Steamboat Springs One of the best angling spots on the Yampa River is back on the market for $28 million - and just 22 months after it sold for $19.4 million.
Realtor Brian Smith, of Hall & Hall, has co-listed the Yampa Tailwaters Preserve 514-acre ranch with Randall Hannaway, of Colorado Group Realty. The listing is on behalf of Alpine River Club and investors in a private fishing operation. The property straddles the Yampa River where it pours out of the Catamount Dam, about seven miles south of Steamboat Springs.
The ranch formerly was known as the Norton "Gonk" Jacobs/More Family Ranch.
"There's just nothing else on the market (in the Mountain West) like this," Smith said.
The combination of proximity to airports and a developed ski resort, while still offering a secluded private trophy trout stream 10 minutes from the ski gondola, makes Tailwaters Preserve unique, Smith said.
Ironically, it's the dam that allows that two-mile stretch of the Yampa upstream from the Colorado Highway 131 bridge to grow trophy rainbow trout. The term 'tailwater' is applied to a stream flowing out of a dam. The result is, the water temperature stays relatively consistent year-round, allowing the cold-blooded fish to feed throughout the winter and allowing fly fishers to pursue them with dry flies, even in the depths of winter.
The year-round angling is what attracted Alpine River Club operator Donny Beaver. Among the investors are Hank Wilton, who is the principal in the proposed 360 Village development west of Steamboat and has other development interests in Steamboat.
Hannaway, who has worked with Wilton on other developments, said about half of the buying group is people interested in the fishing and half is people interested in a joint venture to bring about light development on the site.
"The plan was never for a long-term hold," Hannaway said. "The premise is clearly for a legacy property. The climate isn't ideal for any development in and around Steamboat, or anywhere in the country for that matter."
Also taking an equity stake in the project were brothers Jarett and John Duty, of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters, an Orvis-affiliated fly shop in Steamboat.
Alpine River Club was established in Vail in 2007. It is an adjunct to the established Spring Ridge Club near College Station, Pa.
The business model for the current owners is not to develop real estate but to sell fishing memberships allowing members access to a variety of exclusive trout-fishing waters, a representative said in March 2008. The initial fee is $85,000, and annual dues were set at $7,700 in March 2008. The majority of the members also hired fishing guides to accompany them on outings.
Smith said the current owners think they can tie up more miles of trout stream on behalf of their members by selling Tailwaters Preserve and using the proceeds to acquire less expensive properties.
"They had a lot of equity in one property, and selling it would allow them to acquire other properties for their portfolio," he said.
John Duty said fishing guides affiliated with his shop actively have been taking clients to Tailwaters Preserve this summer, and the ownership group is testing the market. He said he and his brother largely are spectators when it comes to the sale process.
Smith said the $8.6 million gap between the 2007 selling price and the current asking price can be explained in part by the fact the current owners had the property under contract, after a couple of extensions, for two years at a time when Routt County property values soared. The property previously had been under contract once and fallen out before the Alpine River Club group tied it up.
"I think it was a pretty good value for a property that is both unique and very appealing," Smith said.
Comparables are difficult to find, he said, but he points to the July 2008 sale of 27.3 acres along the Frying Pan River near Basalt for $12 million (almost $439,000 per acre). Like the Yampa River listing, the one-mile of the Frying Pan within the property is a tailwater flowing out of Ruedi Reservoir and has large populations of trout.
Smith said he showed the property twice in July and has a showing scheduled this week.
He doesn't expect that the likely buyer will be a real estate developer.
"It's all about fishing. The speculators and developers are pretty absent from the market right now," he said. "They're occupied with marketing what they already have."
Instead, the buyers are likely to be avid fishermen who value the undisturbed nature of the property, he said. They might build a few secluded houses, he guessed, but wouldn't be likely to be developers seeking to maximize the development potential.