Wide open spaces, the hard-working cowboy, his spirited cow pony, and vast herds of cattle are among the strongest symbols of the American West. Once the headquarters of a 10 million acre cattle empire, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site preserves these symbols and commemorates the role of cattlemen in American history.
Located in southwestern Montana, adjacent to the town of Deer Lodge, Grant-Kohrs Ranch was designated a national historic landmark in 1960 and a unit of the National Park Service by Congress in 1972 to “provide visitors with an understanding of the frontier cattle era of the Nation’s history, to preserve the Grant-Kohrs Ranch and to interpret the nationally significant values thereof.”
The ranch is framed by the snow covered peaks of Deer Lodge Mountain and the Continental Divide, picturesque grasslands, the Clark Fork River, historic buildings and structures, and grazing cattle and horses. The lives of Johnny Grant and Conrad Kohrs represent the challenges, opportunities, and hard work that many cattlemen faced. Their stories help illustrate the classic saga of immigrants pursuing the American dream, one that defines the cattle baron and cowboy heyday of 1865–1890. The people of the open range cattle era shaped our western lands, opened eastern markets, and created a culture whose principles of freedom, integrity, and independence live on. Conrad Warren, grandson of Kohrs, gained ownership and through his management can see a national evolution to a more modern age of agriculture.
The current boundaries of the historic site encompass approximately 1,618 acres, a small fraction of what was once a much larger ranch. During the 1890s, the ranch extended over 27,000 acres, with additional feed, water, and grazing rights to more than 10 million acres of public land that spanned Montana and parts of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Canada. In addition, the ranch has 88 historic structures, approximately 35,000 historical artifacts, more than 100 linear feet of archives, 30 miles of fences, 12 miles of historic irrigation ditches, and livestock. The site maintains this cultural landscape through a cattle ranching operation that uses both modern and historic practices.
The importance of protecting the historical legacy of the ranch and its resources was recognized by the Conrad Warren and his wife, Nell. They were responsible in large measure for the remarkable preservation of the property entrusted to the National Park Service. The records, artifacts, and structures maintained provide a thorough and accurate picture of ranching operations from the 1860s through the 1960s and can be used to tell the bigger story of the impact the open range cattle era had in shaping the America we know today.