Outfitters open the door to the Bob Marshall wilderness - KBZK.com | Continuous News | Bozeman, Montana

Outfitters open the door to the Bob Marshall wilderness

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MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo. MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo.
MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo. MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo.
MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo. MTN News/Augusta McDonnell photo.

Seeley Lake is considered a gateway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.

The 'Bob,' as it’s often called, covers over one million acres of Montana backcountry. 

Motorized vehicle restrictions make accessing this piece of Montana backcountry challenging, but one industry has created a way for members of the public to experience this wild place.

Early in the morning, the Rich Ranch looks like a scene from an old western film. Wranglers head out at sunrise to gather dozens of horses and mules that will be used to pack guests into the Bob.

This ‘dude ranch’ has been family-owned-and-operated for decades. It operates in various capacities year-round, taking people into the mountains in every season. From Seeley Lake, it’s about a 20-minute drive to the front steps. The ranch is currently owned by Jack and Belinda Rich who manage it with help from family and other staff members.

The Rich Ranch aims to welcome guests into their family-run operation. And some keep coming back. Bill and Terry Brubaker have visited multiple times from North Carolina.

“You pick up your plate when you are done eating, and you interact with people and they sit family-style for meals,” said Bill Brubaker.

Terry says the whole family, but especially Jack, has a passion for sharing the western lifestyle.

Jack Rich has also participated in stewardship efforts in the Blackfoot River Valley, and says wilderness areas are an important part of the American landscape.

“There are certain things that money can’t measure, and wilderness is one of them," Jack says. "So when people go back there, because its restricted to the type of travel, you automatically slow down and you are able to take in more. See less and take in more, if that makes sense."

We rode into the Scapegoat Wilderness, part of the Bob Marshall complex.

“Well there’s others that have coined it better than myself, but the best phrase I’ve heard is that from a horse you see the world at three miles-an-hour,” Rich said.

This remote location holds a special place in the hearts of travelers and locals alike.

A sign post near one road into a Scapegoat Wilderness trail head tells part of the story and legacy of Bob Marshall, who fought to keep the Bob a protected area.

The last paragraph reads: “Though wilderness must be balanced with other uses of National Forests, it protects resources for us all, like watersheds, fisheries, and wildlife. Someone once asked Bob Marshall how much wilderness America really needs. In reply he asked, “How many Brahms symphonies do we need?”

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