Gunnison County Colorado Ranches For Sale: Area Overview
- Population estimate, 2006: 14,331, 4.4 persons/sq. mi.
- Square miles: 3239
- Approximate driving time from Denver: 4 hours
- Commercial Airport: Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport
- Ski Areas: Crested Butte
- Major Communities: Gunnison (5400), Crested Butte (1500)
- Elevations: 7000 to 14,000 feet
- Major streams: Upper Gunnison River, Taylor River, East River, Lake Fork of the Gunnison, Cochetopa Creek, Cebolla Creek, Tomichi Creek, North Fork of the Gunnison, Anthracite Creek
- Average ranch/farm size: 890 acres (NAICS, 2002) vs. Colorado average 991 acres
- Pros: Plentiful ranches with excellent trout and deer habitat, uncrowded and relatively undeveloped country
- Cons: Tough winters
Gunnison County encompasses the headwaters of the Gunnison River in western Colorado, and ranges from sagebrush to alpine peaks that tower over 14,000 feet. The area is known for clean air, expansive views and remarkably cold winters. In between these extremes lie the broad irrigated valleys of the Gunnison River, East River and Tomichi Creek, all of which have been occupied by productive cattle ranches for over 120 years. Most ranches lie wholly in the fertile streambottoms, but some extend into neighboring sagebrush hills and aspen forest. Most of the high country (above 10,000 feet) is Federal land (Forest Service and BLM). The remote and elk-rich West Elk Wilderness area dominates the central portion of Gunnison County.
With the exception of the Crested Butte vicinity, Gunnison County is changing slowly. Cold winters and driving distance from the Front Range have limited the rate of growth. Most large ranches still raise cattle and hay, but an increasing number, particularly in the Crested Butte area, are being developed for large-acreage homesites.
Smaller ranches exist in the narrower confines of Cochetopa Creek, Cebolla Creek, Quartz Creek and the Lake Fork of the Gunnison. Most of these ranches contain stream frontage, and most are not currently raising cattle. Although these ranches may be only a couple of hundred acres, stream frontage routinely commands a premium price.
Hunting: The Gunnison Basin is home to healthy populations of both mule deer and elk. The County is noted especially for its large elk herds. Most hunting occurs in the high country on public land, but ranchland in the valleys furnish important winter range. Mule deer are commonly found on private land year-round.
Fishing: The vast upper Gunnison Basin is filled with cold water fisheries of high quality, both on public and private lands. The Taylor River below Taylor Reservoir is a tailwater well-known for huge trout, including the state record rainbow of over 20 pounds. The mainstem of the Gunnison between Almont and Gunnison is a popular float-fishing river, and many smaller streams offer excellent wade fishing during the summer and fall months. Most streams are brown and rainbow trout fisheries. Brook and cutthroat trout inhabit some of the streams. The Gunnison, East and Lake Fork Rivers are medium-sized streams that do not suffer from dewatering. Some of the smaller streams experience mid-summer irrigation drawdowns and high temperatures. Many ranches contain portions of smaller streams, but stream frontage always comes at a premium here.