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Vega Verde Ranch

Colorado, La Plata County, Durango – MLS 730075

Vega Verde Ranch is in the heart of the north Animas River Valley and is considered by many to be the “crown jewel” of the valley. Graced with 80 fertile acres, exceptional water rights and river frontage, Vega Verde Ranch is truly a rare offering. It features a stunning 7,000+ SF ‘old west’ home that is the epitome of rustic elegance at its best, with many authentic 1880’s southwest Colorado accents. This main residence has 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths in the main section of the house with an attached ‘bunkhouse’ providing an additional 2 bedrooms, 2 separate baths with common living, dining and kitchen area. In addition, there is a detached 2+-car garage and 7 outbuildings including an equipment garage and ATV shed, and potting shed.

Location and Area

Vega Verde Ranch is a convenient twenty minutes north of historic downtown Durango, directly accessed off of paved County Road 250 in the north Animas River Valley known for its scenic red cliffs.

Durango is a town of rural mountain charm and character, and has many big city conveniences, including a state-of-the-art new hospital, many fine restaurants, hotels, shopping, a four-year college, golf courses, first class fly fishing, numerous outdoor hiking and biking trails, with endless activities for the outdoor sports enthusiast. There are 40 national and state parks within a day’s drive. It is located 6,512 ft. above sea level, surrounded by scenic mountain views, and over 300 days of sunshine each year. Comfortable summer temperatures reach the upper 80s, while the autumn days are clear, cool and full of vibrant foliage colors. The crisp and sunny winter days often feature abundant, light powdery snow.

The La Plata County area that includes Durango and Bayfield has a population of approximately 53,000. La Plata County Airport runs daily commercial air service to Denver, Phoenix, and Dallas with seasonal service to Houston, and includes facilities for full service general aviation. The property is 100 miles from Telluride, 170 miles from Grand Junction, 200 miles from Albuquerque and Santa Fe, about 300 miles from Denver and Colorado Springs, and 450 miles from Phoenix.

Property History Summary

The property was purchased in 1989 and the current owners believe the historical references are correct, but have no living provenance. In the early days of their tenure, there were several “old timers” who actually went to school ‘a horseback’ across the river in Hermosa. Joe Hotter and Mildred Gilmore were more than happy to discuss the old days. When Joe (in his 80’s) ran his Hereford herd here for some 17 years, Mildred (in her 90’s) the neighbor to the south, would come help him gather cows in the fall and relate stories about Joe and many others from the valley from that period. They would ride horseback to school each day and she would sometimes complain about what a brat he could be (many years her junior) in those days.

The Wallace Bridge crossed the river at the north boundary, where that property line crosses the river. Old abutments still exist in the river. That bridge washed out in either 1911 or 1927 (the two major floods of the period) and was subsequently moved to Bakers Bridge (not necessarily in its existing location). The original 80 acres purchased amounted to ½ of the original Wallace homestead and some of the old homestead buildings (the Old Grove House) have been restored to ‘relic state’. There is the old home, an outhouse (two holer), remnants of an old root cellar/spring house, a hand-dug well and an old barn that the current owners moved down from Telluride (completely restored) of like vintage. The original homestead was granted in 1870’s and the Vega Verde water rights would take precedent over the town of Durango.

The owners have a copy of the complete abstract from the 160-acres tract on Missionary Ridge, which was also Wallace property in the old days. That abstract dates back to the homestead dates – some of it in calligraphy and reverse print (white on black) with references to the presidents of those days…a unique document. The Wallace families were the early white settlers in the valley as witnessed by the Wallace Lake, Wallace Bridge, Wallace homestead and various land holdings. They engaged in several commercial enterprises supporting the mining industry and its supporting services.

The cabin and some seven outbuildings up front, date back to the 30’s or 40’s. The barns, potato shed, blacksmiths shop (the oldest building) loafing shed, etc., have been shored up to function well and still represent their authentic period. The cabin is technically a small 4-bedroom, 2-bath cottage (approximately 2,400 SF) updated to serve as a caretakers cabin or extra guest cabin with detached 2-car garage. It has served well in both capacities. The red potato shed (near on the road) was converted to a horse facility with 3-stalls, a tack room and wash stall, with concrete floors (except the stalls) and drains. The large loft overhead holds the annual hay harvest for winter-feeding of approximately 20-head of Scottish Highlanders. This building was used to store the potato harvest with 12” thick walls full of insulating sawdust. There were no windows in order to maintain the dark storage environment.

It can’t be stated enough that this is a “One-of-a-Kind” property with exceptional beauty and amenities. The grounds, as described below, are exquisite and pristine. To add to this majestic retreat there is amazing frontage along the Animas River.

Property Details


  • 80 acres (two legal tracts) with extensive gardens, picturesque landscaping and scenic views from every point on the property. The acreage is potentially dividable into two 35-40 acre tracts which could offer another building site as well as accommodate further expansions to the main home
  • A combination of fencing serves both function and aesthetics: wildlife friendly high-tensile fence in the river corridor, smooth and barbed wire cross-fencing in the meadows for cattle, and aspen rail fences to designate the perimeters of the property and the compound
  • Pastures are gracefully yet imperceptibly sloped toward the river to provide historic flood irrigation by gravity flow; efficient and inexpensive
  • Soils are rich and deep – historically, the ranch was a potato farm
  • Many field areas “sub” irrigate with the shallow water table; irrigation is abundant, even in drought years
  • Excellent senior water rights provide irrigation for the pastures, lush lawns and gardens
  • Two hay cuttings most years, approximately 500+ bales
  • Water features abound: rushing river, babbling streams and quiet ponds offer a variety of enjoyment. Wild fish do migrate into the irrigation canals and ditches and can inhabit ponds and streams.
  • The Animas River is an uncontrolled river and as such, receives a variety of runoffs, producing irregular flows and high-water marks from year to year. The entire valley is considered within the 100-year flood plain. The main house first floor level sits above the flood plain.
  • The river and its riparian area are an essential wildlife habitat and migration corridor
  • Extensive deed restrictions exist on the properties to the north of Vega Verde, designed to protect and enhance the natural state of the river corridor in perpetuity
  • LPEA power lines (easement) were buried across the entire length of the meadows to enhance the historical view corridors from various vantages at all existing and potential home sites
  • Three wells currently exist, not counting the hand dug well at the homestead. Two are in operation at the main house and cabin
  • Exterior wrap-around porches, decks and patios offer extended outdoor living and beautiful garden spaces to access the spectacular mountain and valley views on all four sides of the compound

General Specifications and Features

  • 7,000 SF+, not including a 1,800 SF basement and fire-proof vault/wine cellar
  • 2 bedrooms, (master and guest suite) and 2.5 baths in the main house, with gourmet kitchen, dining, and living room, game room, office and workout room, along with 2-bedroom, 2-bath attached guest suite “bunk house” with living room, dinette and kitchen
  • Three masonry fireplaces in the main house, and one in the bunkhouse; all fireplaces draft and heat very efficiently
  • The over-engineered foundation was designed with 12” thick concrete walls throughout the basement, vault and crawl spaces, avoiding the settling common to large log structures
  • Security System throughout
  • Built in 1992 thru 1994 of hand-hewn, large log, northern Engelmann spruce – tight knot, minimal twist, supplied by and placed by Frontier Log Homes of Montrose, Colorado
  • Most building materials used were hewn, honed, quarried, formed/forged and hand-plastered by local tradesmen from sources in and around Colorado
  • Main house and bunk house were designed by the owners with the professional architectural talents of Durango local, Steven Gawlick; designed to maximize views and solar gain to retain coolness in summer and warmth in winter
  • Authentic 1880s Southwest Colorado touches, reflecting Durango’s heritage, and neighboring Northern New Mexico influences.
  • Design period took two years of living on the grounds and learning the seasons, the solar effects, the wildlife migration patterns, river runoff, high and low water levels, flood plains, floodways, irrigation flows (all natural flood irrigation), the neighbors and their habits, etc.
  • Every room has picturesque views – nearby ponds, lush gardens, grassy meadows and views of Engineer Mountain looking up valley
  • Large casement windows offer great cross ventilation through the home
  • Heavy-gauge linen Roman blinds throughout
  • Flooring on the main level of main house and bunkhouse is Colorado flagstone over Gyp-Crete sub-floor, with Wirsbo in-floor heating; flagstone throughout was quarried at Arkins Park and is Colorado ‘buff’. Second and third level flooring are reclaimed oak from 150-year-old barn, pressure washed and wire brushed for a deep-grained texture.
  • Lighting/Electrical – Antler chandeliers and multiple sconces with natural hide shades throughout create ambient light through most of the rooms. Task lighting is furnished by abundant low-voltage recessed cans placed within the roof system or from lower floor plaster ceilings. Outdoor lighting consists of copper patina coach light style lanterns around the porches at entry points. Low voltage pathway and landscape up lighting provide a safe approach from drive court and parking areas. Security lighting of 300-watt floods illuminate the exterior outside areas and are triggered by remote magnetic sensors upon driveway approach of a vehicle. Additionally, porch lanterns, sequentially delayed, illuminate to give the arriving guests a welcoming light if they are expected/invited. Conversely, the lighting sequence creates the illusion of at home inhabitants to the unexpected/unwelcome, if you are away.
  • Two Weil-McLain Gold Series boilers, extremely efficient, furnish the in-floor heat, both inside as well as all flagstone walkways to the north (toward garage); 7 zones
  • Custom metal work is by Don Jeeter, local sheet metal artisan; hammered/forged black iron vent hood in kitchen, handmade, formed on site; heavy galvanized laundry sink; hand-formed copper bunk house countertops with fluted copper drain board; copper sill plates on window sill bucks.
  • Plumbing fixtures and sinks – Faucets from Old World editions of Herbeau Creations and Horus, France. Finishes are oil bronze, weathered copper and brushed nickel. R/O water plumbed in kitchen sinks and bar sink
  • Millwork – all windows and doors from Southwest Door, custom crafted from aromatic cedar, meticulously wire-brushed for texture and finished with an 11-step process to achieve the aged ‘Rustico’ signature appearance, inside and out. All interior doors feature a full 1¾” thickness. All windows are double insulated, gas filled, with low ‘e’ tint to fend off UV. All millwork set in 1/2 log, hand-hewn window bucks. Examples include:
    • Pair of 36” w x 7’ h x 2¼” thick exterior entry doors with tempered beveled glass upper lights
    • Forged black iron handle set with Baldwin panic-proof locking mechanisms
    • Double French doors in kitchen and dining areas invite the pastoral view inside
    • Forged black iron lever sets on all French doors
  • Built-in ceiling speakers throughout with separate volume and on/off controls in most rooms
  • Insulation – the insulation qualities of 14” thick log wall with ‘log jam’ pliable chinking over black foam backer rod are very efficient
  • Roof is a 22-gauge old-style very thick, galvanized, corrugated tin, acid washed to obtain the subtle rusted patina benefitting its intended age; insulated with 5” thick rigid foam sandwiched between the metal roof and the rough-sawn 1 x 6 ceiling boards running across the 6x6 hand-hewn 24” oc log joists

Main Residence – Main Level

Entry Vestibule

  • Aromatic cedar 2¼”solid front doors with beveled and tempered glass inserts
  • 9’ ceiling; lattias in ceiling and front coat closet door are from 300-year-old Saguaro cactus spines
  • Lots of natural light in entry
  • Sitting bench and recessed alcoves to accommodate artwork
  • Double French doors open or close to main part of house allow for maintaining cozy temperatures in winter months

Living Room

  • Living room features wood-burning fireplace of indigenous large random river rock with gas starter
  • Multiple windows with Engineer Mountain and pastoral views


  • Kitchen Smith from Atlanta helped design the open kitchen
  • Spacious and functional for large numbers of people to gather or easily move around
  • Custom fit cabinetry feature a tight knot spruce natural finish with hand-forged ring pulls; vertical open plate shelving
  • Countertop material quarried from Ulrich quarries in Dinosaur, Wyoming show a fossil strata sedimentary stone that has been honed on site to a soft luster. There are various evidences of 50-million-year-old fish at various levels of finish.
  • Sub-Zero, Asko, Bosch, Thermador and Five Star appliances, Scotsman icemaker; warming drawer; custom overhead hood and vent with 2 strong, quiet blowers
  • Walk-in pantry with window and lots of shelves; stays consistently cool
  • Large center island with baking station and vegetable sink
  • Alcove recipe desk along pony wall with built-in file cabinets underneath
  • French doors walkout to BBQ on patio

Dining Room

  • Spacious and full of light; open to kitchen
  • Custom free-formed Santa Fe style lath and plaster wood-burning fireplace with a textured stucco finish and gas starter

Guest Bedroom and Bath Suite

  • En-suite bedroom and bath
  • Tumbled travertine tiles on floor and walls in bath
  • Plaster walls are water friendly in step-down shower
  • Separate water closet area and open linen closet
  • Period 1880s antique bathtub
  • Copper sink on custom cabinets

Laundry Room and Mud Room

  • Entry from covered patio walkway and garage
  • Coat closet
  • Convenient separate water closet with window
  • Galvanized counters and custom extra deep laundry sink


  • Connector hallway features 40’ of French doors and floor-level windows to supply passive solar energy to load the flagstone floor and cobblestone rock wall along the length of the connector
  • A natural heat system in the winter and main source of cross ventilation in summer
  • Barn wood wall accents, flagstone floors (with in-floor heat)
  • 2 bedrooms, each feature sleeping lofts as well as private bathrooms, a small kitchen with lots of natural light featuring Sub Zero, Asko and Heartland appliances, as well as dining and living areas
  • Soaring river rock fireplace with gas starter makes for a cozy and efficient living space
  • Bunkhouse enjoys a separate rear entry from the rear covered porch facing the river corridor
  • Outside bunk house is a separate patio with built-in wood-burning fireplace in plaster wall; built-in Lazyman gas BBQ hidden in river rock foundation on opposite side
  • Separate lockout area from main house area

Upper Level

Game Room

  • Built-in TV and entertainment center of reclaimed wood; surround sound
  • Floor to ceiling windows in vaulted 17’ ceiling
  • Bar area has acid-washed tin cupboard fronts with copper bar top; bar sink with ice maker and under counter fridge; beverage glass storage

Office Loft

  • Several steps up from the Game Room is an office space featuring dormer windows with great views and built-in bookcases
  • Window seat with plush pillows looks out to river and in two other directions

Master Bedroom and Bath Suite

  • Cozy sitting area with custom free-formed Santa Fe style lath and plaster wood-burning fireplace with a textured stucco finish and gas starter
  • Full of natural light
  • His and hers closets with built-in cubbies
  • Large dressing area
  • Separate water closet
  • Separate sinks
  • Large walk-in shower with two shower heads and several benches
  • Deep Kohler soaking tub

Powder Room and Private Bath

  • Houses a shower for overflow guests

Workout Room

  • Skylights for ample lighting
  • Carpeted
  • Seasonal cedar closet
  • Separate room for mechanical closet

Lower Level

Wine Cellar and Vault

  • Full basement with year-round 60-degree temperature maintained due to the 12” concrete walls and foundation; concrete floors and drainage; fire proof
  • Storage areas and closets for outdoor gear and skis

Animas River Frontage and restoration

Recent east bank restoration and erosion control by Aqua-Hab, Inc. afforded the opportunity to create six new J-hook foundations under water, establishing native fish habitat and excellent fishing water. There are several new ‘pools’ that can hold fish year around, depending on the strength and length of the spring runoff.

Side channel has been restored to year-round flow with comparable “pools,” on a more controlled scale for floating and swimming in addition to the excellent fish habitat. Excellent white water fun for kids of all ages in a natural, but controlled lower flow environment.

Both riparian areas are highly sensitive wildlife migration areas due to their remote and protected location, in all four seasons, and yield abundant hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as simply observing nature at her best.

Historic Outbuildings & Cabin

  • The cabin is 3 (or 4) bedroom, 2 bath, 1½ story, 1930s original building with current pump house and water softener, and 2 car garage/shop. It has served as main house (before new construction), caretakers quarters and guest cabin for many years
  • The Vega Verde barn – 1930s tractor barn, houses John Deere tractor and implements, fencing materials and irrigation gates and parts
  • The “potato shed” was converted to a horse barn with 3 stalls, wash bay, tack room and hay loft. It has 12” walls filled with wood shavings as it was originally dark storage for the potato crop
  • The old (1880s) Telluride  barn was relocated from the Adams Ranch in Mountain Village, when that was developed in the late 1980s. It was restored here on site to complement the original period Wallace (1878) homestead (not pictured) with its 2 hole outhouse and hand dug well. That building ensemble represents the original pre Durango homestead of the Wallace family. The barn currently houses inventory of cedar fence posts along with the reclaimed barn wood and timbers that are used for restoration around the ranch

Wildlife and Recreation

The property has an ideal combination of wildlife habitat, manicured lawns and gardens in a very private setting. There is abundant wildlife, including: mule deer, elk, black bear, turkey and soaring raptors. This is a completely improved and meticulously maintained property that is very private and secure. Consequently, it is more like a preserve for the game. You’ll often see trout in the ranch’s ponds, and fishing is excellent on the property’s Animas River frontage.

For downhill skiing, Durango Mountain Resort is a short drive from the ranch, while Wolf Creek and Silverton Mountain Ski Areas are an hour-and-one-half away. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow-mobiling are also available throughout the area and on the ranch. Summertime is filled with opportunities for biking or horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, fly-fishing, boating or canoeing on the property. Also, the Animas River provides great fly-fishing, kayaking, canoeing and rafting – it is a wonderful run from the ranch to Durango. There are many other things to do in the area, like visiting the local Durango to Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Mesa Verde National Park and the Four Corners National Monument.

Excellent golf can be found at Dalton Ranch Golf Club, Hillcrest Community Club, the private Glacier Club (memberships available), and a top-rated public course at Pinion Hills in Farmington, NM (approximately 50 miles).

Offered at $8,500,000

This property is offered by Legacy Properties West Sotheby's International Realty, LLC, Tom Morse and Zach Morse, Brokers. All information provided by Legacy Properties West Sotheby's International Realty, LLC or its sales representatives in connection with this property was acquired from sources deemed reliable, however, we do not warrant its accuracy or completeness and any users of such information waive any claims related thereto. Legacy Properties West Sotheby's International Realty, LLC recommends that every item of interest to the purchaser (i.e. issues regarding title, water, minerals, survey, zoning, permits, land use regulations and other applicable laws, and any other issues) be independently verified by the purchaser's attorney.

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