A MONTANA PRIMER
In Montana, there are 1.4 elk, 1.4 pronghorn, 3.3 deer and 896 fish per square mile. Not exactly what you’d call densely populated, it just makes it easier to rub elbows with the 6 friendly humans that also occupy every square mile in Montana. On hand to welcome you is about 2.6 million head of cattle so if you enjoy beef it’s not far away!
Montana is the 4th largest state in the United States, covering a land area of 145,552 square miles and has 56 counties.
Montana is named after the Spanish word "montana", which means "mountain" or "mountainous region". Montana has at least 26 mountain peaks that are higher than 12,000 feet! Western Montana features mountain ranges that are collectively known as the Rockies, while eastern Montana is part of the Great Plains. The state is drained by the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers. Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks and Custer Battlefield National Monument draw visitors to Montana's frontier each year.
The region including southeastern Montana is known as "Custer Country" referring to the historic battle between the U.S. Seventh Cavalry Regiment led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. This 1876 battle, well, more like massacre with 3,000 Indians against 215 soldiers, was called the Battle of the Little Bighorn and is memorialized at Little Bighorn National Monument. The Ghost Ranch sits about 8 miles from the spot where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer camped along the banks of Rosebud Creek on the way to his defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.
Custer Country extends from Billings to the Montana-North Dakota border and features the mighty Yellowstone River, many western towns and rural ranching communities, the Northern Cheyenne reservation and Custer National Forest.
The Ghost Ranch is in Rosebud County and sits about 10 miles downriver from the tiny town of Rosebud. The town is named after Rosebud Creek which was probably named for the wild rose bushes that grow along the banks of the creek. This area was explored by fur trappers and traders with Rosebud Creek being an especially popular area for beaver trapping. On July 28, 1806, William Clark and Sacagawea passed by the Ghost Ranch on their way down the Yellowstone. Rosebud County was established on February 1, 1901 and spans over 15,000 square miles. The county Courthouse was built in Forsyth in 1912. A large portion of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation lies within Rosebud County.
With over 9,500 residents, Rosebud County is one of the most sparsely populated counties in the state with about 1.5 square miles per person. The topography is mostly rolling small hills with elevations ranging from 1,500 above sea level near the Yellowstone River to 4,200 feet in the southern portion of the county. There are no traffic lights in Rosebud County! The leading sources of income are agriculture, tourism, coal mining and electricity generation.
The Yellowstone River area offers swimming, fishing, boating, agate hunting, camping, and with its swift flow, provides fun canoeing. Rosebud County experiences a semi-arid climate, with long, cold, dry winters and hot, wetter summers. Precipitation is 12-14" annually.
THE PARISIAN FAMILY GHOST RANCH
The Ghost Ranch was established on April 1, 2014. The purchase of the ranch was a lifelong dream. There would be no more late nights scouring the internet for Montana property. No more phone calls to real estate brokers. No more researching Google Maps. No more reading about new listings for that perfect property. The ranch property appealed to all of us; the ruggedness, the landscape, the remoteness, the fishing, the hunting, the wildlife, the bird life. We didn’t just show up one day in Montana with a dream and say, “Hey, we like that place on the river”. There were years involved in finding our river front property which entails our nature study, our turkey roosts, our fishing holes, our pheasant cover, our goose fields, our huge deer, our family reunion Mecca, a family's final resting place and, God-willing, a place grandchildren will pull fish out of the Yellowstone River!
Ghost Ranch. The name is far more apt than you can imagine. Jordan Parisian came up with the name. When we visited the ranch in late November, 2013, the weather was cold, windy and overcast with light snow. The white tails of the white-tailed deer bounding through tall cover were like ghosts dancing in the wind. There you see a big buck now you don't. There's one, there's none. Ghosts. Tawny ghosts. Lots of bounding, speeding ghosts. To all of us it was magical. The name says it all.
At the Ghost Ranch you get to see things that not many will ever get to see. Watching dozens of fawns playing at full throttle in the summer, bald eagles catching fish before your eyes, walking out the door and running into startled deer, watching turkeys display flock dominance, watching pheasants fight and watching bucks battle are common sights.
The Ghost Ranch is owned by the Parisian family and with our ownership comes a strong commitment to good stewardship of the land and management of the wildlife. Our ranch overflows with a rich history that can be traced back to the early Native American hunting grounds it was famous for.
GHOST RANCH FISHERY
The Yellowstone River drains to the Missouri River and is the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States. The headwaters are fed by the snowfields perched at 10,000 feet in the Absaroka Range near Yellowstone Park. This spot is not only one of the remotest in the United States it is one of the most pristine. There is no trail to the headwaters and they remain untrammeled by man or horse. One can drop his lips into the clear water and drink without fear of fever. The Yellowstone is considered to be one of the greatest trout streams in the world. In its upper reaches, within Yellowstone Park and the mountains of Montana, it is a popular destination for fly fishing. As a high-quality freestone river and with the lack of dams along the river it provides for excellent trout habitat for a stretch of nearly 200 miles. The Yellowstone varies in width from 74 feet to 300 feet, so fishing is normally done by boat.
The most productive stretch of trout water is through Paradise Valley, near Livingston which produces brown trout, rainbow trout, native cutthroat trout as well as Rocky Mountain whitefish. From Billings downstream to the North Dakota border, anglers seek burbot, channel catfish, paddlefish, sauger, walleye and smallmouth bass. The Ghost Ranch sits for two miles on the north bank of the lower reach of the Yellowstone River. Lying on the inside bend of the river the silt and sediment tends to be deposited along the property's river frontage rather than eroded from it. This lower reach of the Yellowstone River is known for its warm water fishery which includes channel catfish, bullheads, pike, smallmouth bass, walleye and sauger in addition to bait fish, carp and golden-eye. It is also home to the ancient paddlefish and endangered pallid sturgeon. The river has been called a "smallmouth factory" for producing smallmouth bass up to 5 lbs. Trout may occasionally be hooked but the warm water fishery dominates the system. The Yellowstone River is by far the most popular catfish river in the Big Sky state. Fishing for catfish is exceptional throughout the year, but tends to peak in the pre-spawn (early April to early June). An average cat tips the scale at 7 lbs., but 10-15 lb. cats are found in every bend of the river.
At Ghost Ranch you can bring your fly rods and fish from shore but the favored fishing holes will change as the river changes. Due to the depth of the river, wade fishing is limited to approximately half of the river frontage but float fishing offers limitless fishing opportunities from the Far West river access about 15 miles upriver down to the ranch.
Montana law establishes that the clean flowing waters belong to the citizens in trust and are the property of the State of Montana to be used for the benefit of the people in a pollution-free environment guaranteed by the Montana Constitution.
GHOST RANCH HABITAT & WILDLIFE
The Parisian family ranch is home to a variety of wildlife including whitetail deer, mule deer, turkey, and many non-game species. From time to time, elk, moose and bear have been spotted traversing the ranch. The Ghost Ranch is a textbook river front property with a honeycomb pattern of open fields and meadows interspersed between thick stands of cottonwoods, Russian olive and willows.
While two large open fields attract deer and turkey in the evening, the entire property is a refuge for wildlife. This is particularly true in the fall as neighboring farms complete their harvest of corn, barley and alfalfa. As the tall shelter of the corn is lost the deer increase their numbers along the river bottom. During the growing season deer take advantage of the lush crops in the area, including corn, sugar beets, barley, beans and alfalfa to maintain their excellent body condition and horn growth. Ample evidence of deer utilization of the property is seen in the many game trails that weave through the heavy vegetation. Deer beds, scrapes and rubs can be found in every corner of the ranch and particularly notable are the many wooden fence posts that have been used as rubs to the point of rubbing them off to the ground.
The low elevation of the property, the natural moisture, the irrigation system, the protection, and the productivity of the soils all lend themselves extremely well to annual plantings of small grain, alfalfa, corn, and specialized forages for wildlife food plots. The complex nature of the landscape also lends itself well to creative plantings that achieve a natural look.
The beautiful large trees on the Ghost Ranch are the massive plains cottonwood, a species that ranges from Canada to Texas and across much of the midsection of North America. The tree gets its name from the fluffy, cotton-like seeds it disperses in the spring, timed to coincide with flooding. With luck, the trees can live to about 125 years old. The cottonwood trees provide the ranch with shade and plenty of firewood. In the spring and summer, they are also the main source of greenery along the river and in the fall their gold and yellow leaves make the river bottom glow.
The most abundant tree found on the Ghost is the Russian olive tree. Russian olive trees are excellent for wildlife and offer tremendous wind breaks. The trees don't require much water and grow in soil that is high in salt and alkali. Russian olive trees can grow 6 feet per year!
Small game sightings are numerous, and you are urged to never leave the house without binoculars. Beaver, fox, rabbit, squirrel, porcupine, raccoon, skunk and coyotes are often spotted. Pheasant and sharp tail grouse are often seen along with a stable population of Merriam’s turkey. Bird watching is very good year around but early summer is exceptional! In late fall the northern flight of Canadian geese arrive to winter on the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone River, by law, at the Ghost Ranch and for for nearly 80 miles west is a waterfowl refuge during the hunting season and affords great goose hunting in the adjoining fields.
Bald eagles are found throughout the year with nesting pairs found in very close proximity to the ranch. We have nesting pairs of owls and hawks and ospreys frequently hunt the river. The Ghost Ranch also produces broods of Canadian geese, wood ducks, mergansers and occasionally sandhill cranes.
GHOST RANCH FUN
Flying into Billings, Montana you will be picked up and delivered to the ranch. Once at the ranch there are plenty of things to do besides hiking, fishing, birding, rock hounding, enjoying wild game meals, photography, exercising and even visiting the world famous, “Jersey Lilly” Bar and Café in Ingomar, Montana. Your trip is at your leisure whether you hike, canoe or want to try any of the other activities the Parisian family enjoys. The one thing we hope is that God will grant you peace and rest while under our roof. Dean heartily recommends naps, reading, zero use of TV or social media, light exercise, star gazing, evening bonfires and doing it all again the next day. Pam believes that while women of a certain age may no longer be designated scenic, they are most certainly still wild and there is no finer place than the unspoiled Yellowstone River of Montana to unwind, let the hair down and appreciate lasting and meaningful friendships! One might say that the Ghost Ranch is an exceptional place for friends old and new to hang out and savor the scenic sights, sounds and moments that Montana provides.
It's your time so pick and choose what you feel or do nothing; simply recharge and relax!
The ranch offers a relaxing, laid back respite from the rigors of work and we recommend that friends plan at least a 4-night excursion to best enjoy it. The early fall months when the mosquitoes are quiet and the beautiful fall foliage is “in color” is spectacular.
We can’t guarantee a gorgeous Montana sunset every night but it's a distinct possibility!
Here are other things to consider if you feel like trying your hand;
Watch deer with high-powered optics! The ranch is home to a large number of of deer.
Rock & agate hunting
Pick your deer stand for your photography backdrops!
Hunt for fresh water mussel shells
Shooting (Dean is a Range Safety Officer)
Visit a prairie dog town and check out what the "locals" are up to
Hunt for buffalo bones along the river bank. The Yellowstone River was the summer home to thousands of bison as written in the journals of Lewis & Clark. The herds were so loud at night it was difficult to sleep. During spring flooding, hundreds of buffalo would drown and be swept downstream where their bones were covered by sentiment and now are fairly easy to find along the bank.
Bird watching, especially sandhill cranes
View and photograph large numbers of deer fawns
Hunt agates and petrified wood
Evening campfires on the river
Listen to a Montana night come alive with coyotes howling and owls hooting
Shed antler hunting
Hunt for wild turkey feathers during the molt.
Sit idly on the river bank and enjoy the sights and sounds of the famed Yellowstone River the same way William Clark and Sacagawea experienced it in 1806.