The Big Hole Valley

In recent years my wife and I have been privileged to spend a bit of time each year in the Big Hole Valley in Montana. It is one of the most scenic spots in America. It is a basin sixty miles long and fifteen miles wide bordered by the Pioneer Range on the east and the Rocky Mountain cordillera of the west. Streams flow from virtually every valley to form the Big Hole River which merges with the Beaverhead River to form the Jefferson which merges with the Madison and Gallatin Rivers and flows into the Missouri River into the Mississippi and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

The ranch house sits on an table 5860 feet above sea level. The view is right up the river. Mount McCartney, the tallest free standing mountain in North America at about 9,000 feet, forms the ranch boundary to the east with the river on the west. The ranch is about one tenth the length of the valley.

All of this is approximately three hours from Yellowstone over the Beartooth Highway, the highest roadway in North America appropriately dubbed “America’s most beautiful highway.” The elevation is slightly less that eleven thousand feet. The alpine vistas are enthralling. The route home is through Virginia City and Nevada City, two engaging old gold mining towns.

Lewis and Clark along with their Native American guide, Sacajawea camped here. Nearby Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce fought the Battle of the Big Hole River and started their trek toward Canada. On the ranch and nearby are abandoned gold mines. The fertility of the valley has earned it the name “The valley of 10,000 hay stacks.”

Moose, elk, black tail and white tail deer, antelopes, gold and bald eagles, proliferate on the ranch along the Big Hole River known as one of the ten best trout fishing streams in America.

Our friends from Grand Rapids, Michigan who own the ranch have developed a portion of it as a retreat center. They pay all expenses for groups from three colleges and fourteen other groups to each spend a week there in the summer each year. Most who come are from Michigan.

Quality provisions for softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and horseshoes provide outdoor recreational opportunities. A spacious game room is provided. Tubing the river and climbing McCartney are priorities. The food is superb. All is free. Everything is first class in keeping with the reputation of Yellowstone Builders, the contractors.

The ranch has been developed to provide a setting for young people to have solitude and engage in spiritual training. It is amazing how attitudes and even facial expressions change within a week. The ranch is in reality an investment in the future of America. Some schools bring their student leaders and others their sports teams captains and coaches. Non-churched inner city as well as urban church groups come.

It is a big investment for an even bigger cause. Living and conversing with the owners I am persuaded they think it is the best investment they have ever made. Their expressed joy and sense of gratification over lives positively influenced provides dividends for time and eternity. It is good to be a little part of something this big. The Big Hole fills an empty hole in a lot of lives.