By Katie Morrison
Past, present and future roll into one moment across the landscape of grassy hills and wetlands near the western border of Yellowstone National Park. A bison cow treads across an open meadow toward the lakeshore, preparing to birth her new calf on a chilly, sun-filled morning in May. She made this pilgrimage to her natal ground, along with a herd of more than 400 other bison, to continue the cycle.
An eagle soars overhead scouting for trout, which are rising to feed on the hatching midges, and a lone coyote scampers up the hillside into the nearby aspen grove. Snowcapped mountains loom in the distance, melting into the Madison River below.
This blink in time has been repeated here every spring for centuries. The mother bison’s eye holds both the prehistoric past along with the vision of her calf’s future.
Yellowstone Ranch Preserve hosts this ephemeral scene. A privately owned property just five miles from Yellowstone National Park, the 753-acre ranch is held in a conservation easement with Gallatin Valley Land Trust.
“Yellowstone Ranch Preserve provides some of the highest quality and secure wildlife habitat, winter range, and scenic open space of any property in the vicinity,” says Penelope Pierce, Executive Director for GVLT. “The easement on the ranch protects these values from unmanaged development and ensures that people and wildlife will continue to thrive and coexist.”
The combination of open, recreational and developable spaces within the property create richness by blending natural history with modern accessibility. The ranch is an opportunity to create the harmonious environment of a healthy ecosystem unified with comprehensive amenities, both existing and yet to be imagined.
Yellowstone Ranch Preserve encompasses Theodore Roosevelt’s great vision of recreational enjoyment in nature. A marina completed in 2009 provides access to Hebgen Lake, known for its exceptional trout fishing, waterskiing, kayaking and paddleboarding. Miles of mountain-biking and hiking trails surround the property, which is bordered by Forest Service land.
Tucked into the southeast corner is the understated Whiskey Jug cabin. Modern and comfortable, utilizing the area’s natural elements, it invites you to cozy up to the rock fireplace, tell stories over dinner, and rest under the moonlit sky.
The Latin term “sui generis” aptly suits the property. Yellowstone Ranch Preserve is “of its own kind.” The land holds a rich history; inhabited by a diverse ecosystem of wildlife and flora, with native tribes, explorers, fur trappers, and ranchers occupying intervals in its storied past. In recent years the preserve was utilized as a guest ranch, then a family lodge.
Now, Yellowstone Ranch Preserve is itself in a rare moment, full of new possibility with a plan to conserve its most valued benefits and anticipate the next sculptor who will create their own legacy.
This story was first published in the summer 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.