Have you heard about recreational ranches? It's a trend in Colorado real estate development that helps balance the demand for high-end second homes with land conservation. Ranching is deeply-woven into the fabric of our state's history, but few of us have the finances to purchase hundreds of acres or the time to care for a herd of large animals. Recreational ranches allow homeowners to experience ranch life without the day-to-day responsibilities and expenses of operating a farm on their own. On the flip side, it protects large amounts of land from being turned into high-density developments. Win-win.
Real estate development company Jackson-Shaw  is helping to pioneer the concept with Wilder on the Taylor  (pictured, left)—a 2,100 acre working hay ranch between Gunnison and Crested Butte. Ninety percent of the property will be protected from future development—only 26 homes on a minimum of 35 acres will be built on the site.
One of Wilder's main attractions is its private fly-fishing waters on the Taylor River (pictured below, right), which runs through the heart of the property for almost two miles. In addition, three miles of Rarick Creek  was reconstructed by environmental contracting firm Five Rivers Restoration , and is now a self-sustaining ecosystem. Wilder also boasts five stocked fishing ponds—perfect for kids and those just learning to fish.
Homeowners also have access to four historic owners' cabins, just steps away from the Taylor River. Founder's Porch (pictured below, left) features a breezy sitting area with chairs and hammocks, and a large lawn with picnic tables, horseshoes, and a fire pit. Guests can stay in the cabins or homeowners can use them while checking on a home that is under construction.
Wilder will continue to harvest about 300 acres of Timothy horse hay each year, and currently has a herd of 50 heifers and five horses. Owners can take part in cattle drives, ride the horses, and get up close and personal with the livestock—or, just grab a hammock and take in the view. That's the beauty of recreational ranches: You choose how involved you want to be in the daily activites.
With an ever-increasing number of people migrating to Colorado, the recreational ranching movement is sure to be an attractive option—for those who can afford it. Riverfront homesites start at $1.65 million.
—Images courtesy of Wilder on the Taylor