Dean Witter’s 26,000-acre ranch to become northern California park

Wildlife Conservancy buys property eyed buy luxury developers

San Francisco /
Nov.November 19, 2021 11:15 AM
The Corrals and river (The Ranch Agent)
The Corrals and river (The Ranch Agent)

A 26,000-acre ranch in remote Northern California that had been eyed by luxury real estate developers will instead become a park.

The property includes a 10-bedroom lodge, 16 miles of riverfront and two herds of Roosevelt elk, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Wildlands Conservancy bought it from the family late investor and plans to turn it into a preserve open to the public.

The main home on the property with the river visible in the background (The Ranch Agent)
The main home on the property with the river visible in the background (The Ranch Agent)

The $25 million deal was years in the making. The conservancy aims to bring hikers, campers, kayakers and more to what it calls the Grand Canyon of the Eel River. It’s about five to six hours north of the Bay Area by car.

Dean Witter bought land parcels in the 1940s to create a retreat, timber operation and working cattle ranch. After he died in 1969, Witter’s family passed the ranch down to younger generations until it became too much for them to handle.

“When we put the ranch on the market, I had the very earnest prayer that the place be passed on to an entity that would take as good of or better care than us,” Brooks Witter, Dean’s great-grandson, told the Chronicle.

Lone Pine Ranch is at the center of the gorge, giving the organization the ability to protect and provide access to the 196-mile Eel River from the Mendocino National Forest to the Humboldt County coast.

The property is the conservancy’s fifth and largest acquired property along the river. It’s across the river from the out-of-service Northwestern Pacific Railroad line that will be turned into a public path for hiking and biking as a part of the Great Redwood Trail.

The grounds of the 5,300-square-foot lodge are set to become the headquarters of the preserve. Plans for the next year include retrofitting the lodge for visitors and building a new ranger station and campground nearby. While the property will at first be accessible only by reservation, the new owners hope that after two years it will open to the public more broadly.

Another campground is also planned for a mountain meadow on the property. The area, which is known as Rice Lake, has been known to attract the roaming elk and some other cattle that still roam the land.

[SFC] — Victoria Pruitt 





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