Listing of the Week: A Labor of Love—Chugwater Creek Ranch

Wyoming's Chugwater Creek Ranch blends ranching and sporting opportunities with a great respect for frontier history.
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Standing in front of a stone house that dates back to the West’s pioneer era, Wyoming rancher David Berry gazes toward the low, rolling hills that surround the headquarters of Horse Creek Cattle Co., a sprawling cattle hunting and fishing operation located in southeast Wyoming, 30 miles northwest of the state capital of Cheyenne.

Creeks cut between pine-covered hills and meander through pastures, where cattle graze under a limitless blue sky. The occasional stray antelope wanders into view, and in the distance, the landscape transitions to mountains and rugged canyons. There’s not a neighbor in sight and, here in this setting, it’s easy to imagine you’re all by yourself in the world.

View property listing on Lands of America

Dax Hayden and David Berry talking on the ranch

“I truly love this ranch,” Berry says. “It’s big. It’s scenic, with beautiful, diverse terrain.” For Berry, though, the view represents much more than the eye can see. A retired large-animal veterinarian, Berry purchased the first piece of what would become Horse Creek Land and Cattle in 1995, adding to his holdings over the years as neighboring properties became available. Under Berry’s direction, the ranch has become not only a successful livestock operation, but also a coveted hunting and fishing destination for sportsmen seeking trout and big game. Now, though, Berry has decided to steer the ranch into its next chapter.

“It’s been quite a project for more than a 20-year period, to put the ranch together, and I’m really proud of what I’ve got here,” he says. “But I’ve also decided it’s time to downsize a bit, so I’ve decided to sell the north end of the ranch.”

Cowboy Country – Ranchland in southeast Wyoming is a popular investment among land buyers. Year-to-date, Hayden Outdoors has sold 125,000 acres of ground, including over 50,000 acres in the vicinity of Laramie and Cheyenne.

That portion of the property—the 14,500-acre Chugwater Creek Ranch—includes the land holdings furthest from the Horse Creek headquarters, and boasts sub irrigated pastures, timbered hillsides, trout ponds and streams, and a healthy population of elk, antelope, and whitetail and mule deer. It’s a property Berry finds tough to let go.

Berry grew up on his family’s Hereford operation. After a seven-year career in veterinary medicine, he sought a return to his roots, and went into the ranch real estate business, buying and selling working outfits, often making significant improvements in the interim.

“Almost without exception, when I’ve bought a property, I’ve gone in with heavy equipment—excavators, backhoes, loaders—and I’ve cleaned them up,” Berry says. “It’s been quite a labor of love . . . buying properties, fixing the properties up, building new fences, building new improvements, new corrals. It’s a lot of work, but worth the effort.”

Managing Chugwater Creek Ranch

When Berry purchased the Horse Creek outfit, the ranch came with an intriguing frontier history, having been homesteaded in the 1870s and held by the same family for four generations. Among one of Berry’s first improvement projects was rebuilding a stone house that had been on the ranch since 1893. He saw the effort as a way of honoring the ranch’s previous owners, and the pioneers that had first put down roots on the property.

Berry also went to work on the rest of the property, upgrading the ranch’s bumpy, two-tracks to a network of improved roads that allow for easier access across the extensive property, and undertaking a major re-fencing project.

“They say good fences make good neighbors, and there’s a lot of truth to that,” Berry says. “It really does make for good relations with neighbors, and makes the operation so much easier. I grew up in a family that really took a lot of pride in our ranch and the operation. My dad and his brothers had a real sense of stewardship, which I have, as well.”

That management philosophy, and Berry’s respect for the ranch’s heritage, extends to day-to-day working methods. Cattle work on the ranch—gathering, sorting, doctoring, branding—is done on horseback, using traditional methods. Cowboys working in the bridle-horse tradition, with two-reins and spade bits, rope cattle out of the herd, handling stock in the open. Such approaches are more than just a nod to the ranch’s past; they offer practical solutions to real challenges in rugged country where trucks and utility vehicles simply aren’t practical.

Roping cattle on Chugwater Creek Ranch

The ranch’s abundant game—including resident elk and mule deer populations, as well as whitetail and antelope—draws hunters from across the country for guided hunts each year.

“I have an outfitter who brings in hunters each fall, and he’s consistently booked,” Berry says. “I have a wonderful cook and beautiful facility to accommodate the guests. Most of the hunters are repeat customers, so there’s a relationship that develops through the years. We really look forward to the return of those hunters each fall.”

Fly-fishing is also a dominant theme. The ranch has numerous mountain streams, as well as around 20 stocked lakes and reservoirs scattered across the property. “The fishing is exceptional,” Berry says. “Brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout.”

(Author’s note: I can attest to this. On a visit to Chugwater Creek, I caught a 30-inch rainbow on a fly rod, and the biggest brookies I’ve caught in my life.)

“And, the people enjoy the scenery. They like being out in the open country,” Berry says. “[The ranch] is 100 percent private, which is unique. When we have hunters or fishermen, they have exclusive rights to the part of the ranch they’re accessing.”

Putting Chugwater Creek on the market has presented Berry with a chance to take stock of accomplishments, reflect on the improvements he’s made to the ranch, and look forward with hope to the prospect of passing on the land to new stewards. But, it’s also a bittersweet experience, something akin to a farewell.

“For a 30-year period, it’s been my business to buy and sell properties,” Berry says. “I buy them because they’re attractive to me, personally. I get such an immediate attachment to them. I’ve owned a lot of properties that I’ve resold, and it’s always a painful decision.”

View property listing on Lands of America

Chugwater Creek Ranch, located in Albany County, Wyoming, is listed at $17,400,000, and is marketed by Hayden Outdoors. Learn more about Chugwater Creek Ranch at www.HaydenOutdoors.com


 

Dax Hayden

About the Author: Dax is the Managing Partner with Hayden Outdoors and National Director of Land Leader with over 20 years in the real estate, banking and insurance industry. Growing up in the cattle and horse business has given Dax a great appreciation of what it takes to be successful in agriculture. Dax is proud of his family background in real estate and land. With farming and ranching contacts all over the country, Dax can assist with farming operations, habitat management and land sales. Dax has hunted and fished all over North and South America. Family has always been first, and the love of the outdoors is shared with great pleasure with his whole family. Whether it is chasing a bugling bull elk in Colorado, pheasants in Kansas or working on a land deal, Dax is at home in the outdoors.


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