These extraordinary ranches are just another example that everything is bigger in Texas.
By Jason Gilmer
This isn’t your everyday dude ranch. This supersized space, without the usual herds of cattle and horse-riding country boys in boots and wide-brimmed hats, is a luxurious dream for outdoor enthusiasts.
Other ranches are for work; Barefoot Ranch is for fun, as country music singers, politicians, and other celebrities have discovered. It’s a place to hide away and enjoy privacy without being confined to a hotel.
Located in Athens, Texas, about an hour’s drive from Dallas, the estate covers almost 2,500 acres. Tucked-away you will find a 35,000 square foot timber-beamed lodge, and multiple cabins and cottages.
“The thing that impacted me the most was the land planning and layout and the use of nature. This is more than a ranch, it’s a resort,” said Bernard Uechtritz, owner of Icon Global that brokered the property. “It’s a place where no matter where you went you felt like you were at a five-star getaway, but it was down home. The combination of the lodge, the golf course, the lake, the hills and terrain, and the landscaping, that was key to making it a one-of-a-kind property. The thing that impacted me the most was the forethought and foresight into the layout — what was built, how it was built, and where it was built.”
The land, which was once held by the Murchison family (who made big money in oil and then founded the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys franchise), was turned into the ranch by hedge fund investor Kyle Bass, founder of Hayman Capital Management LP. While Bass owned the ranch, he hosted The Barefoot Economic Summit, Texas (or BEST) there, which brought together top financial minds and government leaders to discuss economic topics.
While there, luminaries enjoyed the property’s extravagances, such as golfing on the nine-hole PGA-rated course, fishing in the 150-acre lake filled with lunker bass, and sport shooting at the on-site course. There’s also a paintball course, tennis courts, and greenery filled gardens.
Listed at $59 million, Barefoot Ranch was recently sold by the Australianborn Uechtritz, who has a knack for selling big pieces of Texas real estate; last year, he led the sale of the record-breaking $725 million W.T. Waggoner Ranch in Vernon.
Uechtritz, who made a reputation for himself centered around difficult, hard-to-do, improbable deals, has other properties that are of similar size and stature for sale. One is a hunting and sport lodge in Sulphur Bluff, Texas, at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Sulphur River. The Reserve has a 65,000-square foot European-designed lodge with a full-service spa, 17-acre vineyard that allows for Napa-like views, and a wine vault and cellar that can store 2,800 bottles and has seating for 40 dinner guests. It can be purchased with The Sulphur Bluff Ranch, which has more than 14,000 acres, or separately.
Along with its indoor space and high-end amenities, there are plenty of outdoor activities, including world-class waterfowl and upland bird hunting as well as a space for fly fishing.
The Reserve, which is listed for $39,950,000, is another “one of one” properties in Texas that Uechtritz is marketing. Inside the lodge is a five-bedroom owner’s suite, a two-bedroom Presidential Suite, and three-bedroom Founder’s Suite. In addition, there is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom lake house that spans 6,000 square feet.
“The Reserve is an off-the-grid, completely private place that you get to from your own 2.5 mile driveway,” Uechtritz said. “It sits on top of an incredible promontory, and it looks across an unobstructed view of about 14,500 acres. You can’t see a power line, rooftop, water tower, anything. It’s really rare in today’s world. If you don’t want neighbors and want complete privacy and anonymity and off the grid, then the Reserve is it.”
After a day of fun, there are 17 leather
recliners in a media room where a
viewing of a John Wayne classic or
“Urban Cowboy” keeps with the Texas Feel.
Along with its indoor space and high-end amenities, there are plenty of outdoor activities, including world-class waterfowl and upland bird hunting as well as space for fly fishing.
While the lodge at The Reserve has an Old World feel with its limestone exterior and European architecture, the main lodge at Barefoot Ranch has a rustic look from all of the wood planks and stone on the exterior. It’s hidden away (as much as one can hide such a large home) by boulders and groves of pine trees.
Competitors in a game of hide-and-seek would have thousands of options for a “perfect spot,” but the lodge doesn’t feel large as the design lends itself to homeyness.
In the grand living space, there are high ceilings, stuffed trophies from hunting expeditions, walls of windows for views of the lake and forests, and several intimate seating arrangements of comfy chairs and sofas.
Fireplaces spaced throughout the lodge give the home a cozy feel among its vastness. One fireplace is configured to allow the outdoor fire pit experience in the home. Tucked inside two archways of stone, there are seats set inside the walls and a woven iron basket that holds the fire to make the perfect spot to warm up with a mug of cocoa or a slightly burnt marshmallow.
The wine cellar continues the use of stone with a tucked away spot that can accommodate hundreds of bottles. An iron ladder, hung on dual iron rails, allow even the shortest of drinkers to locate bottles on the top racks.
While cuddling up with a Larry McMurtry novel on a chaise beside the swimming pool would be a great way to spend hours in the Texas sun, there are other ways to spend an afternoon at Barefoot Ranch. The lake has plenty of big fish to catch and enough space to try wakeboarding or water skiing, while the woods offer a chance to hunt deer or ducks that land on the water of the two other lakes on the property.
Nearby Athens, a small community of just more than 12,000 residents, is known as the “Black-Eyed Pea Capital of the World” and home of the hamburger. The sandwich wasn’t invented by Ronald McDonald, but by Uncle Fletcher Davis, who first made the burger at a small downtown cafe in the late 1880s, and then took it to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis to introduce it to the masses.
After a day of fun, there are 17 leather recliners in a media room where a viewing of a John Wayne classic or “Urban Cowboy” keeps with the Texas feel. If it were fall, classics such as “Friday Night Lights” or “Varsity Blues” may be more appropriate.
“The best detail about Barefoot Ranch was the details,” Uechtritz said. “There was not one thing out of place. Everything was built and designed with thought and practicality. Some of these big houses, and I’ve sold a ton of them from Beverly Hills to Malibu to Texas, there is inevitably wasted space. There are rooms or corners that weren’t used. That’s not the case with Barefoot Ranch.”