Places We Protect

Carpenter Ranch


A house, wooden fence, fields and hills under a dark blue sky with a faint rainbow at Carpenter Ranch in Colorado.
Carpenter Ranch Rainbow over Carpenter Ranch © Fran Carlisle Photography

A birdwatcher’s paradise located along the Yampa River near Steamboat Springs.




J.B. Dawson, the former Texas Ranger quoted above, founded this site starting in 1903. He managed a cattle operation until one of his ranch hands, Farrington "Ferry" Carpenter, took over in 1926.

Ferry, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, became one of the Valley's most prominent and influential citizens. He established two local schools and became the town of Hayden's first attorney. Remembered for his judiciousness and diplomatic skill, he managed the ranch until his death in 1980. 

What to Expect

Restored from one of the original buildings at this site, a visitor/education center provides both cultural and ecological information about the Valley. The historic barn and house are registered with the Colorado Historical Society as well as the National Register of Historic Places.

The Nature Conservancy plans to repair the historic Ranch House and is grateful to the State Historical Fund (SHF) for its continued support and funding.  The necessary repairs were identified by a SHF supported Historic Structures Assessment competed in 2017, and, currently, the SHF is supporting the development of specific construction documents for the planned repairs.  

While you're in the area, consider a visit to the Conservancy's Yampa River Preserve, located just upstream.  

Why TNC Selected This Site

The Yampa River supports one of the world's largest remaining examples of a rare riparian forest type dominated by narrowleaf cottonwood, box elder and red-osier dogwood. (A few places in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado are the only places where this plant community occurs.)

The Carpenter Ranch is perfectly suited as a collaboration and education facility for four reasons:

  • Ecological value
  • Location: in the midst of an agricultural community
  • Location: close to Steamboat Springs and Craig
  • Meeting place: the renovated ranch house has a warm, inviting atmosphere 

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

The Conservancy acquired the ranch in 1996 as the centerpiece of its broader effort to conserve the natural and agricultural heritage of the Yampa River Valley. Today, the Conservancy manages this historic, biologically significant property as a working cattle ranch to explore ways to simultaneously pursue agricultural production and the conservation of streamside and wetland habitats.


Limited Access

Please call ahead to inquire about visitation hours


Birdwatching, hiking and other nature-based activities.


906 acres

Explore our work in Colorado

Why You Should Visit

The Carpenter Ranch serves as the centerpiece of the Conservancy's efforts to conserve the natural, historical and agricultural heritage of the Yampa Valley. With many ranches but few small private holdings, the Valley is a great place for the Conservancy to pursue landscape-scale conservation efforts. 

Today, Carpenter Ranch is a working cattle ranch, a research and education facility, and a center for cooperation and dialogue. A walk through the rare cottonwood riparian forest offers a chance to see many species of birds that reside here. 

The education facility features interactive exhibits, historical background and information about the many species that live here. 

When to Visit

Carpenter Ranch is an operating cattle ranch with limited public visitation. Please call 970-276-4626 to inquire about arranging a visit.


Carpenter Ranch harbors some of the highest-quality occurrences of the globally rare box elder-narrowleaf cottonwood/red-osier dogwood plant community. 


You could say that the ranch is a kind of birders' paradise. This site has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society.