An ecological and geological jewel, the Lower Ranch at Cross Mountain lies west of Craig, Colorado near Cross Mountain and the entrance to the Dinosaur National Monument in Moffat County. The ranch is named after the nine mile long and 8,000 foot high Cross Mountain that towers above the irrigated fields and pastures of the ranch. This portion of the overall ranch consists of 27,566 deeded acres that adjoin and are intermixed with over 113,000 of acres of Bureau of Land Management and State land, on which they hold grazing permits for sheep and cattle. In addition to habitat for livestock, the area is also known for its critical range for big game including elk, mule deer and antelope and is home to one of the largest migratory elk herds in North America.
The Lower Ranch is part of Cross Mountain Ranch, one of Colorado’s premier ranches that effectively balances livestock production, agriculture, water resources and wildlife management.
Located in an astonishingly beautiful and serene river corridor adjoining thousand foot high yellow and red sandstone canyon walls, the Yampa River winds its way through the property for 11.8 miles and the Little Snake River for 5.85 miles, and the confluence of the Yampa River and Little Snake River occurs on the property as well. The ranch is blessed with valuable water rights and owners are entitled to pull water directly from the river to irrigate meadows and pastures that rest alongside the rivers. These rights are recognized as some of the most senior water rights on the Yampa River Basin and by themselves represent a long-term investment opportunity.
Climatically and biologically the Lower Ranch is part of the Great Basin Desert, but its weather, plants and animals are more diverse than the term desert suggests. Surrounded by high elevation peaks the climate is Mediterranean with high relative humidity and moderate seasonal moisture. Summer temperatures can range from 60 to 90 degrees but in the winter the temperatures can drop from 32 degrees to zero. Sunlight warming the canyon walls contributes to thermal warming of the soils and bedrock as the base of cliffs. This is desert or semi-desert and it is dry with average annual precipitation from a low of 10 inches to up to 13 inches depending on altitude.
The Lower Ranch is just west of the cowboy town of Craig, the county seat of Moffat County, where one can find all the conveniences of town including grocery, hotels, and medical care.
The Yampa River is one of the last largely natural and untamed river ecosystems in the entire Colorado River drainage. The river canyon is extremely popular with white-water boaters and the river contains unique and endangered fish species. Adjoining the ranch to the west downstream on the Yampa is Dinosaur National Monument with its colorful sandstone canyons and cliffs rivaling those of the Grand Canyon and encompassing some of the nation’s richest archaeological resources.
Spanning western Colorado and eastern Utah, Dinosaur National Monument exists in a cradle of North American history. Captured here is one of the world’s largest concentrations of fossilized dinosaur bones. and includes over 210,000 acres of scenic river canyons, mountains, basins and archeological sites. The area includes an interesting blend of wildlife, wilderness, solitude, and history that has changed little over the last 1,000 years.
The least dammed river in the Colorado Basin, the Yampa flows 250 miles from the Flat Tops Wilderness to the Green River, in Dinosaur National Monument. Along the way, it nourishes one of the finest riparian corridors in the West, including extensive cottonwood forests along the middle and lower river. This rich corridor of the lower Yampa is home to elk, mountain lion, coyote, mule deer, beavers and numerous songbird species.
The high desert lower portion of the ranch contains critical range for big game offering trophy hunting for elk, mule deer, and antelope. The Lower Ranch is located within Unit 10, a draw only trophy area and also Unit 11 that offers over the counter archery and rifle tags for elk. The Lower Ranch receives 1-2 elk tags every three years in Unit 10 and 1-5 deer tags in Unit 11. This section of the ranch is also home to herds of antelope, and receives 2-3 tags in Unit 11 and 13 annually. Hunting is permitted on the thousands of acres of BLM land that adjoin the Lower Ranch.
The Yampa River is the last undammed tributary of the Colorado River system, and its free-flowing waters surge through cauldrons of big, untamed Class III and IV rapids. For three months a year (May-July), the Yampa River flows free with fresh, surging run-off from miles above carrying paddlers through colorful canyons. The 1,200-foot-deep vertical-walled Cross Mountain Canyon, renowned for its white water and Class V rapids adjoins the ranch and one can put in just above the canyon and take out below all while staying on the property. The put in access for the coveted rafting trips down the Yampa River to the confluence of the Green River is within the Monument.
The Lower Ranch at Cross Mountain is a well balanced sheep operation with livestock handling facilities, water resources, and grazing. Along with deeded 27,566 acres of designated grazing land, the ranch also has a public land grazing lease that permits 7,900 AUMs on adjoining public land.
Currently, the ranch is operated as part of the Cross Mountain Ranch, and is primarily used as winter pasture for 5,000 sheep and 1,000 plus head of cattle.
Water is king on the Lower Ranch and offers 12 miles of the Yampa River and 6 miles of the Little Snake River. The ranch has valuable and historic water rights that irrigate over 1,427 acres of meadows and pastures that rest alongside these rivers. More details are available to qualified prospects.
This is truly one of the most unique ranches in the West and it is spectacular in its beauty, geology, history, recreation, and wildlife habitat. In December 2014, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, along with multiple other organizations, established a 16,000-conservation easement to protect key sage grouse habitat on the Lower Ranch at Cross Mountain. This effort was a part of the larger state-wide attempt to preserve grouse habitat supported by Governor John Hickenlooper, who said, “Thanks to the family of Cross Mountain Ranch and their neighboring ranch families, we’re seeing the power of voluntary conservation to keep the vast sage grouse lands intact where it matters most in our state and nationally.”