- Within an hour and a half of Denver, and less than one hour to Breckenridge
- ½ mile of private fishing on Michigan Creek
- Scenic mountain views
- Surrounded by additional fishing, hunting, and other recreational opportunities as well as National Forest access
- Historic improvements including homestead, restored barn, and bunk-house
- High-elevation grasses provide summer grazing
Whitten Ranch is a recreational mountain getaway with rich history. Situated just three miles west of the town of Jefferson, Colorado, the property lies in the northeastern corner of the scenic South Park Basin. The ranch is characterized by its high elevation pastoral setting and affords easy year-round access. Whitten Ranch features private fly-fishing on ½ mile of Michigan Creek, which has been expertly restored to provide exceptional trout habitat. Many recreational opportunities abound in the area and the property falls in close proximity to the million-acre Pike National Forest. The ranch’s improvements consist of historic barns and outbuildings, and a modest but nostalgic turn-of-the-century homestead house that once served as the headquarters of the larger ranch that originally encompassed more than 2,000 acres.
Whitten Ranch is located in the large high-altitude basin of South Park. The property is situated directly off of Highway 285 in between the small rural towns of Jefferson and Como. Fairplay, the valley’s largest town (population 610) is 17 miles to the west and offers most modern amenities. South Park has a storied history and is known for its extensive array of recreational opportunities. The area is conveniently located in close proximity to the more densely populated cities throughout the Front Range, making it a popular retreat for outdoor enthusiasts.
At an approximate elevation of 9,500 feet and lying on the northern end of the South Park Basin, Whitten Ranch is set at the foot of towering 13,000-plus foot mountains. The property is characterized by the mostly flat and open nature of the valley floor. The property’s pasture grows high-altitude native grasses that are great for summer grazing of cows. Michigan Creek meanders for more than a half-mile through the ranch on the north east corner of the property. The area surrounding the creek is a healthy riparian ecosystem thanks to the meticulous stream restoration by the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and maintenance by the owner. The creek is protected on both sides by a fence that was built to county standards.
Whitten Ranch features historic turn of the century improvements that were erected by the original homesteaders. The ranch house contains 1,800 square-feet and 2 bedrooms and 1 bath along with a kitchen and parlor. This home has been well maintained and modernized while still hanging on to its rustic charm. A 1,400 square foot storage and horse barn has been restored and is registered as a Historic Site with Park County. It is estimated the barn was originally constructed around 1920. Other outbuildings include a 100-year old bunkhouse and small storage garage.
Whitten Ranch was a prominent and well know South Park cattle ranch. Albert and Clara Whitten homesteaded the original 160-acres in the late 1870s. By 1880, the Whitten family had constructed the home that still sits on the property today. Soon thereafter, the family built an irrigation ditch diverting water from Michigan Creek in order to harvest grass hay.
The early days on the Whitten Ranch were prosperous. The proximity of the railroad to the ranch clearly contributed to the success of Mr. Whitten’s hay operation. Hay could be easily loaded onto railroad cars and quickly transported to Hartsel or Leadville. In 1883, the Fairplay Flume sang the praises of the Whitten Ranch, declaring:
“For rapid improvement, few ranches will equal that of Mr. A. H. Whitten, which occupies a tract of level ground near the South Park railroad between Jefferson and Como. A year ago when the reporters visited this place Messrs. Whitten and Geddes were just fencing and building. Now the ranch has good buildings, corrals, fences, ditches and a fine hay meadow, yielding a rapidly increasing crop.”
Subsequent owners further expanded the ranch, which eventually encompassed more than 2,000-acres. As times changed, the land continued to flourish as a cattle and hay operation for the better part of the 20th century. In the early 1970s, due to an increasing demand for domestic water east of the Front Range, the ranch’s water rights were purchased and separated by a Denver municipality along with many other water rights developed by South Park ranchers.
- Average annual precipitation: 13.6 inches
- Average annual snowfall: 84 inches
- Average January Temperature: Low: 9°, High: 28°
- Average July Temperature: Low: 44°, High: 80°
Whitten Ranch features over a half-mile of private fly-fishing on Michigan Creek. Until recently, the property was a favorite destination for members of the private Rocky Mountain Angling Club. This fishery has been professionally restored with willow-lined embankments; the development of several pools, riffles, bends and holes that predominantly hold feisty browns and some rainbow trout. The stream is a dry-fly haven in the summertime, where an angler can easily fill an afternoon with 8-14 inch trout sipping on the surface. With a 3-weight fly rod, this can be a lot of fun. The creek is also a wonderful place for beginners and children.
Upstream of the property is the 950-acre Teter-Michigan Creek State Wildlife Area (SWA), which offers an additional stretch of fishable water. The Cline Ranch SWA is also just a few miles away and offers fishing access to Tarryall Creek. Also within a short drive from the property are Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Antero Reservoir, and the South Platte River.
Located within GMU 500, Whitten Ranch offers trophy hunting and qualifies for landowner vouchers. A large elk herd is typically found moving through the valley in the fall, and they often take up residence on the property. Big game hunting opportunities in the nearby National Forest and other public hunting areas are amongst the best in the state. Area reservoirs also offer good hunting for waterfowl.
Skiers will appreciate the year round enjoyment of the ranch with Breckenridge Ski Resort under an hour away. Other winter pursuits include snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing.
Other recreation includes hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and boating.
The property is well suited to be developed for horses, with ample pasture and nearby riding trails.
The ranch offers approximately 270 acres of prime grazing on native high-altitude grasses. The current owner has been leasing the pasture to a local rancher during the summer months. The property has good perimeter fencing and a set of central corrals.