Big Bend Station is a tremendous recreational and agricultural jewel located on the South Platte River on Colorado’s Front Range. The property is as diverse as its historical past. Named for the big bend the South Platte River takes and the stagecoach station that once operated on the property, this property is truly special. Featuring over a mile of warm water sloughs, wildlife attracting wetlands, and adjacent to over 2 miles of the South Platte River, the property is a magnet for waterfowl. With over 100 acres of cottonwood-covered river bottom, whitetail deer and turkey have all the habitat they need to flourish on the property.
Conveniently located in the heart of the Front Range, the property is easily accessed from any of the metro areas – 44 miles from Denver, 32 miles to Fort Collins and 13 miles from Greeley. The property lies in the very agriculture rich Weld County. Access is directly off of Highway 60 just south of the South Platte River Bridge.
The Big Bend Station site served as a station on the Overland Stage Route as early as 1859. It was the first station southwest of Latham and the first station north of Fort Lupton. Nineteenth century transportation entrepreneur Ben Holladay purchased and renamed Overland Stage Line in early 1862. Big Bend was among the swing and feed stations, chosen for its recognizable location at the bend in the river. By summer Native American troubles obliged the Post Office Department to relocate Overland stations on the South Platte, and Col. John Chivington and Territorial Secretary Samuel Elbert ordered Holladay to run his stagecoaches along the “Cut Off Route” from Ft. Morgan to Denver, a route more easily defended against Indians. Lumber then scarce, Big Bend Station’s roughhewn house, barn and corral were relocated sixty miles away. Meanwhile, others formed companies to build toll roads and bridges along the Platte. Today’s two-story structure south of the twin bridges, still known as Big Bend Station, was constructed as a tollgate in 1864.
From Denver, the South Platte pushes northward until it reaches a low spot in the High Plains. Only then can it turn eastward and find its way to the Missouri and the Mississippi, and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. Big Bend Station is one such low spot. The behavior of the river in this valley, flanked by low hills of soft bedrock, is an uncertain and ever-changing exertion, held in check by newly bioengineered riverbanks. Its meanders, which attract bountiful wildlife, are the normal business of rivers with a low gradient. Many rivers the world over look like and behave like this; most all have by now become irrigated farms. A front-row seat on these eddies and swirls, though, is marvelous. – The Man Who Thought He Owned Water
The historic main house at Big Bend Station was built in 1864 but was upgraded and lived in by the owners’ parents until recently. It is 2,957 square feet and features 2 stories with plenty of light. The house has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and two offices. There are two garages and a cute little 520 square-foot guest cabin. This historic house would make a great hunting cabin for an owner or guests.
The Ranch Manager’s House was built in 1915. It is 1,056 square feet with 2 bedrooms and one bathroom. The improvements at this location include a 1,440 square foot utility building as well as 4 pens for livestock. Lastly, the Caretaker’s house is a 1,088 square-foot ranch that was built in 1909. This set of improvements includes a 320 square foot utility building and livestock pens.
The Overlook Office, which sits above the beautiful wooded river bottom and warm water slough, was designed as just that by the owners’ father. Ironically, the owners say that whereas the Overlook has a ½ bath and kitchenette, their father never added a phone. The mystery remains whether it was really an office or just a tranquil setting to watch wildlife and get away from ranch chores!
On average, there are 243 sunny days per year in Platteville, Colorado. The July high is around 90 degrees. The highest monthly average temperature in Platteville for July is 74 degrees. The lowest monthly average temperature in Platteville for December is 21 degrees. Average precipitation is 15” of rainfall and 40” of snow. The most monthly precipitation in Platteville occurs in June with 2 inches. The hot season lasts for 3.2 months, from June 7 to September 14, with an average daily high temperature above 80°F. The hottest day of the year is July 13, with an average high of 89°F and low of 59°F. The cold season lasts for 3.1 months, from November 21 to February 25, with an average daily high temperature below 51°F. The coldest day of the year is December 30, with an average low of 18°F and high of 41°F.
The amount of habitat and water resources for waterfowl hunting on this property is staggering. Over 13 acres of wetlands and a mile of sloughs are the magnets for ducks. In addition, the adjacent South Platte River attracts geese in large numbers. A deeded 4-acre Island in the South Platte also offers a great set up for decoys and cover. The property’s corn crops provide a feed source that migrating ducks and geese can’t resist. A regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited studied the property and was impressed with all of the potential to further enhance wetlands and waterfowl habitat on the property. The biologist said that approximately 50 acres could be utilized for expanded shallow water wetlands and wet meadow pasture to benefit migrating waterfowl. After studying the property, the DU biologist exclaimed that “the property is truly a gem.”
The cottonwood timbered riparian area provides great habitat for wild turkeys and whitetail deer. The diversity of crops, water sources and significant cover truly provide everything that wildlife need to flourish on the property. The current owners have not regularly hunted the property for many years. As a result, the wildlife have developed a sanctuary of sorts on the property. For the ambitious outdoorsman, the property offers great potential to further enhance the habitat, food sources and water sources to attract and hold more animals.
South Platte River
Colorado’s Northern Front Range South Platte River is comprised of some of the most productive agricultural land in the state. Weld County is the 9th largest agricultural producing county in the nation and the largest producing county in the nation outside of California. From the foothills of the Rocky Mountains across the Great Plains to the Nebraska border, this landscape also encompasses some of the state’s most significant wildlife habitat, including the coveted Central Flyway. Water from the South Platte River system sustains a $4.5 billion a year agricultural industry, and supports critical habitat for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl each year.
The property has 200 acres of farm ground including 120 acres that are pivot and flood irrigated. With the addition of pivots and ditch improvements the full 200 acres could be irrigated. Crops are currently planted in corn, alfalfa and winter wheat. Milo could also be planted adjacent to the wetlands to enhance duck habitat. The property currently yields up to 180 bushels of corn and 80 bushels of wheat.
The ranch is currently leased to an excellent long-standing tenant farmer who would be interested in continuing his lease. The sellers currently have a 50/50 crop-share agreement with the tenant that is on a year-to-year lease.
Not currently operated as a cattle ranch, the property historically supported rotational grazing. There are a series of livestock pens on the property. The river bottom pastures are prime grazing opportunities. Currently, the owners utilize a 40-acre pasture for horses.
The water rights on Big Bend Station are very valuable. A senior right on the Western Mutual Ditch and exclusive rights to the Big Bend Ditch are ample to irrigate the farm ground and support habitat for the wildlife. The property carries 8 shares of the Western Mutual Ditch with a priority date of 1866. The average yield of the Western Mutual Ditch is 6.15 acre-feet daily.
The 3 shares of the Big Bend Ditch have a priority date of 1874. The property is the sole owner of the Big Bend Ditch. The ditch has the right to divert 3.48 cfs which equates to 6.9 acre-feet daily. In 2016 the owners filed a conditional water right to irrigate wildlife habitat and wetlands below the Big Bend Ditch.
There is one High-Capacity Irrigation Well that is in an Augmentation Plan with a priority of 1930. In addition, there are 4 High-Capacity Irrigation Wells that are not in an Augmentation Plan with priority dates of 1933, 1934, 1954 and 1957.
Seller is retaining all of the mineral rights.
The property is unencumbered and would be a prime candidate for a conservation easement. Various entities have approached the owners in the past expressing interest in an easement including Ducks Unlimited.