River, land, seclusion

The Elk River Ranch offers it all

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As mountain valleys fill up with homes and developments, it's hard to find secluded, riverfront properties close to resorts.

But that's exactly what's offered at Elk River Ranch, a lush spread of hay meadows and willows intersected by a three-quarter-mile stretch of the Elk River.

The 600-acre ranch, which includes a carefully designed ranch compound, is about 10 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

"Nowhere else can you get such a great property so close to town," said broker Brian Smith of Fay Ranches Inc., which specializes in marketing, selling and managing ranches and recreational properties throughout the West.

Elk River Ranch is on Routt County Road 54, west of C.R. 129. The property includes 120 acres of irrigated timothy hay and alfalfa meadows. The land produces an average of 372 tons of timothy hay per year.

The alfalfa meadows, as well as miles of sage-covered bluffs, overlook the ranch from the west side of the river. Fencing and cross fencing on the property is in good condition for horse or livestock grazing.

The ranch carries extensive water rights, and that water is apparent in spring-fed irrigation channels that meander near the river and throughout the eastern portion of the property. Waterways near the compound, lined with river rock, feed a lake and numerous ponds.

Throughout the ranch, the channels evolved into mini-streams surrounded by thick willows and riparian vegetation that attract deer, elk, birds and trout.

The river, of course, offers premier fly-fishing opportunities on the ranch where limited cattle grazing has not affected wildlife habitat or river health.

Tributaries, deep pools and riffles host mostly rainbow trout and some brown trout that average 14 to 16 inches.

Although many properties boast good fishing, Elk River Ranch lives up to the claim, Smith said.

"This is one that truly is a spectacular fishing property," he said.

The ranch compound is in the northeast portion of the property. The 3,500-square-foot main house has four bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms, as well as an office and oversized two-car garage.

High ceilings and large windows accentuate the open feel of the home, which includes top-quality appliances, a wine closet and wet bar. Walls and floors in the home are finished with Brazilian mahogany.

New owners will enjoy expansive views of the surrounding valley from several porches and a roof-top observation deck.

A saloon-style lodge on the property provides spacious and fun quarters for guests. The home has three bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a 12-foot bar, kitchen, billiard area, exercise room and office.

Ranch owners carefully rebuilt the original log homestead on the property, constructed in 1894, maintaining its rustic exterior and including modern interior finishes that match the main house. The homestead serves as a ranch manager's house.

The ranch compound also includes a rustic, one-bedroom cabin, and various workshops and outbuildings for equipment and vehicle storage. The property also features an old-style barn with modern amenities such as heated tack room, bathroom and room for hay storage or possibly an apartment.

All buildings were designed with complementary exterior finishes, retaining the old-style ranch character throughout the compound. Irrigated and well-maintained grounds and light graveled drives and walkways separate buildings.

"Everything flows together really well," Smith said.

Elk River Ranch provides a variety of options for buyers. The property includes a Routt County special-use permit for a recreational resort or guest ranch accommodating six guests for as long as 30 days.

With multiple fishing and hunting opportunities, future owners might consider making the ranch into a sporting club, Smith said.

Elk River Ranch is not protected by conservation easements, though it has very high conservation value, he said.

"The key, and what we hope someone would do, is protect at least a part of it with conservation easements," Smith said, noting that large adjoining ranches are protected from development by the easements.

Based in Bozeman, Mont., Fay Ranches' ultimate goal is to work with buyers interested in protecting high quality ranch or recreation properties.

In addition to educating buyers about the benefits and logistics of conservation easements, the company also helps buyers understand other pertinent details such as water and mineral rights, access issues and agricultural leases.

The company even created a sister operation, Fay Management, Inc., which offers design, construction and management services. The management company's staff of experts also manages game herds, builds fisheries, restores or improves streams and conducts other projects enhancing the recreational value of a property.

Elk River Ranch is being offered at $11.5 million. For more information, call Smith at 1-800-238-8616.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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