Filed Under Big Sky

B Bar K / Lone Mountain Ranch

Eastern clients visited dude ranches for authentically western experiences in complete comfort or, as one rancher put it, “home-made bedsteads but forty-pound mattresses.” The B Bar K was no exception. Wealthy Chicagoan J. Fred Butler bought the ranch from homesteader Clarence Lytle in 1927. The historic irrigation ditches, a spring house, fence lines, and horse trails are all that remain of Lytle’s original 1910s homestead. Butler and his daughter and son-in-law, Florence and Don Kilbourne, named the property the B Bar K. The families spent some $110,000 (over $1 million in today’s currency) on their summer playground. Trees felled nearby provided logs for the Rustic style buildings, designed to fit an idealized vision of the West. Native stone fireplaces further reinforced a connection to the surrounding wilderness. Florence decorated the cabins with Navajo rugs, Indian beadwork, and hand-crafted furniture, while the bathrooms were “supplied with everything from hot water to shower caps.” A business downturn led the Kilbournes to take paying guests. They were among 150 Montana dude ranchers operating during the Great Depression. Although some impoverished ranchers opened their homes to guests, many dude ranches were run by transplanted Easterners, like the Butler/Kilbourne family, who could anticipate the expectations of their wealthy visitors. After 1947, the ranch briefly became a boy’s camp, and then headquarters for a logging operation. In 1955, Jack and Elaine Hume purchased the property, renaming it Lone Mountain Ranch. Owners today continue in the long-standing tradition, offering a magical combination of comfortable accommodations and outdoor recreation.

Images

B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of the Outdoor Shop, facing west on the property grounds. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of the Meadowlark Cabin, facing northeast on the property grounds near the Outdoor Shop. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of the Butler/Bull Moose Cabin, facing northwest on the North Fork Trail/Grazing Pasture. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of the Dining Room/Saloon/Office, facing east from the horseshoe pits near the Historic Common Area. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Side to front view of the Barn, facing north to northwest from the Historic Rebuilt Corrals. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of the Kilbourne/Hilltop Cabin, facing north near the Historic Horse Trail. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005
B Bar K Ranch B Bar K Ranch. Front to side view of two duplex units, facing northwest on the property grounds. The Cougar Blackbear Duplex is featured in the foreground, while the Canyon/Lame Deer Duplex appears in the background. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: B. Derek Strahn Date: July 2005

Location

750 Lone Mountain Ranch Road, Big Sky, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “B Bar K / Lone Mountain Ranch,” Historic Montana, accessed February 4, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/531.