Brewster County, Texas

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420,000+/- Acres

Brewster Ranch

420,000 +/- acres

 

Brewster County, Texas

Emory described the Lower Canyons segment of the Rio Grande as “never having been traversed by civilized man, because of the impassable character of the river; walled in at places by stupendous rocky barriers and escaping through chasms blocked up by huge rocks that have fallen from impending heights”.

Location

Brewster Ranches is hard to get your head around being half the size of Rhode Island with over 420,000 contiguous acres. It starts just 15 miles from the Gage Hotel in Marathon heading south 31 miles all the way to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area which is a stone throws away from Big Bend National Park filled with outdoor adventures. East to West it is 57 miles from the Bullis Fold on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande to the incredible wildlife corridor of the Santiago Mountains. Its big, its Texas, and its wild!

Brewster Ranches is an assemblage of 22 properties that have been carefully acquired over decades to include some of the most amazing and important habitats and land features outside the one million acres of public lands to the south in Big Bend.  San Francisco Creek, Dove Mountain, YE Mesa, Sheley Peaks, Pine Mountain, Maravillas Canyon, Bullis Gap, Housetop Mountain, Pena Blanca Mountain, Yellow House, Reed Spring and Darling Canyon to name a few.  This complex mostly lying east of highway 385 includes historic ranches such as Bullis Gap, Rancho Verde, San Francisco Creek, Chaney, Cow Creek, Slaughter, Asa Jones, Gage Holland, Tesnus, Dove, South Pope, YE Mesa, Bear Creek, Ocotillo, and Love Dog Canyon which all make up this expanse of West Texas.

Classic “Big Bend Country” of the Old West, Brewster Ranches has maintained much of the environment and appearance of times past. Pioneers settled this landscape in the mid 1800’s creating working ranches rich in history and today important wildlife hunting opportunities such as desert mule deer, elk, desert big horn sheep, scaled quail and some of the most important habitat for migrations of wildlife in the Chihuahuan Desert between the borderlands of Texas and Mexico to the south.   This vast area lies in wide elevation range between 1,600 feet on the Rio Grande and 5,326 feet to the west at White Ends Peak in the Santiagos or 5,210 feet to the north at Tres Hermanas in the Shelly Peaks allowing for mix of vegetation from the high to lower Chihuahuan Desert such as dagger, yucca, lechuguilla, creosote, catclaw, javalina bush, mariola, sotol, ocotillo, and cholla with a mix of chino grama, black grama, red grama, bear grass, tangelhead, and sideoats grama.  Brush and trees include juniper, hackberry, mesquite, persimmon, pine, cottonwoods, willows, madrone, and oaks in the higher elevations, canyons, and draws. In springtime this landscape is in bloom with a wide variety of cacti, yucca, daggers, native forbs, and wildflowers.

Descriptions

Rio Texico

This massive contiguous operating cattle and hunting ranch fronts on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande where Asa Jones pioneered his famous candelilla wax factory in the 1940’s and through his ingenuity succeeded in tapping the river through a series of pumps and pipes zig zagging crazily down the canyon side. The “bathtub” hot springs known by many river travelers along the National Park Service Wild and Scenic River at San Rosendo Canyon in Mexico is directly across the river from this ranch. Bullis Gap and the Bullis Range are also located on the ranch which are deep in history, biology, heritage, and scenery.

San Francisco Creek is live for 4 miles in the upper reaches with Cottonwood gallery forests on both banks.  Live water and riparian vegetation are very rare in this desert and a magnet for wildlife.  The central part of San Francisco Creek is a gorge called the Shut Ups where there is a dramatic limestone canyon with a variety of side canyons and diverse vegetation.  Rio Texico is an assemblage of several historic ranches that have been combined into one and is accessed by neighbor road traveling south from US Highway 90 for 13 miles from Longfellow crossing between Marathon and Sanderson or from Dove Mountain road east from Highway 385 into the ranch.

San Francisco Creek and Slaughter Headquarters are used today as living quarters for the operations of this working ranch.  Fencing and waters are kept up as this ranch is leased as a cattle and horse production operation.  The old Bullis Gap Headquarters down near the river is a unique complex of old buildings next to an airstrip that is ready for remodeling and creating an amazing new area to launch adventures into the Lower Canyons and tributaries.

 

Dove Mountain Ranch

Dove Mountain has a variety of habitats and improvements which start on the north at Tres Hermanos summit on the Shely Peaks at 5,210 feet down into a wide scenic valley where you find the live water section of San Francisco Creek that is cottonwood lined for over two miles.  The San Francisco Creek Headquarters known by the past owner as the Chaney Home is an elaborate assemblage of homes, barns, and building all looking north at the beautiful mountains on the ranch.  The Chaney home is a massive 5-bedroom 4 bath custom home built around a central courtyard in the Spanish Hacienda vernacular perched on a hill above the rest of the improvements.  An airstrip and giant hanger are also nearby and with some maintenance work could be brought back into operation.  East of the headquarters is Pine Mesa within the Pine Mountains where there are some of the most majestic overlooks in the entire region.  Pinyon pine found on the north slope and above on the Mesa and within the canyons provide habitat for an Elk herd that can be seen regularly.

Further south are the rolling limestone hills surrounding Bear Creek which give way to an expanse of Chihuahuan Desert grasslands and scrubland dotted with pimple mountains like Yellow House Peak, East Black Hills, two Black Hills, Dove Mountain, and Cupola Mountain many of which contain a huntable population of Desert Big Horn Sheep.  Permits are awarded here every year and just last year a 14-year-old ram was harvested. Quayule Creek runs north and south and become a huge gorge or canyon on the ranch. This creek runs into Maravillas Canyon just off the ranch on Black Gap Wildlife Management Area which is a solid breeding ground for additional dispersing Big Horn Sheep.  There are several sets of improvements located on the south section of Dove Mountain Ranch that include Dove Mountain Headquarters and the South Pope Headquarters all used today by various ranch hands.

 

Tesnus

Tesnus is a cattle and hunting recreation ranch with an amazing amount of seclusion framed between towering mountains all within diverse low, mid to high desert habitats.  An excellent all-weather caliche road provides access into the ranch from highway 90 where near the entrance there is a very nice modern 3-bedroom 2-bath Headquarters home with covered porches and large windows framing the area mountains.  The house is within a complex of older outbuildings, barns, and pipe pens with scales.  Beyond the Headquarters there is a series of roads that provides access to the mountains and across the broad valleys throughout the ranch.

Housetop Mountain to the north is the dominate nearby feature with the mouth of Fin del Mundo Canyon spilling out into hills and slopes above the Headquarters.  Dramatic is an understatement!  Castle Mountain to the south of the headquarters adds additional vistas as the main road heads south toward Alamo and Maxon Creeks.  The roads heading up into the high country on the east are well built and once on top the views are stunning.  Hanging limestone valleys with pines, madrones, oak, juniper and diverse yuccas and shrubs creates a lost world where you can find elk, deer, and aoudad.  From the top you can see the Maderas del Carmens, and Sierra Del Carmens in Mexico as well as the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park to the south.  The Shely Peaks Mesa and the various mountains on the ranch to the south contribute to the array of stunning views.  Elevations range from 3,761 to 4,850 feet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Horse Mountain

Horse Mountain Ranch is divided into two contiguous historical ownerships with the north portion being a wide valley between the Pena Blanca Mountains, Horse Mountain and Twin Peaks creating an expanse called Lightning Flat where the headwaters of Horse Draw and Pena Blanca Draw are located.  The Headquarters is located on the north unit adjacent to the Historic Reed Spring which makes a beautiful cottonwood tree lined lake and is also the location of a significant archeological site where there are over 20 grind holes in the granite hard rock outcrop nearby.   San Francisco Creek also cuts across the east end of the north unit and nearby south of Twin Peaks a Hot Artesian flowing well has been cased, piped, and designed as an outdoor shower/hot tub that flows into a huge tree-lined wetland created by the spring.  There is an old caliche landing strip in the center of the ranch that could be reworked and put back in service and next door an excellent shooting target complex today used as a training facility for the Texas Rangers.

The north part of Horse Mountain has several working pens, water wells, and pastures.  Due to the elevation being between 3,555 feet to 5,018 feet this ranch is up out of the lower desert with more predicable rains and lusher grasslands. The Headquarters is very well maintained and used. A modern rock and wood Lodge is next to Reed Spring that is 4 bedroom and 3 baths with a great outdoor breezeway and another 1 bedroom 1 bath Casita attached.  This is entertaining at its best with manicured grounds and several rock patios.  Down the hill is the main working headquarters with a modern bunkhouse that sleeps 20 and several outbuildings, workers home, and a huge metal equipment barn.  This place has it all and can be used day one as the perfect Headquarters Complex.

The South unit is called the Beckett where you can find Bacon Draw and the headwaters of Kincaid Creek.  There are several wells, pastures, water troughs, and a good road system that provides ample access for ranching purposes.  A complex mountain range is on the east end of this ranch giving the fortress white outcrop landscape look that makes this one of the most unique places in West Texas.

 

YE Mesa

YE Mesa Ranch is as beautiful and rugged as it gets in the Big Bend County with an excellent road system accessing valleys, mountains and canyons throughout.  The spine of the Santiago Mountains is the western boundary on the north ranch but cuts across the south ranch creating a series of ridges and valleys and outstanding views.  Connected to the west side of the Santiago Mountains is YE Mesa itself with is a raised volcanic uplift and peak slopping off toward Chalk Draw just off the ranch. There are numerous commanding vistas of the entire Big Bend Region and its mountain features including El Pico in the Del Carmens and the entire Chisos Mountain skyline.  Approaching the mountain country on the ranch from the highway heading west are wide flats created by the Maravillas Creek drainages. That is where the two improvement areas are located on the south ranch with easy access to paved highway 385.

The north ranch has a small hunting camp up near the base of the mountains with a dramatic feel of the towering mountains and distant views. Once you pass the improvements its up into the limestone and igneous mountain country where you have features like Javeline Gap, White Ends Peak, and YE Mesa. Elevations range from 3274 feet to 4962 feet at Comb Peak on the North Ranch and 2738 feet where Maravillas Creek leaves the South Ranch to 5326 feet at the summit of White Ends in the Santiago Mountains and 5385 feet at the peak of YE Mesa. Serious limestone outcrops, bluffs, and canyons with wooded drainages and draws creates a feeling of owning your own National Park.

 

Wildlife

With the vast landscape comes a diversity of habitats and a rich population of native wildlife.  Desert big horn sheep permits are given each year by Texas Parks and Wildlife to hunt the sustainable population of sheep that is supplemented by the dispersing animals on the adjoining Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.  This property is home to many species of birds, raptors, songbirds, and game birds such as blue (scaled) quail, mourning dove and white-winged dove as well as larger mammals such as desert mule deer, javelina, desert big-horn, elk, aoudad, mountain lion, and occasional black bear. The brush, forbs, and grasses provide excellent habitat for these game and non-game animals. The live water segment of San Francisco Creek is especial important for migrating songbirds, bats and butterflies utilizing the riparian habitat.  These desert streams are literally “highways’ for these migrations in fall and in spring making wildlife watching here on the ranch second to none.

 

Water

There are numerous submersible water wells, solar wells and windmills that supply water to various storage tanks that are then piped to a network of water troughs for livestock and wildlife.  Natural water occurs from springs, tinajas, San Francisco Creek, the Rio Grande and numerous surface tanks that gather water during the summer monsoons.   Water is critical in the desert and with the enhancement of this existing extensive system wildlife and livestock use will continue to flourish.