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Swan Land Properties
Premier grass ranch in the Cornhusker State
Garden & Morrill Counties


  • Lisco, Nebraska

  • 15,470 Deeded

  • $6,574,750

McGinley Ranch is situated in the Panhandle of Western Nebraska.  It is comprised of approximately 15,470± deeded acres on the western side of the renowned Sandhills – a rare opportunity to own one of the premier grass ranches in the Cornhusker State.

Even to the untrained eye, it is apparent that the current owners have managed the grazing resource of the Ranch conservatively.  The remarkable condition of this resource is the product of 65 years of masterful stewardship.

The “Sandhills”, one of the most unique geographic features in North America, contain hundreds of feet of course sand and gravel.  Below the surface is one of the largest water reserves in North America – “The Ogallala Aquifer”.  This giant sand formation serves as a huge sponge that absorbs rain and snowfall; about half of the annual precipitation percolates downward into this giant underground pool.  In the lower elevations, the water from the aquifer is exposed and forms thousands of wetlands, ponds, and lakes.  Richardson Lake, one of these exposed water formations, is located on McGinley Ranch.

The vegetation in this region tap into the constant water source and produce dense stands of grasses creating some of the Nation’s most productive and consistent grazing lands for cattle.  Historically, this region produces reliable hard grass.  The high water table provides a generally reliable water source for the grass in the Sandhills creating a practically drought-proof landscape.  The grasslands range from densely vegetated meadows to the sparsely covered “choppies” and support a wide variety of wildlife.

Located approximately 15 miles north of Lisco and the North Platte River, the Ranch enjoys easy access to surrounding cities via good county gravel roads.  To the south is Route 26, known as Western Trails Historic and Scenic Byway.  Route 2 lies to the north of the Ranch. Lisco is a proud, well-manicured country village with a deep sense of community.  Businesses include a bank, a post office, and several equipment repair shops. This nice rural town also provides a high-quality kindergarten through eighth-grade educational program serving the citizens of Eastern Morrill County, Western Garden County, and Northeastern Cheyenne County.  Students come from neighboring communities to experience the unique environment of the small-sized classrooms. Upon completion of the eighth grade, students attend Garden County High School in Oshkosh.  The high school provides a great learning environment and competitive interscholastic athletic programs.  School bus service provides roundtrip transportation to the Ranch for elementary and high school-age students in the Lisco area.

Approximate distances to other area cities and towns from the McGinley Ranch:
North Platte
30 miles
40 miles
70 miles
120 miles
175 miles
240 miles
395 miles


The Ranch is within 45 to 120 minutes of three commercial regional airports with private FBOs. These three facilities are all served by Great Lake Airlines.

  • Western Nebraska Regional Airport – Scottsbluff
  • Alliance Municipal Airport – Alliance
  • North Platte Regional Airport – North Platte
  • Denver International Airport provides a full complement of commercial airlines and is about a three-hour drive from the Ranch.



McGinley Ranch encompasses approximately 15,470 deeded acres classified as follows.

14,345 Acres of Native Range and Pasture

1,000 Acres of Sub – Irrigated Hay Meadows

125 Acres of Hay under a Zimmatic Center Pivot

The carrying capacity of the McGinley Ranch includes 750 to 850 brood cows plus bulls and replacement heifers.  Capacity will vary depending on an operator’s grazing system, utilization of pivot irrigation, and climate conditions.  Calves are typically weaned in mid-September on the Ranch meadows.  An average daily gain of 3 to 4 pounds per day can be expected from these hard grass meadows.

The well for the center pivot irrigation system is 205′ in depth, with a pumping level at 61′ and a static water depth of 30′.  This productive well typically pumps approximately 1,250 gallons per minute.  The system was recently reconfigured for a low-pressure system with sprinklers re-nozzled to 45 psi and the pump is reduced to 900 gallons per minute.  The pump is powered by a well-maintained Perkins diesel generator.

Today, the Ranch produces approximately 1,400 tons of grass hay annually from about 750 acres of irrigated and dry land meadows.  A good amount of the “hayable” meadows are retained for winter pasture.

During the year, the cattle are rotated among pastures divided by both electric and barbed wire cross fences, effectively utilizing the tremendous grass resource the Ranch provides.  Well-planned shelter belts provide outstanding winter protection away from the protection of the headquarters.

Pastures are grazed for short periods of time with high intensity.  Nineteen windmills and nine electric wells strategically located throughout the Ranch provide each pasture with good stock water and excellent water access for livestock and wildlife habitat.  Numerous natural springs and water seeps provide additional livestock water availability.

All improvements on the Ranch, including interior and perimeter fencing, are in good condition.  They are functional so the next owners will not be paying for unneeded improvements.  The improvements appear to be in good repair so the next owners will not have to assume heavy deferred maintenance expenses.

Main House

This well-maintained cottage-style home with wood shake shingles and a two-car attached garage enjoys the shade and protection of a mature stand of deciduous and non-deciduous trees.  A modest home containing six bedrooms and two baths, it is well positioned on a hillside overlooking the large irrigated meadows to the south.  The home is propane heated with a wood-burning fireplace and is in good condition.  A 20′ x 20′ two-car double-door detached garage is close to the home and comfortably holds two full-size vehicles.  The home also utilizes a large earth-berm 10′ x 20′ walk-in cooler for meat and food storage.

Manager House

A three-bedroom one-bath home with a large living area and approximately 1,800 square feet has been utilized for either the hired man or manager over the years.  This home is also heated with propane with a wood shake roof and is in fair condition.

Hired Man House

This home has not been lived in for several years and contains two bedrooms and one full bath.  It is also heated with propane with an asphalt shingle roof and is in poor condition.  A 25′ x 30′ Inland brand steel shop is close to this house and is currently used for machinery storage.

Bunk House & Office

This 30′ x 30′ manufactured home is propane heated with two bedrooms and a bathroom.  Historically used for the night calver to catch a quick nap here and there.  This building is in fair condition.

Historic Barn

Built in the early 1900s this wonderful 35′ x 50′ barn has a steel roof and has been re-set on a concrete foundation and floor.  With eight horse stalls and four calving jugs, this is a very solid building with power, lights, and a tack room.  The barn has been a landmark in the area for generations.

Corrals & Scales

Two full sets of 2” pipe and cable working corrals are utilized on the Ranch, and all of the holding pens have access to automatic waterers.

The main set of corrals at the Headquarters includes a Bowman circular working alley with a hydraulic squeeze chute on a concrete pad and apron.  The 30,000 lbs. Fairbanks-Morris scale was certified in July 2006 and has an enclosed scale house with lights and power.  All of the working corrals at the Headquarters are lit.  The corrals are easily accessible by tractor-trailer rigs and are used for shipping and receiving livestock.

The second set of working corrals is centrally located, south of the Headquarters, and is utilized for pregnancy-checking cows and preconditioning shots for the calves.  This set of pens also utilizes a Pearson squeeze chute and a Big Valley head catch.

A remote calving facility to the west of the Headquarters contains a 25′ x 42′ tin building with an indoor Pearson head catch and a limited set of working pens.  The building also contains six calving jugs and an enclosed warming room for newborn calves.


This 82′ x 55′ Morton steel building, complete with a concrete floor and floor drains, is in excellent condition.  Two, 24-foot equipment doors on the north and west sides provide good access.  A spacious storage loft with 220-volt power for welders and large tools rounds out this highly utilitarian facility.

Storage Shed

Cinder block construction with a steel roof, this 40′ x 25′ building is utilized for storing fencing supplies.  Complete with power and lights, this building is in good repair.

Storage Shed

A 25′ x 45′ wood-constructed building primarily used for machinery storage with a 10′ x 20′ addition used for livestock salt and mineral storage-partially steel-sided with a steel roof and in fair condition.

Quonset Shed

This 100′ x 40′ steel building has a concrete floor, power, lights, and a spacious loft for storage and is utilized as a calving facility.  With four existing jugs and a heated vet room and a warming area for newborn calves, this facility is solidly built and functionally designed.


Electricity is provided by Wheat Belt Public Power District.  Phone service is provided by Sprint Embarq.  Domestic water for the homes is provided by a common well with each home having a separate septic sewer system.

The total electric cost for residential and stock wells is about $5,600 per year.

Numerous wetland ponds exist on the Ranch.  Additionally, the Ranch is complemented by Richardson Lake at Headquarters and Horse Lake lying on the north boundary – both hold only seasonal water. Livestock water is provided by 19 windmills, 9 electric wells, and 2 solar-capable wells.

Irrigation Well Data
Drilled in 1974
Rated at 1,250 Gallons Per Minute
205′ Depth
60′ Pumping Depth
30′ Static Depth


Elevation at Ranch Headquarters is 3,890 feet. The annual average rainfall is about 17.74”.  May is the wettest month receiving an average of about 3.25”.   The average annual snowfall will total a little over 30 inches. July and August months are typically the warmest with average maximum temperatures between 85ْ  and 87ْ.  Summer evening lows average a comfortable 55ْ. January brings average high temperatures of around 37ْ  degrees with lows around 10ْ.

The real estate taxes for 2005 were $28,636.46 in Garden County and $11,085.84 in Morrill County totaling $39,722.30, or $2.57 per acre.

Clean, fresh air along with inspiring sunsets and breathtaking views of the rising full moon, Garden and Morrill Counties are brimming with outdoor sports and activities.  Visitors with a canoe can enjoy the abundant wildlife, scenery, and total quiet on the peaceful North Platte River or Blue Creek.  Nationally renowned for abundant waterfowl, spanning almost 20,000 square miles, Nebraska’s Sandhills are the Nation’s most extensive and intact wetland and grassland system. Precipitation eventually brought grassland plants whose roots stabilized the soil and kept the dunes in place.

In addition to the sand, another unique aspect of the sandhills is that it is resting on one of the largest aquifers in the world. The Ogallala Aquifer consists of one billion acre-feet of groundwater providing thousands of wetlands and lakes throughout the Region.

The nearby Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 and contains over 45,000 acres of rolling grass-covered Sandhills.  Created to protect the waterfowl populations that frequent the Region, the twenty-one lakes and numerous ponds of the Refuge provide critical habitat for birds in the Great Plains Flyway. As many as 20 bald eagles and over 200,000 waterfowl may concentrate on the Refuge during Fall migration.  More than 270 bird species have been observed on the Refuge since 1975.

Some of the fish species found in the area’s lakes include walleye, yellow perch, northern pike, and white bass. Enormous Lake McConaughy lies approximately 60 miles southeast of the Ranch property.   A mecca for outdoor activity, the locals have nicknamed the lake “Big Mac”.  At full storage, McConaughy is 22 miles long, 4 miles wide, and 142 feet deep at the dam.  The dam is among the largest of its type in the world and the fish grow to trophy proportions, accounting for several state records. Prized most highly by the Mid-western anglers is the walleye, and Nebraska’s current state record of just over sixteen pounds came from Big Mac.  With over 100 miles of shoreline and white sandy beaches, “Big Mac” is known to Nebraskans and neighboring states as the place for outdoor good times.

While fishing is the primary draw, many others enjoy the sandy beaches, sail boating, camping, water skiing, swimming, scuba diving, and hunting.  Come Fall when the warm-weather sports enthusiasts leave the Lake, Big Mac becomes waterfowl hunting territory.  The western end of the Lake attracts substantial numbers of Canadian geese.

With the fur trade reaching a fevered pitch throughout the world in the 1820s, fur trappers continued to explore the far reaches of the Missouri River headwaters.  They prospered with the plethora of streams and wetlands situated in the Sandhills and the fur-bearing animals inhabiting the area. In 1828, a group of trappers employed by the American Fur Company had worked their way west up the North Platte River trapping what seemed to be a never-ending supply of beaver.  A surprise attack on the expedition by Blackfeet Indians left Hiram Scott seriously wounded and deserted by his companions.  He gained certain immortality by making his way to a magnificent formation of bluffs along the North Platte River before succumbing. The fertile grasses of the Sandhills attracted cattlemen and businessmen alike.  One of these prominent figures was Charles Henry Morrill, after which Morrill County is named.

Morrill moved his family from New Hampshire to the Nebraska Panhandle in 1873.  His early years in Nebraska were met with failure and disappointment.  He was forced to adapt his East Coast agricultural practices to the unique aspects of the Sandhills Region.  Through years of hard work and determination, Morrill built an empire and became a well-respected cattleman and farmer in the area. Word of Morrill’s business acumen soon spread to Lincoln.  Morrill was asked by then Governor Albinus Nance to serve as his private secretary and held this position from 1880 to 1883.  Following his stint in Lincoln, Morrill became President of the Bank of Stromsburg before becoming a member of the Board of Regents of Nebraska State University from 1890 to 1903. A passionate advocate for business development in Western Nebraska, Morrill assisted the Burlington Railroad in finding ideal routes for new lines and in 1889 purchased the land for the town site of Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Morrill was a well-known philanthropist and gave generously to community projects and events.  His giving nature helped fund many projects including the Bridgeport Public Library, with a donation of $500.00 in 1919, considered most generous for the time.   Morrill was also known to be a good friend of the legendary William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

While a number of smaller Sandhills ranches are generally available, a 15,000-acre place is considerably more difficult to find in this productive, reputation cattle-ranching region. The McGinley Ranch was purchased in early 2004 by George “Whit” and Loretta Swan. The Swans have successfully operated large ranches in Utah and Oregon for decades. The Swan Family has also generated strong leadership in the National Cattlemen’s Association. Whit’s brother, Bill, served as President in 1981 and his nephew, George, lead the Association in 1999. After years of operating on ranches comprised of some deeded land and high percentages of federal and state ranges, Whit desired to own an all-deeded grass ranch and gravitated to Nebraska. When the Swans purchased the Ranch, two sections of state lease land were included – which they quickly purchased from the State Land Board. While Whit Swan’s goal was finally reached in his early 70s, the Swans chose to lease the Ranch and just enjoy owning “more grass than I’ve ever seen” because of continuing commitments in Oregon and the strong family ties in Utah, all of which precluded moving to Nebraska.

Now, with both of them in good health, Whit and Loretta Swan have made the difficult decision to sell the McGinley Ranch in order to wisely complete their estate planning and be able to enjoy seeing some distributions benefit their children and grandchildren. McGinley Ranch represents a great opportunity for a bona fide cattle rancher to personally increase the size of his operation on a 100% deeded place or to expand an existing enterprise by moving a young couple from his family to the Ranch.  As important as solid elements such as grass, water, and beef production are, the fundamental consideration must always be a ranch’s investment history and potential. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Services 2005 Summary of Land Values and Cash Rents indicates the average value of Nebraska’s pasture lands in 2005 was $310.00 per deeded acre with an increase of 12.70% over 2004 – with no value attributed to improvements. The same Summary published in August 2006 shows pasture lands increased another 12.50% from 2005 to $360.00 per acre.

We feel steady 9.00 to 10.00% appreciation will continue to occur in future years because increasing numbers of cattlemen are seeking all-deeded ranches and many investors are pursuing land priced under $1,000.00 per acre found anywhere in the United States.McGinley Ranch is not average by any measure and in representing this attractive, productive, ranch we are confident the next experienced owner will find it to be both rewarding to operate and most satisfactory as a solid investment.


The Historic McGinley Ranch, as previously described herein, is offered at $6,574,750 Cash.  The conditions of the sale are as follows:

  1. All offers to purchase must be in writing and accompanied by an earnest money deposit check in the amount of 5.00% of the Purchaser’s offering price;
  2. Each offer must also be accompanied with the name and telephone number of the Purchaser’s private banker to assist the Sellers and their agents in ascertaining the Purchaser’s financial ability to consummate a purchase;
  3. Earnest money deposits will be placed in escrow with Scott Abstract Company which will then place the funds with local banks at nominal rates of interest accruing to the Purchaser’s benefit until Closing;
  4. The Sellers will provide and pay for an owner’s title insurance policy.  Title to the real property will be conveyed by warranty deed;
  5. All of the Property’s water rights will be transferred to the Purchaser and all of the mineral rights which the Sellers actually own will be conveyed to the Purchaser at Closing.


The Sellers reserve the right to effect a tax-deferred exchange for other real property in accordance with provisions in Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.  The purchaser will not be required to incur any additional expenses nor to step into the chain of title on any property which the Sellers may acquire.


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.  Since 2002, we have focused on the brokerage of significant ranches, farms, and recreational properties throughout 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.

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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