demand generator that powers all the main ranch buildings if there is a power failure.
This two-story guest house is a high-end log structure that has 6,905± square feet with a 630± square foot covered porch. It has three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and overlooks Squaw Valley Creek and a small pond. There is a 1,152± square foot detached two-story garage that includes a backup generator for the Pond House.
Horse Manager’s House
This two-story structure with a partial basement (used for storage) includes 2,720± square feet with 490± square feet of covered porch. There are three bedrooms, two and a half baths, and a 576± square foot detached two-car garage.
This three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home is a single-story and includes 1,900± square feet. It is currently used as a manager’s residence. It has an 864± square foot carport and a 152± square foot covered porch. (Not shown in photos.)
Horse Barn And Indoor Arena
This newer structure, completed in 2014, has 22,633± square feet, of which 12,800± square feet are dedicated to the indoor arena. The ten stalls/stables, tack room, office, feed room, bathroom, and the generator room occupy 4,368± square feet, with the remaining 5,465± square feet utilized by two spacious apartments. One apartment is a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with a laundry room and a total of 2,121± square feet. The other is a three-bedroom, two bath unit with a laundry room and a total of 3,344± square feet.
Other Equestrian Improvements
There is a 2,400± square foot shed/storage barn (adjacent to the outdoor riding arena) with three bays, and two hay barns, each of which total 2,700± square feet. There are two stables: a 1,350± square foot four stall stable with loft, and a 700± square foot two stall stable. A 90′ X 180′ outdoor riding arena and 60 foot diameter round pen complete the equestrian improvements.
Other Significant Improvements
One of the more enticing and impactful sites on the ranch is the scenic lookout tower. This 144± square foot elevated structure is modeled after a fire lookout and is a great location to partake in the happy hour!
For those who want to enjoy the lake, a 400± square foot lakeside cookhouse serves as a nice spot to prepare lunch, while the 600± square foot lake boat shed provides helpful storage for water activities. Other structures include a 360± square foot greenhouse to get a jump on the growing season and a 322± square foot museum with a loft.
There are plenty of buildings on the ranch that provide storage and organization. The 1,452± square foot woodshop is located next to the main barn and includes the woodshop as well as a three car garage and carport. There is also a heated and insulated mechanic shop, a 224± square foot saw shed, five storage sheds at 120± square foot each, a 336± square foot one-car garage located next to the old barn, a 774± square foot covered four bay carport, and 160± square foot trash storage area.
Willow Creek Ranch also includes a 748± square foot single-story state-of-the-art water treatment plant that was installed to soften the well water on the ranch to protect the plumbing infrastructure. It also provides a supply of fresh water to the ranch that is as pure as it gets! The ranch also has its own fiber optic service that was installed and strung all the way from the main service hub in McCloud. Each residence and most barns have extensive internet, phone, and security services.
The climate in the McCloud area is typical for a western US mountainous region. Summers are dry, with average high temperatures in the 80s and cool nights dipping down into the high 40s. Winter high temperatures average in the 40s with lows in the 20s. There are 42 inches of rainfall annually, with most of it
occurring between October and April. Snowfall averages a total of 54 inches annually. The area receives 231 days of sunshine each year, which is higher than the national average of 205 days. There are very well-defined seasons here with each offering distinct pleasures and opportunities for enjoyment.
The current owners, a prominent San Francisco family, have used the property as a family retreat and place to share time and build memories with friends for the last 35 years. Their management and focus has been on creating a safe and secure getaway from the city for rest, relaxation, and recreation. Their use has placed a heavy emphasis on equestrian activities, hiking, and fly fishing.
They have expanded the ranch holdings substantially over the years by purchasing a number of neighboring properties as they have come up for sale. In the past, they have had cows on the ranch but not in recent years. Currently, they keep 20-25 horses on site. The owners’ interest in the timber has been
exclusively as an aesthetic resource. As a result, there are vast stands of large timber that hold tremendous value both aesthetically and economically.
More than 3,000 acres of the ranch are forested, with the owners managing the forest for aesthetics and private enjoyment. There has not been any active timber harvesting in their 35-year ownership. Their emphasis has been on maintaining the health of the forest and protecting it by the creation of a network of fuel breaks. A 2021 timber valuation was completed by the owner and it reported a current value estimate for the timber on the ranch. A copy of this valuation is available as part of a buyer’s due diligence. All interested parties should get their own professional opinion on the timber value on the ranch.
Wildlife, Fishery And Recreational Resources
Wildlife on the ranch is plentiful, with deer being the most common resident. Also present are bear, mountain lion, and many bird species. The ranch is a recreational haven where one can find avenue for just about any outdoor recreation available, including fishing, hunting, boating, horseback riding, ATV riding, hiking, cross-country skiing, biking, rock climbing, and more.
Willow Creek Ranch is particularly well-suited to those who love to fish and ride horses. Squaw Valley Creek flows through the ranch for over three miles in a mostly southwesterly direction. The owners have completed miles of stream restoration for better holding water for trout and cleared miles of trails along the creek for easier stream access. This translates to a private wilderness-like setting for the enjoyment of the ranch owners, family, and guests.
Other world-class fisheries nearby include the McCloud River, Upper Sacramento River, Fall River, and the Pit River, all within an hour’s drive. The Klamath, Smith, and Trinity Rivers, all known for their Steelhead fishing, are also within a couple of hours’ drive from the ranch. McCloud Reservoir is just five miles from the ranch, offering boating for watersports as well as more fishing.
Mount Shasta has a small ski resort nearby that bears its name, Mount Shasta Ski Park. Climbing Mount Shasta itself is a technical endeavor that should not be taken lightly. However, there are numerous hikes on Shasta and in the surrounding area that are much more manageable for the casual hiker.
The first known and identifiable inhabitants of Willow Creek Ranch were the Wintu tribe of Native Americans. It is no wonder they chose this peaceful valley for their summer encampments, where they found an abundance of yew trees (used for making bows), game, and fish. Sadly, smallpox took the lives of the great majority of the Wintu in the 1830s. The remaining populations suffered a fate similar to so many other tribes of North America and today there are only about 2,500 Wintu remaining.
In the 1850s, a California poet, Joaquin Miller, spent time on what is now Willow Creek Ranch in a fruitless search for gold. He married a Wintu woman and his writings shed some light on what those days were like. Aside from the Wintu and Miller, it is certain there are others whose stories have been lost to the wind. Those stories would have come from the Modoc and Shasta tribes and the miners and mountain men, all of whom had their days along Squaw Valley Creek. Occasionally, one will find an obsidian arrowhead or flake from a knapping site on the ranch.
In the decades that followed, the McCloud River and the surrounding area found its way onto the radar of wealthy and prominent San Franciscans. They were drawn by the beauty of nature, bountiful wildlife, and world-class trout fishing. Phoebe Apperson Hearst and later her son, William Randolph Hearst, settled at a scenic bend in the McCloud River, just over the ridge from Willow Creek Ranch. They named their elaborate rural retreat Wyntoon, after the local Native American tribe, and hosted prominent guests, including Clark Gable, Charles Lindbergh, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and his son, John F. Kennedy, Jr.
William Franklin Whittier, a prominent San Francisco financier and founder of the firm that became Fuller O’Brien Paints, owned the ranch from 1895 until his death in 1919. His estate sold the ranch to William McPherson Fitzhugh, another San Franciscan who enjoyed fly fishing. Fitzhugh often invited his friend and fellow mining engineer, Herbert Hoover, to join him at Willow Creek Ranch and fish in the nearby McCloud River. Their friendship led Fitzhugh to donate property in Catoctin, Maryland, his birthplace, to serve as a Presidential retreat. It is now known as Camp David.
After Fitzhugh’s passing in 1950 the ranch was sold to a succession of local residents. The current owners purchased the property in 1987 after their first visit to the ranch. They knew it was the perfect place to raise their family and enjoy time with friends. Over the years, they have improved the facilities, built a network of trails, and expanded the ranch to enhance privacy.
Visiting Willow Creek Ranch is like walking into a postcard. Whatever wealth we may accumulate in our lives is meaningless unless we can find joy in the time we can spend with our family and friends. This ranch has served the current owners well as a venue for this joy. Now, another family will have the same opportunity.
An extensive inventory of ranch equipment and vehicles are included in the sale. Additional personal property will be made available for purchase outside of the ranch transaction.
Seller will convey all rights owned by Seller.
The ranch has pre-1914 water rights out of Squaw Valley Creek to irrigate up to 75 acres. All other irrigation comes from water wells on the ranch. Documentation is available upon request. All interested parties should investigate the water rights as part of their due diligence.
NOTICE: The above and enclosed information may be subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, change or withdrawal without notice, and approval of purchase by owner. Information regarding land classifications, acreages, carrying capacities, etc., are intended only as general guidelines and have been provided by sources deemed reliable, but whose accuracy we cannot guarantee. Prospective buyers should verify all information to their satisfaction.