Fountain Ranch, California
Property Types: Farms, Ranches, Home, Recreational
Activities & Amenities
The 2780 acre Fountain Ranch is what one envisions if it were somehow possible to put together every essential element of a Class A ranch under one umbrella to create the most idyllic picture of ranch perfection; gentle oak strewn hills rolling down to irrigated pasture land that hug the shores of a mighty river while being towered over by timbered peaks and dramatic rock outcroppings all while being complimented by aesthetically appealing and functional improvements. This within close proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Of course, a natural rarity of this magnitude was not lost on the past generations. The history of the Fountain Ranch is a microcosm of the history of California itself.
Steeped in the ancient folklore of Native Americans, the Ranch’s Frog Woman Rock is the origin of some of these native people’s most fabled tales. Ascending high above the Russian River with its full omnipresences, it is not hard to conjure up images of native people toiling and worshipping under such sheer magnificence in what could have only been the land of seamlessly endless natural bounties.
In the 1800’s, the Spanish recognizing the natural richness of the region, created the Sanel Land Grant and deeded the same to one Señor Fernando Feliz. Sometime thereafter a grand Victorian was built on the Ranch’s north side. This went on first to serve as a stopover for the wagon trail coming off of Mountain House Road, then later as the Fountain Ranch Train Station for the North Pacific Railroad and finally as the Ranch’s Headquarters. Still in one dim lit upstair’s room stands the grand bed that President William McKinley slept in on his tour through the region in the late 1890’s. This Regal Lady cries out a storied past filled with colorful characters and scenes of yesteryear and awaits the next Owner’s visions of revival.
The current era began in 1952 when Fountain Ranch was purchased by G.P. Bradford, the grandfather of the current Owners. G.P. Bradford’s son, the late Robert Bradford, can be credited for the extensive infrastructural improvements on the Ranch including the Lake House and Bradford Lake. Planning for the future, like an architect and engineer, Robert Bradford immersed himself in these projects and others with full attention to detail creating what can only be described as a living legacy. Under the stewardship of the Bradford Ranch Partnership,, a long time family business that was made up of first G.P. Bradford and Robert Bradford and then later Robert and his son Peter Bradford, the Ranch has been used primarily as a cattle ranch, hunting club and family retreat with attention focused on long term sustainability.
The property is approximately 2,778.93 acres and is made up of 15 Legal Parcels (Certificates of Compliance) all under the Willamson Act’s Agricultural Preserve for lower tax liability. The bulk of the Ranch is gently rolling pasture land along with over a 150+ acres of irrigated pasture land. Interspersed in the higher regions are large rock outcroppings including Frog Women Rock and the Twin Peaks with the southern peak hosting the “Balancing Rock”, one very large boulder precipitously balanced on half buried rock. Surrounding these outcroppings are fir and hardwood forests. The Ranch is transversed by an internal road system in excellent order.
Wildlife abounds on the Ranch including trophy class blacktail deer, wild hog, turkey, blue grouse, valley and mountain quail, mountain lion, bobcat, black bear and other species. Bradford Lake plays hosts to a wide variety of migratory waterfowl with many ideal spots for permanent blinds. In addition to its waterfowl attributes, Bradford Lake is an angler’s delight with 12 to15 pound Florida Strain Large Mouth Bass being a routine catch.
RESIDENCES & OTHER STRUCTURES
- The main residence, the Lake House, is approximately 5,000 sq. ft. and sits perched in a grove of majestic oaks and established gardens with panoramic views over the Lake. Designed and engineered by the late Robert L. Bradford, the House exemplifies modern sensibility and function while giving credence to its natural surroundings. There are 3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, an office, a laundry room, kitchen and dining area, flower room, living room and a full basement. In addition, there is a covered heated pool connected to the Lake House. The House has its own solar power system generating enough power to support all domestic demands. Heating for both the House and the pool is by natural gas while the pool also has its own supplemental solar heating system. The House awaits updating and the vigor of a new Owner.
- There are two other houses, one built in the 1990s and one built sometime before 1940. The older house is 1200 sq. ft. and was renovated in the 1990s. It has two bedrooms and one bath. The house built in 1990s is 1500 sq. ft. and has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. These houses are far removed form the Lake House assuring privacy to the new Owner. Both houses currently house Ranch employees who are interested in the possibility of working for the new Owner. One employee has worked on the property for 33 years and the other has worked there for 13 years.
- The oldest residence is the uninhabitable Grand Victorian built in the late 1880’s that functioned as stage stop, railroad station and residence until the 1990s. This house contains 6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, office and several other rooms. Though the foundation and internal structural supports appear to be salvageable, this house needs some major renovations to become habitable.
- There is an apartment above the shop / equipment shed that has one bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. The apartment and shop were built in the 1990’s. The apartment has natural gas for kitchen and laundry use and is electrically heated and cooled by a mini heat pump.
- There are two barns on the property for hay storage and there is a good corral setup for working livestock. There is also a registered weight scale for weighing livestock.
Fountain Ranch is blessed with an abundance of water the likes which are seldom found together on one property. With over 3.7 miles of interspersed frontage on the Russian River, a licensed appropriative right to directly divert 2.3 cubic feet per second from the river from March to November. State permitted and licensed dam creating the 440 acre feet Bradford Lake fed by an immense watershed, stock ponds and numerous smaller creeks, the Fountain Ranch stands in a class of itself. If water is gold in California, this ranch is a gold mine.
CURRENT AND POTENTIAL USES
For the past 70 years the ranch has been used primarily as a cattle ranch running approximately 70 to 80 mother cows, 90 bred heifers, 8 to 10 bulls with an additional 100 to 130 weaned heifer from spring to fall. This would be something the new Owner might continue on his own or lease out to another livestock producer.
The Ranch leases the blacktail deer and wild pig hunting to a Hunting Club on a year to year basis. This has proven to be a long and mutually beneficial relationship for all parties. There is, however, substantial potential to increase revenue from the wildlife resources by instituting a PLM (Private Land Management) Program on the Ranch and more intensely managing and marketing the wildlife. In the alternative, the new owner could choose to maintain such resources for their personal recreational enjoyment.
What seems like the most economically productive use of the Ranch with the highest potential return would be to use the existing water resources to plant a portion of the ranch to vineyards well simultaneously maintaining the cattle and hunting operation on the remainder.
There is also a conservation easement potential on the Ranch because of its multiple parcels, location on the Russian River with critical water resources and its ownership of significant cultural landmarks. Such an easement could perhaps be done in conjunction with the before mentioned development.
- 2778.93 acres comprising 15 Legal Parcels (CC’s) all under the Williamson Act’s Ag Preserve for lower property taxes.
- 150+ acres of irrigated pasture, 100’s of acres of gentle plantable ground
- Water: With over 3.7 miles of interspersed frontage on the Russian River, a licensed appropriative right to directly divert 2.3 cubic feet per second from the river from March to November. State permitted and Licensed dam creating the 440 acre feet (22 surface acres) Bradford Lake fed by an immense watershed, stock ponds and numerous smaller creeks, the Fountain Ranch is well positioned to support large agricultural production. In addition, there are numerous springs.
- 4 residences - one 5000 Sq. Ft. custom Lake House, Workers’ housing and guest apartment. Non-habitable Grand old Victorian that needs a major renovation.
- Good perimeter fencing and some internal cross fencing. Working barn and corral with registered scale.
- The home of the iconic Frog Woman Rock, aka “Squaw Rock” or “Lover’s Leap”, and the twin peaks with the “Balancing Rock”
- No internal easement other than the Mountain House Road on the far western edge, railroad right away on far eastern edge near Russian River and utilities. Approached off of county road. Excellent internal road network - both year round and seasonal.
- Substantial Conservation Easement Potential