Carpenter Ranch

Open to the Public


Things To Do

Birdwatching, hiking and other nature-based activities.

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Plan Your Visit

Be sure to pack your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for some spectacular bird sightings.

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Get Directions

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. 

"Colorado is a new country… The public domain is all open and unfenced… The hills out there are full of deer and elk and antelope, and the streams are full of trout."
-J.B. Dawson, Founder of Carpenter Ranch 


Northwest Colorado, just east of Hayden in Routt County 


906 acres 

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.

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

Why The Conservancy 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 The Conservancy 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.

Carpenter Ranch hosts:

  • School group visits
  • Researchers
  • Volunteer projects ranging from invasive weed management to stream bank restoration
  • Drop-in visitors during open hours
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

From May 15 to September 1, the facilities are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon.

Contact Us

(970 )276-4626

Spend time exploring the ranch and bring your binoculars!


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. Here are some of the species you might see:

  • American kestrels
  • Bald eagles
  • Bobolinks
  • Cooper's hawks
  • Finches
  • Flycatchers
  • Great horned owls
  • Grosbeaks
  • Merganser
  • Orioles
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Sandhill cranes
  • Vireos
  • Warblers
  • Woodpeckers

From Denver:

  • Take Interstate 70 west
  • Near Silverthorne, take State Highway 9 north to Kremmling
  • At Kremmling, take U.S. Highway 40 northwest to Steamboat Springs
  • Approximately 20 miles west of Steamboat Springs, look for a white sign on the north side of the road for "Carpenter Ranch"; turn down the dirt road and park at the Visitor Center.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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