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A Historic Montana Ranch

The Ox Bow Ranch is located on the west shore of Holter Lake on The Missouri River, southeast of Wolf Creek, MT. Earliest indications of a ranch at this location are obtained from water rights dating to 1882. In 1899, Harland J Herrin purchased an original 1,364 acres on the Missouri River, near where Holter Dam is now. Later, he added 1,120 acres to the ranch. When Holter Dam was completed in 1918, a portion of the ranch bordering the river was submerged under Holter Lake. 800 acres were used for farming; the remainder was used as grazing land for his cattle. 

Irvin Rieke purchased the ranch in the mid 1930’s. Most of the white stucco buildings at the ranch headquarters were built during Rieke’s ownership. Mr. Rieke, alongside Art Galloway, raised registered Hereford cattle. Ranch records include annual Hereford sale catalogs from the 1940’s. It was Irvin that built the show barn that was used for his annual Hereford sale and is used today for storage. Rieke enjoyed the lake and the mountains and had many novelty animals, including bison, elk and Brahman cattle. It was during these years that the ranch became known as The Ox Bow Ranch. 

Irvin sold the ranch in the 60’s to Dr. A.J. Kafka. He continued to improve the ranch, planting trees and developing the ponds on the ranch. His work did much to maintain and enhance the beauty and protect the headquarters of the ranch.

Governor, Tim Babcock, along with his wife, Betty, owned the ranch from 1978 to 1990. While Governor Babcock was on the ranch, he continued to run cattle and raised thoroughbred horses. With his background in legislature, the Governor consolidated the ranch, executing a land exchange with the Bureau of Land Management, the state of Montana and Ox Bow Ranch. The result is more functional use of ranch lands and recreational lands managed by the BLM in the Sleeping Giant area. 

Chris and Nora Hohenlohe purchased the ranch in 1990. Under the management of Ken Cook,their primary goals were to maintain open space and keep the ranch in agricultural production. The first Angus females were purchased from Stiz Angus in 1990. The ranch began to A.I. in 1992. In 1997, the ranch moved to raising registered Angus cattle and purchased additional females from Gartner-Denowh and other notable programs. In 1999, the adjoining Sentinel Rock Ranch was purchased, expanding the ranch operations and capabilities. It is this facility that our annual bull sale takes place. 

In 2016, Dave Cote purchased the ranch from the Hohenlohes Under the ownership of the Cote family, we have worked hard to return the Ox Bow to its full potential. The registered herd has been improved with the customers in mind and added the development of ranch horses and commercial heifers. Understanding this ranch is more than just livestock we have worked to find the true balance between wildlife management and livestock production. By constantly working on fuels reduction projects, timber thinning, and noxious weed management, we are beginning to see major improvements in overall rangeland health. The Ox Bow has water resources that we have worked to be able to utilize and not waste. By reconstructing existing reservoirs, identifying water rights, making improvements to the wetlands, and practicing general good stewardship, we can not only take pride in the land and the resources that the ranch has to offer, but we can look forward to continued improved production in the future.

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