The trout anglers landed the big one.
Snake Falls Ranch — including access to its blue-ribbon trout stream — has been sold to members of a private fishing club who had leased the property for more than 20 years.
Snake River Preservation Group purchased all of the stock of the scenic Snake Falls Ranch in north-central Nebraska from heirs of Les and Betty Kime.
The preservation group is made up of members of the Snake Falls Sportsmen's Club, which leased the land.
The sale of the 3,100-acre Cherry County ranch closed last week in Kearney, Neb. The purchase price was not disclosed.
The ranch had an appraised value of $9 million because of the quality of its fishery, as well as its proximity to Merritt Reservoir and a private luxury golf resort southwest of Valentine.
Mike Adams of Fremont, president of the buyer group and founder of the club, said that the organization enjoyed a “wonderful relationship'' with the Kime family for many years and that the heirs wanted to sell the ranch to the members.
“It was a complicated and difficult task for both groups, taking several years to accomplish, but we are pleased with the outcome,” Adams said.
Robyn Sargent of Dallas, Texas, a granddaughter of the Kimes and former president of the ranch corporation, said the family was pleased to sell to the anglers.
“Our family recognized that the club members and the shareholders (of the Snake Falls Preservation Group) would continue the standards of good stewardship of the ranch property set by my grandparents,'' she said.
The river canyon downstream from Merritt Reservoir features the state's largest waterfall and a world-class wild brown and rainbow trout fishery.
The sportsmen's club leased the ranch for fishing and hunting by members and their guests. Limited public access for viewing the falls was permitted for a nominal fee.
The club sought help from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in 2010 to buy the ranch. The state would have owned the waterfall and a three-mile upstream stretch. The club planned to buy the three-mile stretch downstream from the waterfall.
The plan fizzled, however, when neighboring landowners sued to block the commission's use of Nebraska Environmental Trust funds for the purchase. Opponents also argued that the state would not be a good neighbor.
Club members eventually structured a unilateral deal to purchase the ranch and backed away from partnering with Game and Parks.
Adams said the new directors of the ranch corporation intend to continue allowing limited public access to view the landmark falls, at least for the immediate future.
Fishing and hunting on the property continue to be reserved for club members and guests.
The Snake River Preservation Group will operate the ranch as a subsidiary. The fishing club will lease the property from the ranch corporation.
“We intend to continue to manage the ranch property so that it remains a wild and pristine place,” Adams said.
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