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Swan Land Properties
Largest Remaining Privately-Held Contiguous Block of Land in Bridger Canyon
Gallatin County


  • Bozeman, Montana

  • 5,665 Deeded

  • $40,000,000

In the heart of Bridger Canyon in Southwest Montana, the Lazy J Ranch consists of approximately 5,665 deeded acres of alpine and mountain-meadow land.  The Ranch is the largest remaining privately-held block of land in this pristine Rocky Mountain setting.  Tucked against the famed Bridger Mountain Range, the Ranch possesses dramatic vistas of the Bridger Mountains and nearby Bangtail Range. It is a comfortable fifteen-minute drive on State Highway 86 (Bridger Canyon Road) to downtown Bozeman.  The proximity of the Ranch to a commercial airport, private FBOs, and interstate travel within a 25-minute drive make it readily accessible year-round.  The secluded trout waters of Bridger Creek course through the core of the Ranch for nearly three miles. This quality alpine fishing stream hosts healthy populations of brook and rainbow trout.  The west side of the Ranch borders the Bridger Bowl Ski Resort and approximately three and a half miles of the Gallatin National Forest, providing unlimited hunting and recreational opportunities.  The varied ecosystem of mountains, alpine meadows, and grassy creek bottoms offers prime habitat for an abundance of Rocky Mountain wildlife including elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, bear, mountain lion, moose, and upland game birds.  With its size and diversity, the Lazy J Ranch may be one of the finest fishing and big-game hunting properties on the western real estate scene today.

Current zoning allows one residence per 40 acres creating an ideal candidate for a conservation-minded buyer.  This zoning designation also provides for strategic and tasteful development in this highly sought-after region of western Montana.  A modest set of working improvements, including the ranch manager’s home, a barn, and set of working corrals, are located on the Ranch.  Several private and well-situated building sites provide stunning views of the Bridger Mountain Range and Bridger Canyon, affording the next owner the opportunity to design exactly what meets their needs and desires.  The Ranch can also provide the next owner simplicity and enjoyment should they choose to lease it to an area rancher for summer grazing of cattle on its productive pastures, as has been done for a number of years.  This magnificent mountain ranch has been under the careful stewardship of the James C. Taylor family for over fifty years. The Taylors are gradually winding down their historic Wytana Livestock Company operation.  Started by Jim’s father and brother Vernon, Wytana Livestock Company operated expansive commercial cattle ranches throughout Central and Western Montana.  Most notable were The Horse Ranch and Box Elder Ranch near Lewistown, the Pronghorn Ranch near Grass Range, the Vee Tee Ranch in Manhattan as well as the Lazy J Ranch.

The Lazy J Ranch in Bridger Canyon is located ten miles north of Bozeman, Montana, and less than twenty miles from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field.  The northwest corner of the Ranch adjoins the Bridger Bowl Ski Area.

Driving from Bozeman to the Ranch, take Montana Highway 86 (also known as Bridger Canyon Road) north into Bridger Canyon.  After driving for approximately nine miles, the Lazy J Ranch boundary is situated on both sides of the highway and continues intermittently for the next three and a half miles.


Bozeman is a vibrant and active university-oriented city steeped in culture and art.  It is home to Montana State University and the Museum of the Rockies.  The fourth-largest city in the state, Bozeman offers abundant opportunities for fine dining, entertainment venues, and shopping opportunities.  The scenic drive is under two hours to either the north or west entrances of Yellowstone National Park.  Bozeman is proud to maintain its small-town feeling with big-city amenities.

Recently upgraded, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field in Belgrade offers several full-service FBOs and excellent commercial services through Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and US Air. The seventh-busiest passenger airport in the Pacific Northwest, Bozeman offers direct flights to over a dozen major airports around the nation.

Approximate distances from the Ranch headquarters to other Montana cities and attractions are:

Bridger Bowl Ski Area
Gallatin Field International Airport
Big Sky Ski Resort/Moonlight Basin
Yellowstone National Park

  4 miles
10 miles
20 miles
62 miles
90 miles
107 miles
156 miles


The elevation gain on the Ranch from the lowest point to the highest elevation is about 1,750 feet.  The valley floor of the Ranch sits at 5,350 feet above sea level with the northeastern edge at 7,100 feet.  Due to the surrounding mountains, the diverse terrain and the variation in elevation, there are many micro-climates within the confines of the Ranch.

The average annual precipitation is approximately 22 inches.  The average growing season of the area is 96 to 112 days, although these numbers and precipitation levels can vary.

The average high temperatures in June, July and August range from 74° to 82° Fahrenheit.  In December, January and February, average high temperatures are between 33° and 39°.

Summer average minimum temperatures range from 46° to 52°.  Winter average minimum temperatures are typically between 14° and 18°.  There is plenty of sunshine, with an average of 187 sunny days throughout the year.

The topography of the Lazy J Ranch is an alpine mountain and valley setting with strong water influences throughout.  Bridger Creek flows through the core of the Ranch and an additional six creeks – School Gulch Creek, Stone Creek, Pine Creek, White Creek, Olson Creek and Slushman Creek – flow from the mountain ranges into Bridger Creek.  Much of the Ranch contains hills and valleys, providing a diverse landscape.

The Lazy J Ranch encompasses approximately 5,665 deeded acres and is generally classified as follows:

4,075± Acres of Timber and Selectively Harvested Timber Land
1,487± Acres of Native Pasture and Improved Pasture Land 
103± Acres of Irrigated, Sub-Irrigated Land   
5,665± Total Estimated Deeded Acres

For the past six years, the grazing rights to the Ranch have been leased to an area rancher on a seasonal basis.  The Ranch has historically carried between 350 and 400 cow-calf pairs, or around 700 to 750 yearling cattle, from mid-June until the end of October each year.  Depending on the moisture levels of the preceding winter and spring, these numbers can minimally adjust.  However, the snowpack and precipitation levels in the Canyon typically stay consistent. The Lazy J is divided into thirteen individual pastures; a pasture map is available upon request.  The pastures are well watered using the native perennial streams and numerous developed springs that supply stock tanks scattered throughout the Ranch.

Several of the meadows have been hayed sporadically over the years, depending on moisture levels and the availability of pasture.  These grass hay meadows produce about one and a half tons of hay per acre and provide very good hay for saddle horses during the winter months.

The current manager has operated the Lazy J Ranch for the Taylor family for the past eleven years.  He has done a masterful job maintaining fence lines, spraying noxious weeds, maintaining structures, and serving as a liaison between the tenant rancher and the owners.


There are six irrigation water rights, appurtenant to the Ranch, which are currently under lease to Montana Trout Unlimited for instream purposes. Contact Swan Land Company for details. Trout Unlimited has submitted applications to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) to temporarily change these six claims from irrigation to use for instream flows within each of the specified creeks. The lease from the Sellers to Trout Unlimited is for a period of 10 years from the date the DNRC approves the associated application to change the use to instream purposes.

Mont. Code Ann. §85-2-407 provides for temporary changes in the use of a water right for a period of 10 years, which may be renewed for additional periods of 10 years.


According to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Ranch has currently filed five domestic water rights on groundwater wells and twenty-six stock water rights on streams and springs. A complete list of the Domestic and Stock Water Rights is available upon request through our Bozeman Office.

All water rights in Montana are subject to eventual re-adjudication by the Montana Water Court and, as a result of that process, may be changed as to the validity, amount, priority date, place of use, and other such changes as the Court determines.  The Seller has made all of the filings currently required and will transfer the water rights as they currently stand with no warranty of future viability.

The Sellers will convey with the Ranch 100% of whatever mineral, oil, gas, geo-thermal, hydro-carbon and gravel rights it actually owns, subject to reservations by previous owners.  The Sellers make no representation as to the quantity or quality of any mineral or other sub-surface rights appurtenant to the Ranch.

All of the improvements on the Ranch, including interior and perimeter fencing, are very well maintained.  They appear to be functional and reflect no large future deferred maintenance expenses.


Located within a stone’s throw of Bridger Creek, this log home is of dove-tailed D-log construction, with a steel roof which was replaced in 2011.  It consists of approximately 2,468 square feet of living space with a 300-square-foot deck facing the Bridger Mountains to the west.  The Manager’s Home has two substantial bedrooms and one full bath, a dining room area, and a separate living room that contains a wood-burning stove.  The functional kitchen contains modern amenities and is well laid out.  A mud room/laundry room is positioned just off the kitchen and provides a nice space for removing muddy or snowy boots before entering the house. The Manager’s Home is heated with a propane gas-forced air system and a wood-burning stove.  It is on a separate well and septic system.  Built in the early 1960s, the house has been well maintained over the years and appears to be in very good repair.


A rustic 1950s log home, the Carter House consists of about 1,664 square feet with a very large loft area used for additional bedroom space and storage.  The main floor is comprised of a living room and kitchen area with four bedrooms and two full baths.  A partially unfinished basement serves as a utility room and additional storage.  In addition to a propane gas-forced air system, a stone wood-burning fireplace is used extensively to heat the house.  The Carter House is also on an individual well and septic system.  The asphalt shingle roof was replaced in 2011 and the septic system was replaced in 2009.  This house is currently being rented on a month-to-month basis.


This comfortable 1960 home consists of approximately 1,421 square feet on one floor.  Used to house family and guests when they visit the Ranch, it served as the owners’ residence for a number of years when the Taylors first purchased the Lazy J.  The Guest House contains two bedrooms and one full bath.  The asphalt shingle roof was replaced in 2011.  The House appears to have been well-maintained over the years and is in very good condition.  The House is heated with propane gas-forced air heat and is also on an individual septic and well system.



A very functional and well-maintained set of working corrals are located near the Manager’s House that has the capacity to work about 300 head of cattle at a time.  The loading chute has historically been used to load and unload semi-tractor-trailer rigs.  The certified 20,000 lbs. Fairbanks-Morris scales are utilized during shipping time and also appear to be in very good repair.  The historic horse barn is approximately 20´ x 30´ with a dirt floor, several stalls, and a nice size tack room.  A small riding arena is located just off of the horse barn.  This historic structure has a lot of charm and adds to the historic appeal of the Ranch.


The Ranch is not encumbered by a conservation easement.  The Lazy J Ranch may be a tremendous candidate for a conservation-minded buyer looking for a substantial write-down.  The majority of the Ranch, as determined by the Gallatin County Planning Department, is situated in the Bridger Canyon Zoning District and zoned as AE (or Agricultural Exclusive).  This zoning classification is focused on the preservation of open space and agricultural land uses and provides for one residential building, with associated outbuildings and improvements, per forty acres.

It is the intent of this Regulation to preserve agriculture as one of the primary occupational pursuits and an economic endeavor in Bridger Canyon. It is further the intent of this District to protect and preserve the existing rural character of Bridger Canyon and to preserve existing developed and undeveloped farm lands from unplanned residential, commercial, and industrial development.

The purpose of the Agricultural Exclusive District is, when applied to particular land, to encourage the following land use:
  1. The cultivation of the ground, including the preparation of soil, planting or seeding, and raising and harvesting of crops;
  2. The raising, feeding, and managing of livestock, poultry, and other animals;
  3. Incidental uses which are customarily and necessarily related to and included within an agricultural pursuit; and,
  4. Incidental unrelated uses are necessary to protect and promote the health, safety, welfare, and convenience of rural residential citizens.

The raising, feeding, managing, and breeding of livestock, poultry, fish, birds, and other animals; the excavation of earth and the drilling of wells, exclusively for agricultural and domestic uses; signs warning against trespass, shooting, and hunting on-premises, without limitation as to number or size. One (1) single-family detached dwelling on each 40-acre parcel. Barns, corrals, and other outbuildings and structures are accessory to the foregoing uses.

Gallatin County Department of Planning & Community Development – Bridger Canyon Zoning Regulation

A small portion of the Ranch is zoned “RF” (or Recreation and Forestry).  This zoning restriction provides for the following: Recreation and forestry, wildlife habitat, and grazing are leisure time and occupational pursuits important to the aesthetics and economy of Bridger Canyon. Because the amount of land suitable for recreation and forestry is limited due to the Canyon’s geographical location, climate, and topography, it is the intent of this section to preserve existing developed and undeveloped recreation and forest lands from unplanned residential, commercial, and industrial development by enacting this district.

One (1) single-family dwelling on each 40-acre parcel.  Growing and harvesting of timber and other forest products and related activities, including logging and all operations incidental to and connected therewith; road building; crop farming and harvesting; forest stations and lookouts; grazing; riding and hiking trails; stables and corrals; public and private playgrounds and parks; picnic areas; public utility buildings; structures and uses; structures accessory to any use listed above.

Gallatin County Department of Planning & Community Development – Bridger Canyon Zoning Regulation

Specific details pertaining to this zoning district can be found on Gallatin County’s website at  Prospective Buyers are strongly encouraged to consult with their tax advisors, legal counsel, and county officials to gain a better understanding of these zoning regulations and the Ranch’s potential for a conservation easement.


The Taylor Family began their ranching endeavors in Montana as Wytana Livestock Company in 1948. Over the next 65 years, the Taylors obtained the Pronghorn Ranch near Roundup, the Horse Ranch and Box Elder Ranch near Lewistown, and the Vee Tee Ranch in Manhattan. After completing graduate school at Montana State University, Jim took over the management of the Wytana operation and in 1962 bought the Lazy J Ranch, which was run in conjunction with the other operations. The original Ranch was a combination of two properties that were sold as one unit, the Carter and Johnson properties. The Green Ranch was added later along with two smaller properties that now make up the 5,665 stunning acres of the Lazy J Ranch.


Long before Lewis and Clark arrived in the area, the Native Americans referred to the Gallatin Valley as “The Valley of Flowers”.  Although the Valley was claimed by the Blackfoot, it is said that it was recognized by all Indians as neutral ground.  Legend has it that a band of Sioux, following Bridger Creek encountered a band of Nez Perce and a battle ensued.  After two days of endless battle the warriors were spoken to by a figure, the “Spirit Maiden,” standing on what is now known as “Maiden Rock” who said the beautiful Valley of Flowers was created by the Great Spirit for his children.

“… like a beautiful maiden it is encircled by a white necklace of white-topped mountains… carpeted with flowers and watered by sparkling streams. This is the home of the red man.  He comes here to rest.  There must be no war, all must be peace, rest and love.”

        Canyon Cookery, Linda Sellers Peavy, Page 10.

The Spirit Maiden also warned of the arrival of “a pale-faced race… their hand is raised against the red man.”  As predicted, by 1806 the white race arrived. Captain William Clark led his Corp of Discovery through the Valley of Flowers.  In what would become known as Bridger Pass, Clark wrote of “several leading roads which appear to pass to a gap in the mountain in an east/northeast direction.”  The arrival of white trappers and soldiers to the Canyon brought an end to the peaceful existence of the nomadic Indian tribes, although the Indians remained in the Canyon until as late as the early 1900s.  Despite frequent Indian attacks, in 1864 Jim Bridger brought his first wagon train through the Canyon.  In 1867, due to the continued threat of the Indians, Fort Ellis was constructed three miles east of Bozeman. It was the only Calvary post in Montana. Logs and lumber for the Fort came from the sawmill at the military timber camp which was established by the army on what is now Bohart Ranch in Bridger Canyon.  In 1875 the first settler in the Canyon, James Proffitt of Missouri, arrived in his mule-drawn covered wagon.  Proffitt, who raised hay and sheep, joined Nelson Story in petitioning a county road to Bridger Canyon which was approved in 1880.

 The period between 1880 and 1899 was a time of rapid growth to the Canyon with homesteaders drawn to the surrounding beauty, solitude and lush fertile ground.  Many of the creeks in the area bear the names of these original homesteaders.  Howard Stone, the Canyon’s fourth settler, set up a water-powered mill along the creek that now bears his name, Stone Creek.  He had the help of his brother-in-law, William L. Perkins who settled along Perkins Creek, better known today as Pine Creek.  Slushman Creek was named after a miner by the last name “Schlasman” who was one of four prospectors that were killed in a slide that covered the entrance of a mine as well as their cabin.  White Creek was named after Tom White – many descendants of White remain in the canyon today.   In addition to several other creeks, all of the above named creeks flow through the Lazy J Ranch.

 Skiing began in the area as early as 1916.  A group of men of Scandinavian descent met Sunday mornings to ski the Story Hills area.  By the late-1930s a small tow rope was built to accommodate the skiers on this hill.  The Bear Canyon ski area was also being constructed.  By 1948, due to scarce snow conditions at both locations, a search began for a site with sufficient snow.  Viewed during an air search, a natural bowl on the east side of the Bridgers was located and by the following year the Montana State ski team began to train on what would soon become known as Bridger Bowl.  What started as 120 acres has grown to over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain.

 Today, people are drawn to Bridger Canyon for the same reasons as the homesteaders over a hundred years ago – the love of the land, fertile ground, the solitude yet close proximity to Bozeman, and the unparalleled surrounding beauty.


Surrounded by the Gallatin National Forest, the Lazy J Ranch is situated in the shadows of the Bridger Mountain Range.  “The Bridgers” provide unlimited opportunities for high-mountain recreation – hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping, just to name a few.

Trout fishing in southwest Montana is legendary among anglers nationally and internationally.  Not only do the creeks and streams within the confines of the Ranch offer the opportunity to wet a line, but there are several premier trout rivers less than an hour’s drive away.  The Yellowstone, Gallatin, Madison, Jefferson, and Missouri, all offer world-class fishing.  The Ranch would be an outstanding home base, providing the devoted angler miles of rivers and streams to relish for a lifetime on a comfortable “day-trip” basis.

An indication of this area’s world-renowned trout fishing reputation is the headquarters of the internationally-known Simms Waders in Bozeman.

The various ecosystems of the Ranch attract virtually every known species of wildlife contained in the Rocky Mountain West.  The owners have historically not allowed hunting on the Ranch, creating a refuge for elk, whitetail and mule deer, moose, bobcats, mountain lions, and a host of upland game birds including blue and ruff grouse.  Those familiar with the location of the Ranch have grown to appreciate driving the Canyon highway and slowing down to behold the large elk herds grazing the hay meadows of the Ranch.  With the limited Forest Service access to the west of the Ranch and the protection of the Ranch’s 5,665 acres, this virtual wildlife refuge has historically grown trophy bull elk.

Exceptional skiing is minutes from the Ranch with the “cold smoke” of Bridger Bowl, which offers 2,000 skiable acres and a 2,700-foot vertical rise.  Bridger Bowl offers a wide variety of terrain including long slopes, glades, chutes, and gullies. Just north of Bridger Bowl, Bohart Ranch offers 30 kilometers of groomed Nordic skiing trails. Situated on private and Forest Service lands, the scenic trail system covers terrain well suited to all levels of ability.  Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin, which offer numerous downhill and Nordic trails, are an hour’s drive from the Ranch.  Ranked as one of the Top 10 ski towns by Skiing Magazine, Bozeman offers a comfortable, small-town feeling with big-city amenities.

The next owner of the Ranch will live in a number of different worlds with fishing, hunting, rafting, skiing, and the cultural amenities of Bozeman so easily accessible.  If so inclined, a full slate of NCAA Division I Intercollegiate athletics is available to avid sports fans at Montana State University.

Electricity to the Ranch and outbuildings is provided by Northwest Energy.  Telephone service is provided by Century Link Communications.  There is limited cell coverage in certain locations of the Ranch and service is provided by either Verizon or Mid-Rivers Communications.

Domestic water for the homes and corrals is provided by individual wells.  All residences are on individual septic systems.  The propane tanks serving the individual homes are leased through Northern Energy and would transfer with the sale of the Ranch.  Allied Waste provides trash dumpsters for household waste at each of the houses and picks them up weekly.


The taxes on the real estate and improvements for 2012 were approximately $7,866.


The Lazy J Ranch offers the distinct opportunity to acquire a unique, unsullied mountain ranch in western Montana encompassing approximately 5,665 total deeded acres minutes from downtown Bozeman.  The size, scope and condition of this Ranch provide all the necessary components for an enjoyable legacy ranch.

The lush irrigated meadows along Bridger Creek produce outstanding pasture and attract large populations of wildlife.  The current owners have done an outstanding job of managing the Ranch; conservative grazing patterns have enhanced populations of deer, elk and upland game birds.  The Ranch could run a nice herd of cattle to manage the summer grass and generate enough revenue to help pay the operating expenses.

The plentiful water resources combined with abundant big game, upland game birds and private fishing with close proximity to the conveniences of Bozeman make this well-blocked place an extremely desirable holding in today’s market.

The Lazy J Ranch is free of vast and ill-designed improvements.  A new owner will be afforded the opportunity to carefully construct a personal residence on this wonderful ranch to entice family and friends for many decades, rather than reluctantly tolerating “improvements” that are too expensive to replace.

Finally, with the position of the Ranch in Bridger Canyon and the Bridger Canyon Zoning District, this magnificent holding has valid potential for placement of a conservation easement.  Current zoning allows one residence per 40 acres creating an ideal candidate for a conservation-minded buyer.  The personal satisfaction of environmental preservation plus the tax advantages would assuredly follow such a decision.  Undoubtedly, numerous conservation organizations would enthusiastically assist a new owner in structuring a viable easement on the Lazy J Ranch.  This zoning designation also provides for strategic and tasteful development in this highly desirable region of western Montana.


A 48-hour notice is requested to make proper arrangements for an inspection.
Swan Land Company has been authorized by the Seller to act as their Exclusive Real Estate Broker on the sale.  Since 2002, we have focused on the brokerage of significant ranches, farms and recreational properties throughout the Rocky Mountain West.
This Offering is based on information believed to be correct; however, it is subject to errors, omissions, prior sale, and change or withdrawal without notice.  Information contained herein has been provided by the Sellers or obtained from other sources deemed reliable.  The Agent does not, however, guarantee accuracy and recommends that any Prospective Buyer conduct an independent investigation.
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Michael S. Swan
It was growing up in Southwest Montana where that deep sense of love for the land was first instilled in me. Our family ranch was on the banks of the Jefferson River near Twin Bridges. Being raised on a sizable commercial cow-calf operation, my brothers and I learned the importance of being good stewards of ...
Meet the Broker
Owner/Broker of Swan Land, Mike Swan

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