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”.
Brewster Ranch is hard to get your head around being half the size of Rhode Island with over 424,000 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 throw 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 Ranch 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, Shely Peaks, Pine Mountain, Maravillas Canyon, Bullis Gap, Housetop Mountains, Pena Blanca Mountain, Yellow House, Reed Spring and Darling Canyon to name a few. The complex lies mostly east of highway 385 and 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.
Brewster Ranch is also being marketed as seven separate ranches each with their own detailed descriptions, photography, and maps. Classic “Big Bend Country” of the Old West, Brewster Ranch 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.
Brewster Ranch is as diverse as it comes with over 10 headquarters in varying degree of condition scattered over this 662 square mile landscape. Horse Mountain and Chaney Headquarters are the most complete with not only significant main houses and a number of outbuildings, bunkhouses, and guest houses. The ranch is leased to several local ranchers that keep up the infrastructure, waters, and improvements. The main roads have recently been reworked with others in the process. There are a series of older airstrips scattered across the ranch at the various Headquarters. Details of the seven ranches being offered further describes the improvements.
The Chihuahuan Desert is one of the most diverse in the world and Brewster Ranch contains a variety of habitats found in Big Bend National and State Parks just to the south. It is safe to say that Brewster Ranch is one of the most important ecologically significant intact properties on the market today. Rio Grande River, Pine covered Mountains, Cottonwood Gallery Forests, massive outcrop mountains, diverse lower desert floors, limestone hills, and grasslands combine into one private conservation landscape.
Land features include the pine covered Tres Hermanos summit on the Shely Peaks at 5,210 feet cascading down into a wide scenic valley where you can find live water section of San Francisco Creek that is cottonwood lined for over five miles defining the north end of the ranch. White chert rock outcrops called Caballos Novaculite dominate the west side of the ranch at Horse Mountain where you can also find Reed Spring with its many native American grind holes. YE Mesa and Matthew Law portions have over 18 miles of the Santiago Mountains with YE Mesa itself an igneous outcrop standing as a sentinel to the entrance of Big Bend Nations Park. To the south, adjacent to Black Gap WMA, you will find Dove Mountain Ranch with its remarkable canyons and mountain outcrops providing huntable populations of Desert Big Horn Sheep. The east part of the ranch is a series of limestone hills and mountains with desert flats all the way to through the Bullis Range to the Lower Canyons of the Ro Grande. Looking into Mexico and the 1,000 ft canyon walls is one of the most treasured landscapes in North America. Circling back north you find a deep gorge called the San Francisco Shut Ups where a dramatic limestone canyon with a variety of side canyons and diverse vegetation goes for miles, impenetrable by roads. Toward the center of the ranch, you have Pine Mountain where there is a population of elk and a series of steep canyon heads and cliffs with panoramic views out over the region.
Ranching and Wildlife
This wild land is a series of operating ranches, which is the way of life in the area spanning 150 years. The various ranches that make up this spread have springs, wells, tanks, troughs, pipelines, roads, fences, pastures, traps, pens, barns, and outbuildings that today operate a series of cattle herds. There are close to 1,000 head of cattle on Brewster Ranch today which is a light stocking rate to help restore the rangeland and enhance the wildlife values. Neighbors and area ranchers have a series of carefully designed short term leases that allows the next owner to continue as is or to operate their own cattle ranch.
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 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 especially important for migrating songbirds, bats and butterflies utilizing the riparian habitat. These desert streams are literally “highways” for these migrations in the fall and spring making wildlife watching on the ranch second to none.
This vast area lies in a wide elevation range between 1,600 feet on the Rio Grande and 5,326 feet to the west at White Ends Peak in the Santiago Mountains or 5,210 feet to the north at Tres Hermanas in the Shelly Peaks allowing for mix of vegetation from the higher to lower elevations of the 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.
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 vital in the desert and with the enhancements of the existing extensive water systems wildlife and livestock can continue to flourish.