Improving Ranch Values Through River Restoration

Riverfront and live-water land holdings represent some of the most desirable and least abundant ranch investment opportunities in the Mountain West. The persistently limited inventory of “Class  A” ranch properties can present challenges for buyers, forcing them to think outside the box in seeking a suitable streamside retreat.  

For the purposes of this Field Note, we consider Class A river ranches those with stream systems that are balanced in their function including: the ability of these river systems to deposit sediment on inside bends, to maintain pool depth for holding fish during low water periods and that exhibit defined riffles enabling sediment transport and oxygenation are just a few such balanced characteristics. Class A fishing ranches can attenuate the impacts of high runoff years with vegetation which prevents bank erosion and contain defined riffle-pool-run characteristics. Given the infrequent availability and high-income potential of such Class A ranches, transactions generally occur quietly and off-market with buyers waiting in the wings for many years prior to a sale.  

Conversely, ranches with Class B stream resources may be experiencing issues of varying origin that impact the quality of the stream systems as well as the adjacent floodplain. Such issues include excessive bank erosion, a lack of defined pools and riffles, and ineffective transport or deposition of sediment. In terms of impact on trout habitat, these types of streams are limited by water temperature, inadequate levels of dissolved oxygen, lack of suitable spawning habitat and lack of macroinvertebrate diversity.  

Confluence Land Company offers clients the unique experience of working with our strategic partner, Freestone Aquatics, the premier aquatic restoration and enhancement firm in the Mountain West.  This exclusive partnership allows us to quickly and accurately evaluate the improvement potential of a given property, estimate the time and capital required to convert lesser-grade ranch properties to Class A assets, and advise on the income producing abilities of live water assets.  

One example of such stream improvement work is the Abell River Ranch located on the South Platte River near Lake George, Colorado. Freestone Aquatics quickly went through the design-build process to create a very desirable fly-fishing destination for anglers from all over the country. Freestone evaluated the property as purchased, designed features to enhance the trout habitat while maintaining the historic agricultural attributes of the property, and worked with regulatory groups to obtain permits for the project. Based upon Freestone’s findings, a project was conducted to reduce overall channel width, mitigate eroding banks by installing woody vegetation and create a defined low flow channel across the 2.7-mile stretch. As a result, in-stream habitat was greatly improved, the trout population and macroinvertebrate diversity has increased significantly.  

Confluence Land Company is currently representing the sale of the Rogers Mountain Ranch. While this property already offers significant Class A angling opportunities in both onsite ponds and nearby Gold-Medal rivers and reservoirs, there is opportunity to further increase the onsite fishery through a habitat improvement project on Pruden Creek. Currently, Pruden Creek struggles with an accumulation of woody debris, lack of adequate riffle-pool definition, and limited angler access. Freestone Aquatics has already conducted an initial site visit to assess Pruden Creek’s enhancement potential. Thanks to these initial efforts, a new landowner could quickly implement a habitat improvement project and enjoy onsite stream fishing in addition to the property’s existing still water angling opportunities. 

Confluence Land Company and Freestone Aquatics offer over 30 years of combined experience in live-water property acquisition, development, and management. This strategic partnership is unlike any other in the ranch brokerage industry, allowing both buyers and sellers a unique advantage throughout the transaction process. Whether you are interested in purchasing a fly-fishing property of your own, a landowner looking to expand, improve, or divest your fishing resources, or simply want to learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us