The ranch consists of one of the largest single blocks of senior and privately owned water rights in the Colorado River and Yampa River basins. These include 95 cfs of direct flow rights and 3,560 acre feet of storage, and historical annual consumption averages of approximately 2,811 acre-feet. These senior direct flow and storage rights represent a physically and legally reliable water supply that is optimally located for storage and downstream direct use. Almost all of the water rights are senior to both the 1902 Shoshone Power Plant priority and the 1922 Colorado River Compact making it one of the most reliable sources in the region and a logical candidate for conservation and contingency planning purposes for those relying on Colorado River Basin supplies. These rights are so significant that the ranch was selected to participate in a unique pilot project described below. These rights are decreed for multiple uses including municipal, domestic, irrigation, industrial, commercial and augmentation. The storage rights are located in three on-site reservoirs and four off-site reservoirs west of the ranch.
In 2014, the Upper Colorado River Commission (“UCRC”), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and four major water providers who depend on Colorado River Basin supplies launched the System Conservation Pilot Program (“SCPP” or the “Pilot Program”) to test methods for conserving water that could be part of a drought contingency plan in the Upper Basin of the Colorado River. The Pilot Program seeks to explore the effectiveness of temporary, voluntary, and compensated measures that could be used, when needed, to help maintain water levels in Lake Powell above the elevations needed to protect Colorado River compact entitlements and maintain hydroelectric power production. In 2018, Porcupine Ridge Ranch was selected to participate in the Pilot Program and will receive $421,650 in exchange for voluntarily reducing consumptive use of its water rights and fallowing 1,941 acres of irrigated hayfields. This is one of the largest awards given to a single property in Colorado and outlines a model of what’s to come if ranchers and farmers take advantage of the opportunity while they can. In addition to this income from the Pilot Program, the owners are receiving $100,000 for leasing the grazing and hunting rights for 2018.
The ranch is located in northwest Colorado within the verdant Yampa Valley between Steamboat Springs and Vail Valley, just east of the 235,000 acre Flat Tops Wilderness Area, Colorado’s second largest wilderness area. Situated between two of Colorado’s largest ski resorts, the Yampa Valley offers some of the best hunting and fishing in the state with picturesque ranches and lush meadows set against the backdrop of the Flat Tops. The adjoining 2.3 million acre White River National Forest offers unlimited recreational opportunities. The ranch also borders the rural community of Toponas, and is 40 miles south of Steamboat Springs, 45 miles north of Beaver Creek and Eagle County Regional Airport, and 150 miles from Denver. Small retail stores, restaurants and cafes can be found 10-15 minutes away in Yampa and Oak Creek, while a host of hotels, restaurants, bank and medical services can be found in the resort communities of Steamboat Springs and Avon.
The improvements on the ranch are focused on the productive nature of the property and include four modest homes as well as agricultural outbuildings. The homes include: 1,624 sq. ft. modular home with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms; a 790 sq. ft. log home (metal roof) with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom; a 924 sq. ft. ranch home with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom; and a 1,399 sq. ft. ranch home built in 1940 with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.
Other improvements include a 1,500 sq. ft. shop, two log barns and a connecting shed, hay and livestock sheds and a vintage 432 sq. ft. horse barn with a loft. The ranch has a set of good quality working corrals, covered livestock scale, stack yards and loading chute. It is fenced and crossed fenced and includes a 3,500 foot dirt runway that can easily be expanded. The ranch also offers improved gravel driveways, extensions of electrical service, two septic systems, a domestic well and a spring for domestic water.
The ranch is ideally located between the Vail Valley and Steamboat Springs along State Highway 131. The nearest services are located in the adjoining small town of Toponas. More extensive services are located 21 miles south of the ranch at Wolcott or 8 miles north in Yampa.
Vail is one of the premier year-round resort destinations in the world with noted skiing complimented by wide-ranging amenities and first-class services. Steamboat also offers similar amenities but on a smaller scale and a more western aesthetic. Both areas offer world class skiing, with great restaurants, shopping and medical facilities and excellent recreational amenities including hunting, fishing, hiking, golfing, snowmobiling, mountain biking and rafting.
The ranch is located just 45 miles from Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), which offers direct flights to and from 11 major American cities including Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. Steamboat Springs and Beaver Creek Resort are 40 miles north and 45 miles south, respectively, of the ranch via State Highway 131, and the Denver metro area is just 150 miles from the ranch via I-70.
The ranch sits primarily in the Egeria Creek drainage at an elevation of 8,200 feet rising to 9,513 feet on the west side along Porcupine Ridge. There are approximately 60 frost free days per year at this elevation and the climate is characterized by cold winters and cool summers. Mean values for precipitation is 16.4 inches/year with 120 inches of snowfall. February is the driest month, and August is the wettest.
Recreational pursuits on the ranch and surrounding area are numerous. The ranch is located in one of the best elk hunting areas in Colorado and offers fishing on the property and on the nearby Colorado and Yampa Rivers as well as hundreds of streams and lakes in the adjoining White River National Forest.
The current owners have invested over $800,000 in stream and fishery habitat improvements to approximately one mile of Egeria Creek flowing though the center of the ranch. The remaining creeks hold trout as do the 42 acres of lakes/ponds located on the ranch. Given the abundance of water and length of streams additional habitat and fishing lakes/ponds can be created. Also there are 945 acres of wetlands and several other ponds on the property offering habitat for waterfowl, upland birds and big game. The adjoining Flat Tops Wilderness Area includes some 110 lakes and ponds and 100 plus miles of fishable streams. In addition, the famed Colorado River and Yampa River are just minutes away.
There are tremendous hunting opportunities on the ranch and on the surrounding National Forest. The ranch is very close to the Flat Tops and a steady flow of elk can be seen traveling from the National Forest to the ranch. It is not unusual to see a 100 elk a day on the ridge on the western portion of the property. The elk that are on the property are part of the White River Elk Herd, the largest in the state. The ranch is situated within GMU 26, and typically they harvest 8-10 bull elk on the ranch each year. In addition to elk, there are mule deer, pronghorn, moose, black bear, as well as waterfowl, upland birds (including sage grouse) and small game.
Approximately 2,000 acres of the ranch are comprised of irrigated hay meadows. Most of this is flood irrigated, but there are 2 pivots irrigating 182 acres. The remaining acreage in sub-irrigated pasture, dryland grazing, wetlands and woodlands. The owners have historically entered into annual hay and grazing leases with a local rancher and retain termination rights given the property is for sale. It is estimated that the ranch will support between 500 to 600 pairs year-round. In addition, there is a hunting/fishing lease that is also terminable. Current agricultural and hunting income is $100,000 annually, but could be significantly increased through hay lease income if the ranch were to choose not to participate in the SCPP, which is generating an additional $421,650 of income in 2018. The ranch currently leases out the operations so no livestock or equipment is included in the sale.
The ranch consists of one of the largest single blocks of senior and privately owned water rights in the Colorado River and Yampa River basins. These include 95 cfs of direct flow rights and 3,560 acre feet of storage, and historical annual consumption averages around 2,746 acre-feet. These senior direct flow and storage rights represent a physically and legally reliable water supply that is optimally located for storage and downstream direct use. Almost all of the water rights are senior to both the 1902 Shoshone Power Plant priority and the 1922 Colorado River Compact. These rights are decreed for multiple uses including municipal, domestic, irrigation, industrial, commercial and augmentation. The storage rights are located in three on-site reservoirs and four off-site reservoirs west of the ranch.
All mineral rights owned by the Seller will be conveyed, including 100% of the mineral rights to approximately 4,400 net mineral acres.
The ranch has strong conservation value and is vitally important for sage grouse habitat, water resources, riparian and wildlife habitat, wetlands, agricultural production open space and scenic values. There are a number of protected properties adjoining Porcupine Ridge Ranch and in the surrounding valley, and funding has been used to purchase such easements. A conservation easement was placed on 2,050 acres of the ranch with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources through Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2006. The easement protects various conservation values including habitat for Greater Sage Grouse, Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse. Significant state tax credits and federal deductions could be generated through donating an easement on the remaining property.