In the early 1900’s, gold fever brought George Stewart, a miner, and Ella Mae, a farmer, to homestead in the upper Rock Creek drainage with their eight children. On the southern end, the Schmidt family was raising cattle and sheep. In total, nine families, including the Tew family, worked the land trying to earn a living as ranchers, farmers and miners. In fact, the Union Pacific moved the second largest amount of sheep in the world out of the area, up until the industry collapse in the 1930’s.
In the 1980’s the Rinker family purchased what we now know as the 10,400-acre Rock Creek Ranch. Waiting for the right time to develop the land, the Rinkers continued grazing cattle and ranching on the property. Then in 2013, to honor the patriarch, Harry Rinker, they initiated their conservation vision to preserve the land for future generations.
Because of the Rinker’s generosity, Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) were able to purchase the land at a bargain sale for permanent protection. It is a valuable asset for the community, providing close-to-home recreation and important wildlife habitat. Partnering with the National Resources Conservation Service, the Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy placed a conservation easement on parts of the property to ensure that the land and water resources would be forever protected.
Rock Creek Ranch is now being managed through a unique collaboration between the Land Trust, TNC and the University of Idaho.
The collaboration allows for a live demonstration of how conservation and sustainable ranching can work together to provide healthy landscapes for generations to come. Active and relevant data on best management practices obtained through research on this property, which will be done with help from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, can be directly applied across the state and the region.
The property will be responsibly grazed while, simultaneously, active research projects will focus on hydrology, wildlife habitat, healthy grasslands and the impact of grazing on wildlife and the ecosystem. Stream restoration projects will also begin within the first year of this collaboration.
The property will also serve the community by allowing access for hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hunting and snowshoeing. Trails for these traditionally limited or undesignated activities are now mapped and some may be subject to seasonal closures due to wildlife and habitat protection or other needs. Camping is prohibited and motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, are limited to designated roads. Maps are available through the City of Hailey and on the WRLT website.