History of Three Forks Ranch

Historical Highlights

The History of Three Forks Ranch

As Three Forks Ranch is vast, covering more than 200,000 acres of wilderness, so too is its history.

Prehistoric man and Native Americans were attracted to the land’s rich bounty, fur trappers and traders capitalized on ample game herds, and miners sought wealth from nearby mineral deposits. It’s only with the arrival of European settlers that we have a written record of the ranch’s contemporary ownership.

Since the 1800s, Three Forks Ranch has attracted and impressed anglers, outdoorsmen, vacationers, and explorers from far and wide. What was a coveted destination then remains so today thanks to our abundant natural resources paired with every modern-day luxury you can imagine. We are proud to continue Three Forks Ranch’s long, rich tradition of beauty, adventure, and remarkable accommodations — all enhanced by the exceptional personalized service that defines our brand.

Thomas Gardner built the original Three Forks Ranch at what is now the Headquarters gate. The wealthy, retired Chicago newspaperman came West ostensibly for his health, although he had a curious habit of disappearing into the mountains for weeks at a time when federal agents traveled the valley. 

Thomas brought with him his wife, Katherine; her mother, Adila; and Cora, Katherine’s daughter from a previous marriage. The couple’s palatial mansion was decorated at the height of 1890s style and filled with taxidermied animals hunted by Thomas in the Rockies. Guests were frequent here, as Katherine expertly hosted many lively parties. Even then, Three Forks was renowned for its excellent fishing and plentiful game.

Wealthy tourists from back East hired locals to guide hunts, and families from surrounding states vacationed on the property in the summer. Thomas is buried on the ranch, and Katherine moved to California upon selling Three Forks Ranch to the OVO Cattle Company.

The site of The Lodge at Three Forks Ranch was settled by W.P. Blackmore, who managed the Pioneer Sheep Company. The second owner of the site, a man by the name of Hancock, was probably a miner. Not much is known about his tenure.

Charles and Hattie Honnald bought the land that is now Three Forks Ranch. They worked hard to grow their business, running more than 250 Hereford cattle, sheep, horses, and milk cows. They also built a large barn for the stagecoach horses that passed though the area six days a week.

The Honnald’s sold their ranch to the Cow Creek Sheep Company. The company built an office, a small bunkhouse, a small barn, two cabins, and several other buildings along the riverbank – including what is now the restored River Rock Lodge. Cow Creek razed the home of Thomas and Katherine Gardner, who built the original Three Forks Ranch in 1875.

The ranch was purchased by the Haytner family, who raised Hereford cattle on the property until the late 1980s. 

The Barnes family purchased the ranch and constructed several buildings still in use today, including a bunkhouse and several vehicle bays, one of which housed a full-time veterinarian and vet clinic. 

David Pratt purchased Three Forks Ranch, concluding a decades-long quest to find the perfect Western property.

Work began on restoring the Little Snake River – the most extensive, privately financed river restoration project in the history of the United States. Sixteen miles of river were painstakingly rehabilitated to what Mother Nature intended more than 150 years ago, dramatically decreasing erosion and increasing the fishery’s health. 

Three Forks’ crown jewel, the 35,000-square-foot luxury Lodge was constructed, housing a 6,000-square-foot spa.

Private downhill skiing, snowboarding, and sledding on the ranch’s namesake mountain is introduced, wowing even Olympians with stunning runs and backcountry bliss. 

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There’s nothing we love more than talking about Three Forks Ranch and helping you arrange the stay of a lifetime. This is our favorite place in the world and we can’t wait to make it yours too.
At Three Forks Ranch, guests can rest assured that every detail of their stay will be thoughtfully curated to provide the ultimate in luxury, comfort, and relaxation. It’s this dedication to excellence that sets Three Forks Ranch apart as a premier destination for those seeking an unforgettable getaway.

Contact us today at (970) 583-9623 or email reservations@threeforksranch.com to discuss your dream getaway. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a combination of both, we’re here to make it happen. Let us help you discover why Three Forks Ranch is our favorite place in the world, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

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