The massive success of Paramount Network’s streaming series Yellowstone must be the biggest publicity boon the state could ever imagine for tourism, and it’s been speculated that it’s also driven real estate sales to an all-time high. “I love Yellowstone,” a well-heeled woman shares, “so, I decided to buy a ranch…but there’s no inventory! I mean, the minute one’s listed, it’s sold!” Many realtors have a standing list of buyers who are ready to buy, sight unseen.
If you check Realtor.com (quickly!) and set up some filters that will bring up a property similar or close to the Chief Joseph Ranch (the show’s fictional Dutton Ranch) in Darby, Montana, seventeen come up. They range in price from $3.5–22.5 million, from 5 to 14 bedrooms, and from 18 to 640 acres, with only six listings having more than 100 acres—and none with the thousands the Dutton Ranch has. In fact, only the very largest was big enough for cattle, and with each cow needing at least two acres, that’s a relatively small herd of 300 head.
What is it, then, that’s attracting folks to “go west”? Sure, it’s clear that Yellowstone has sparked interest. Comments on one website of Yellowstone fans included, “It’s decided—I’m moving to Montana,” “Bye, D.C. I’m moving to Montana,” and “After watching Yellowstone, I’m moving to Montana and marrying a cowboy and never looking back.” Surely, the timing was perfect, as during the pandemic and its requirements of masks, social distancing, and shutdown, people yearned for fresh air, wide open spaces, and endless blue Big Sky Country.
What it seems to boil down to for many is a lifestyle brimming with old-fashioned values: respect, honor, hard work at the heart of a life centered around family, with a true understanding and appreciation for land as pristine today as it was when native peoples and wild creatures first made it their home. It’s a lifestyle where your roof is the sky. Montana is for people who want to be one with nature, who ride horses, bikes, dog sleds, and white-water rafts; who hunt and fish and care more about protecting the habitat of the game they hunt than filling their game bag. Montana is for people who climb mountains and climb over split-rail fences. Montana is for dreamers.
And that’s why Yellowstone has spurred people to move to Montana. If you watch the series’ prequel, 1883, you see how hard life was for the pioneers who “won the West.” There’s no hardship to moving to Montana these days, as ranches like the Dutton Ranch are absolutely luxurious. If creature comforts are important to you, though, it’ll be hard to make this move last for you; if, however, that last kiss of daylight as the sun sets over the sweeping, snow-covered mountains catches your breath … if a lungful of fresh air is more invigorating that a shot of ice-cold vodka … if the great outdoors is a life-force that feeds your body, mind, and soul … make the big move to Montana.