Set at the foot of the majestic Zion National Park in southern Utah is the incomparable Trees Ranch with its brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, towering monoliths and grand temples. Meticulously assembled over the years by visionary conservationist owners, the 2,066-acre ranch is steeped in history and abundant resources. It is a treasure trove of scenic beauty resting along the banks of the East Fork of the Virgin River, and surrounded by the National Park and recently designated wilderness areas. Yet it offers convenient access to the charming town of Springdale, commonly known as the gateway to the Park.
In addition to the stunning views and iconic landscapes, the property has abundant natural, agricultural, recreational, historical and cultural resources, and is an ecologically rich working ranch. With 1,856 acre feet of historic and valuable water rights, the ranch has ample water that is pumped through an elaborate underground system of pipes that irrigate over 300 acres on 22 fields that dot the desert landscape with lush irrigated grasses, organic fruit orchards and gardens. The East Fork and North Fork of the Virgin River, Shunes Creek and South Creek meander for over 6 miles through the ranch and the expansive 60 acre Loma Va Reservoir with its dock and boats provides a full range of recreational activities.
The property also exhibits inimitable and original architecture with four homes and ranch buildings reflecting the geology, history and vernacular of the area. Designed by renowned architect, William McDonough, the homes rest near the orchard, fields and rivers, and utilize pressed adobe-like block, rocks and timbers made from local materials. In addition, there are a cabin, bunkhouse, office, and other ranch structures as well as a packing barn and market for the orchard. With an attention to detail, red dirt roads were designed to follow the contours of the land and weave throughout the ranch with multiple bridges crossing the rivers and streams. To protect the views and maintain the character of the wilderness aesthetics, over 30 miles of power, phone and irrigation lines have been buried beneath the roads.
Located on the Colorado Plateau, and bordering the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert, the ranch’s unique geographic location and variety of life zones combine to create a diversity of habitat for a surprising array of plant and animal species. Mule deer and wild turkeys coexist and browse the canyons, fields and cottonwood and locust lined river corridors, while big horn sheep, peregrine falcons, condors and desert tortoise enjoy the solitude of the National Park’s protected environs. There are numerous cultural sites within the property including pre-historic Anasazi ruins and the pioneer settlement of Shunesburg explored by John Wesley Powell in 1872 as part of western surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Experience solitude and explore your own national park setting complete with private canyons, mesa, buttes, parks, rivers, creeks and streams and discover the adjoining Zion National Park and Canaan Mountain Wilderness. Grow your own certified organic fruit and try your hand at your own vineyard with rich soils, abundant water and 300 days of sunshine. Or simply rest and enjoy the iconic nature of your surroundings, the architecture, and scenic beauty of this private sanctuary.
While the ranch is conveniently accessed off the Zion Scenic Byway it is unique in its quiet and solitude. The property is practically surrounded by public lands with over 9 miles of common boundary with Zion National Park, Canaan Mountain Wilderness and BLM land. The Trees Ranch currently leases 9,630 acres of adjoining BLM land and 720 acres of Utah State land for grazing.
The property is located entirely within Washington County and approximately 80 acres are also located within the town of Springdale. The property is zoned agricultural in Springdale with the remaining portion in Washington County zoned OSC (Open Space Conservation) with a majority zoned OST (Open Space Transition) a holding or transition zone which allows agricultural uses.
- The ranch’s unique geographic location and variety of life zones combine to create a variety of habitats for a surprising array of plant and animal species. Sitting at the boundaries and meeting points of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, Basin and Range and Mojave Desert geographic zones, animal life in the area is vast and varied. Many animals take to burrows or dens in the heat of the day, or choose to be nocturnal and use our hours of slumber to live upon the landscape in cooler temperatures. Mule deer and turkey wander forested plateaus and up canyons grazing the many fields and streambeds while desert bighorn sheep forage in canyons. Other species in the general area include mountain lions, golden eagles, Peregrine Falcon, Mexican spotted owl, California condor, and desert tortoise.
- Trees Ranch is located along the edge of a region known as the Colorado Plateau. The rock layers have been uplifted, tilted, and eroded, forming a feature called the Grand Staircase, a series of colorful cliffs stretching between Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon. In an area from Zion to the Rocky Mountains, forces deep within the earth started to push the surface up. This was not chaotic uplift, but very slow vertical hoisting of huge blocks of the crust. Zion’s elevation rose from near sea level to as high as 10,000 feet above sea level starting 13 million years ago. At various periods in that time warm, shallow seas, streams, ponds and lakes, vast deserts, and dry near-shore environments covered the area. This uplift gave the streams greater cutting force in their descent to the sea. Zion’s location on the western edge of this uplift caused the streams to tumble off the plateau, flowing rapidly down a steep gradient. These streams began eroding and cutting into the rock layers, forming deep and narrow canyons carried away several thousand feet of rock that once lay above the highest layers visible today. The geology of the area Uplift associated with the creation of the Colorado Plateaus lifted the region 10,000 feet (3,000 m).
- The ranch has a diversity of plant communities and varying amounts of sun and water, as well as species from the Colorado Plateau, Basin and Range, and Mojave Desert. Desert shrubs are well adapted to high temperatures and throughout the summer, grasses bloom and go to seed before drying in the sun, and numerous types of cacti are abundant. Common plant species include cottonwood, cactus, juniper, pine, boxelder, sagebrush, yucca, and various willows. The arid grassland and desert shrub communities give way to the pinyon-juniper community, a desert forest full of life. These slow growing evergreens are both cold and drought tolerant, supporting a diversity of wildlife to rival the riparian areas. Juniper trees, being more drought tolerant, dominate the transition zone between the lowland communities and the pinyon-juniper forests. In the higher reaches of the ranch one can find ponderosa pines.
Trees Ranch includes inimitable and original architecture with four homes and ranch buildings reflecting the geology, history and vernacular of the area. Designed by renowned architect William McDonough, the homes rest near the orchard, fields and rivers. Many utilize pressed adobe-like blocks, rocks and timbers made from local materials. The main entrance to the ranch is located just off of the highway near the confluence of the East Fork and North Fork of the Virgin Rivers and contains the main fruit orchard and the supporting fruit market and fruit packing barn. Resting along the eastern edge of orchard is the first of four homes on the ranch.
Amidst the tree orchards lie House One, the market store, and fruit packing. House One is a two story three bedroom, 2.5 bath home with approximately 1,600 square feet that adjoins the main fruit orchard. The home has a timber/rock exterior with shake roof and covered porch and patio similar in design to House Two and Three. The home includes wood flooring, wood counters, custom cabinets, plaster walls and fireplaces. The fruit market is a 1,100 square foot free standing timber/stucco store that adjoins the highway. The owners have operated this as a store to allow park visitors an opportunity to pick organic fruit in the orchards and to purchase fruit juices from the ranch, sandwiches and other snacks. There is a covered porch and wooden deck around the entire exterior of the building. Located nearby is the fruit-packing barn used to sort, pack and store apples. The 5,900 square foot building has a loading dock, sorting equipment and a covered outdoor packing area.
The private main access road curves along the orchards and cottonwood lined rivers and various river crossings to reach the main part of the ranch. After passing the main office and the first hay field, the road rises and then falls providing an expansive view of the private East Fork Virgin River valley that comprises the Trees Ranch. Just below this hill at the foot of the valley floor and near the banks of the East Fork lie House Two and Three. Using pressed adobe-like block made from local materials; volcanic cinders or aggregate, sand, and cement with iron oxide for pigmentation; the builders of House Two and Three took a ‘green’ approach to construction. The interior has wood plank floors, hand-hewn beams, and four-panel fir doors. The building is naturally cooled by design utilizing a passive heating/cooling style.
House Two is set off the road near the boundary of the Zion National Park. The covered front porch is further shaded by large cottonwood trees and provides views of the Eagle Crag to the south. House Two is a two -story, three bedroom, and 2-bath home consisting of approximately 1,771 square feet. Like three of the other homes, it has wood floors, plaster walls, custom cabinets, wood counters and two fireplaces and a covered front porch and patio. House Two has been primarily used as the manager’s home. Situated just a little further down the road above the banks of the East Fork of the Virgin River is House Three. Almost an identical twin to House Two it has more privacy and includes adjoining gardens and direct access to the river. It has a similar layout as House Two but its front porch sits higher affording views across the East Fork and beyond into the Canaan Mountain Wilderness.
Leaving House Three the road heads east crossing the East Fork of the Virgin River through irrigated sycamore tree lined meadows to the corrals and tack shed and beyond to House Four, the largest and most stunning home. The approximate 3,321 sq. foot, 4 bedroom and 3.5 bath home sits on a small protected bluff above the banks of the East Fork of the Virgin River and overlooks the pioneer settlement of Shunesburg and beyond to the Parunuweep Canyon of Zion National Park. Inspired by an abandoned home built in 1865 by the Mormon settlers, renowned architect William McDonough was contracted to design an environmentally oriented structure. In contrast to most modern construction methods, the timbers of the structure are of mortise and tenon joinery.
In addition to the timbers the exterior of the home includes precision carved stonework from indigenous rock from the area. There is a large covered porch in front and an expansive patio in the rear of the home with pathways down to the river. The home is characterized by a large great room combining the kitchen, dining and living room all with windows providing views of the incredible scenery that envelopes the ranch. The master room, master bath and study flank the great room to one side with three additional bedrooms, two baths and utility room on the other wing. The home also has an infinity pool just steps away from the home cut within a hillside and rocks overlooking the Virgin River valley below.
Continuing past House 4 the road splits providing access to three unique areas including: the 60 acre Loma Va reservoir, the South Creek drainage and the Canaan Mountain Wilderness; the north bank of the East Fork of the Virgin River with the pioneer settlement of Shunesberg and access to Zion National Park; and the far east side of the Trees Ranch with the remote cabin and bunkhouse. The cabin and bunkhouse sit in a wooded oasis along Shunes Creek at the foot of Shunesberg Mountain and directly adjoins Zion National Park. Water is supplied by vibrant and pure spring and the area surrounding the cabin compound is well irrigated and includes a small rock pool. The two bedrooms and one bath cabin has wood floors, rock fireplace and a small kitchen with dinning area. A small one bedroom pod connects to the cabin by a breezeway and the one bedroom bunkhouse is just steps away.
Elevation ranges from 3,750 to 4,600 feet above sea level. Vegetation varies from the irrigated alfalfa, hay, orchard grass and milo to shrubs and cottonwoods lining the rivers and streams and juniper, pinyon and cedar trees.
The climate in the area allows for full year-round use and enjoyment of the ranch. Spring weather is a mixture of wet days, as precipitation is heaviest in March mixed with occasional warm, sunny weather. Wildflowers bloom from April through June, peaking in May. Summer days are hot and in the upper 90’s, but overnight lows are usually comfortable between 65°F to 70°F. Afternoon thunderstorms are common from mid-July through mid-September and storms can produce waterfalls as well as flash floods. Fall days are usually clear and mild with cool nights and autumn tree-color displays usually peak in late October. Winter is fairly mild, and storms bring rain or light snow to the ranch. Clear days may become quite warm, reaching 60°F and nights are often 30°F.
The Trees Ranch adjoins the town of Springdale, Utah, the gateway city and main entrance to the Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah. It is 45 miles east of St. George, Utah, 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada and 300 miles south of Salt Lake City, Utah. The adjoining Zion National Park is part of the Southwest’s “Grand Circle” of national parks, monuments, historic areas, and recreation areas – one of the world’s great concentrations of outstanding natural and cultural features. Bryce Canyon National Park and Cedar Breaks National Monument are within 85 miles; the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is 95 miles; Lake Powell is 115 miles and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument is 130 miles away.
Travelers coming via Interstate 15 from California/Nevada or Salt Lake City will find the ranch is just 30 minutes away from the Interstate along State Route 9, the Zion Scenic Byway. Others coming from Arizona or Colorado may access the ranch through the east-gate of Zion National Park via highway 89. There is an international airport located in Las Vegas, Nevada, and St. George offers the largest airport in southern Utah, with regularly scheduled commercial flights by Delta Airlines, connecting through Salt Lake City, and by United Airlines, connecting through Los Angeles. SkyWest Airlines flies the Delta and United connections.
The ranch and general area is rich in history dating back to the Archaic period (approximately 6000 B.C.- A.D. 500), where small groups hunted game and collected wild plants, seeds, and nuts across the broad expanse of the Great Basin and western Colorado Plateau. This mobile lifeway left few traces in the archeological record, with the exception of materials recovered from dry caves and a few deeply buried sites. Within a few centuries, small-scale gardening had intensified into the full time horticulture that typifies the Virgin Anasazi and Parowan Fremont (A.D.500-1300). They established year round habitation sites signaling the importance of corn in the diets of both groups. Virgin Anasazi sites typically occur on river terraces along the Virgin River and its tributaries, overlooking the fertile river bottoms where corn, squash, and other crops could be grown. Parowan Fremont sites are found along stream courses and near springs. Both the Virgin Anasazi and the Parowan Fremont disappear from the archeological record of southwestern Utah by about A.D. 1300. Extended droughts in the 11th and 12th centuries, interspersed with catastrophic flooding, may have made horticulture impossible in this arid region. Soon after, Numic-speaking cousins of the Virgin Anasazi, such as the Southern Paiute and Ute Paiute peoples brought a lifeway fine-tuned to desert seasons and thrived. The newcomers migrated on a seasonal basis up and down valleys in search of wild seeds and game animals. Some, particularly the Southern Paiute, also planted fields of corn, sunflowers, and squash to supplement their diet.
The Historic period begins in the late 18th century with the exploration of southern Utah by Padres Silvestre Vélez de Escalante and Francisco Atanasio Domínguez. The padres passed near what is now the Kolob Canyons on October 13, 1776, becoming the first people of European descent known to visit the area. In 1825, trapper and trader Jedediah Smith explored some of the downstream areas while under contract with the American Fur Company. In the fall of 1861, Brigham Young called a group of people to settle in southern Utah. This group consisted of a number of people including Oliver DeMille who purchased some land along a small creek from an old Paiute Indian chief named Shunes also know as Shones. A town site was laid out and a settlement commenced which the people called Shunesburg or Shonesburg. The population grew to 45 by 1864.
The pioneers built dams and tried to tame the unpredictable Virgin River and dug irrigation ditches and cleared the fertile land. They planted orchards, vineyards, corn, cane, cotton, and other crops, but it was 1865 before they finally had a good harvest. Frequent raids by Navajo and Paiute Indians make it unsafe for this handful of people to remain and in the spring of 1866, the settlers from Shunesburg, Springdale, and Grafton moved to Rockville for mutual protection. After all the families were safely settled in Rockville, the men would go in groups to their farms with whatever firearms they could muster up to protect themselves. By 1868, the Indian troubles had subsided and some of the original settlers returned to Shunesburg. The community prospered and the population peaked at 82 in 1880. In 1872, John Wesley Powell and the Powell Geographic Expedition explored the area as part of western surveys conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. Powell actually traveled down the East Fort of the Virgin River in Parunuweep Canyon and visited the town of Shunesberg. Over the years as the flooding of the river washed away farmland, the Shunesburg settlers moved on, mostly to Rockville. Shunesburg was gradually abandoned. By 1897, there were no longer enough children to hold a school. By the year 1900, only Oliver DeMille was left and he moved to Rockville in 1902. A 1904 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed 35 acres of land under irrigation in Shunesburg. Today, only the DeMille rock house, a cemetery, and some rock ruins remain.
Surrounded by the towering cliffs of Zion National Park lies the charming town of Springdale, Utah. Originally settled as an agricultural community, the town has transitioned to cater to the visitors and residents of the adjoining National Park. Springdale has a wonderful downtown district with stores and shops and is well known for having fine restaurants, shopping boutiques and art galleries and a great selection of bed and breakfasts, inns, motels and hotels. Forbes Traveler has named Springdale one of the 20 prettiest towns in America, and from town, you can gaze into Zion National Park to view many of the well-known rock formations or stroll along the banks of the Virgin River. St. George is known as “Utah’s Dixie” because of its temperate climate. Mild winters make it ideal for resorts, spas and golf year-round – 10 of Utah’s best courses are located in St. George. The city is the business and cultural center for SW Utah, and is a major gateway to nearby parks and also serves as the County Seat for Washington County.
Recreational opportunities on Trees Ranch and the adjoining National Park and Wilderness Area are unlimited. There are trails throughout the ranch for hiking, horseback riding and biking many of which lead directly from the ranch to Zion National Park and the Canaan Wilderness where you can explore areas in solitude since there is limited access to the general public. The ranch contains many of the same attributes and characteristics of the surrounding Park and Wilderness, making it seem like you virtually have your own National Park. There are over 6 miles of tree-lined rivers and creeks for fishing, floating, hiking and ridings and Loma Va Reservoir provides swimming, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing and fishing. Extending beyond its borders and up stream from the ranch, the East Fork of the Virgin River and Shunes Creek have been designated as Wild and Scenic.
The ranch includes stables, corrals, small riding arena and tack room located along one of the many lush irrigated meadows near the East Fork of the Virgin River. There are numerous trails and dirt roads weaving throughout the property providing endless hours of trail riding and many of these trails lead to the surrounding Park and Wilderness area providing unlimited trails for the novice and expert rider. Other recreational activities include rock climbing, canyoneering, rappelling, hunting and fishing.
With Zion Nation Park out your back door, there are unlimited places to explore. Parunuweap Canyon is the canyon of the East Fork of the Virgin River upstream from the ranch. It is as impressive as the popular Zion Narrows but set in a more remote and wild environment and it receives virtually no visitors, partly as the lower half, within Zion National Park, has been closed for many years by the NPS as a Natural Research Area to protect natural habitats and act as a study area. A Paiute word meaning roaring water canyon, Parunuweap becomes extremely narrow as it carves its way deeper into the sandstone and it has a number of slot canyon tributaries. At some places, the river rushes between walls that are only 20 feet apart, and tower hundreds of feet over the riverbed. Parunuweap is loved by many canyoneers and hikers for its rugged beauty, its lack of noise and crowds, and the thrilling challenge of a long, strenuous wade/climb through one of Zion’s marvelous narrows. There are few adventures that can compare with a trip through Parunuweap, one of the Southwest’s most outstanding canyons.
The Canaan Mountain Wilderness immediately to the south contains the lofty and eerie Eagle Crags located along the ridge of the Vermillion Cliffs. Trails lead from Trees Ranch to the crags where one can view entire ranch a d spot the historic Shunesburg settlement in the distance and the slickrock plateau of Canaan Mountain. From the southern end of the ranch one can see various peaks extending to the skyline including: Shunesburg Mountain, Johnson Mountain, De Mille Peak and Zion’s Watchman, Mount Kinesava and West Temple.
With its abundant water rights the ranch currently grows a mixture of apples, alfalfa, grass hay, and milo. Storage rights out of Loma Va Reservoir that is fed by South Creek supply most of the water to the ranch. The 60-acre lake was constructed in 1989 and includes a pump house that is situated just below the dam. The pumping system delivers the water to numerous fields through an elaborate system of over 14 miles of underground pipelines and a system of valves to coordinate the efficient use of the water. Each field has a system of risers with guns attached to disperse the water.
For over a millennium, the ranch’s fertile virgin soils and abundant pristine water has been farmed organically by the Anasazi, the Piute, the Mormon settlers, and for over 25 years by the current owners. With orchards situated in a beautiful canyon along the Virgin River, surrounding Zion National Park, organic fruit is enriched by warm sunlight, clear skies, cool nights, and a long 230-day growing season. Kept on the trees until fully ripened, the apples are widely acclaimed for their rich and succulent flavor.
The main orchard is located near the entrance of the ranch just off of Highway 9. The headquarters includes a retail market that offers the fruit and juices grown on the ranch as well as sandwiches and other items. Nearby is the packing barn where the picked produce is separated and packaged for shipping. This ranch is the first organic apple farm in Utah and is renowned for its high quality. At one point many of the fields were covered with fruit trees, but many reached maturity and the orchards were converted to grasses and milo. The fields can easily be converted back to orchards and studies have shown that the soils and climate are the perfect mix for vineyards.
Real estate taxes for 2009 were $14,177.
The ranch has abundant water with close to 1,860 acre-feet for irrigating the many fields and has springs and city water for domestic use. Most of the water is from South Creek which flows north out of the adjoining Canaan Mountain Wilderness and is then held in the 60 acre Loma Va Reservoir. The water is then pumped underground to the various fields spread throughout the ranch. Close to 60 acre feet of the total comes from springs. A detailed summary of these water rights is available upon request.
All mineral rights will be conveyed to the buyer.
The Trees Ranch currently has some horses and leases 9,630 acres of adjoining BLM land and 720 acres of Utah State land for grazing that combined allow for 160 AUM’s.
Zion National Park adjoining the ranch has recently been expanded and it has been designated as wilderness; this, coupled with the adjoining Canaan Mountain Wilderness, virtually assures the pristine nature of the ranch forever. The adjoining stretches of the East Fork of the Virgin River and Shunes Creek are also now designated as ‘wild and scenic’, and the adjoining Parunuweep Canyon is a ‘natural research area’, as well. Basically, you can’t ask for better neighbors or protection than this, and this 2,066-acre property is infinitely bigger as a result.
Jim Trees, a conservationist and founding member of the Grand Canyon Trust, and his visionary partner dedicated themselves to creating a national park of their own while maintaining the agricultural and cultural traditions of the Anasazi, Paiutes and pioneer settlers who farmed the ranch’s fertile virgin soils with pristine waters. Less than 10% of the ranch is protected by a conservation easement, leaving a blank canvas for the next owner to add their mark and continue the tradition of exemplary stewardship.
In addition to access and adjacency to the Park and Wilderness, the ranch’s significant conservation values include scenic vistas; geological diversity; healthy riparian corridors with Utah’s first Wild and Scenic designation on adjoining rivers and streams recognizing the Virgin River watersheds’ outstanding natural values; high-quality terrestrial and aquatic communities with natural habitat for rare, endangered and threatened native fish, wildlife and plants; and significant historical and cultural areas such as the Shunesburg settlement and traces of the Virgin Anasazi and Paiute Indians.