Ranch Rejuvenation

California's Three Creeks Ranch makes a remarkable recovery from abuse and neglect.


A rancher turned silversmith, Chet Vogt and his wife, Claudia, are no strangers to crafting raw materials into beautiful artwork. One hundred miles north of Sacramento, California, in the small town of Elk Creek, he's created what might be his finest work yet – Three Creeks Ranch.

The 5,400-acre ranch, complete with rolling hills and oak trees, was an overgrazed disaster when Chet first saw it in the early 1990s. But he liked the area, and decided not to turn his back on the land.

"It might sound weird, but these ranches talk to me,"Chet admits. "I don't want people to think I'm some sort of wacko. Desperate lands, like this one, have a need, and I think I can help fill that need. I really want to make this ranch, and others like it, a better place."

The ranch might've been talking to Chet, but there weren't many other signs of life on the property. A hired hand put his finger on the problem when he mentioned the ranch had no "tweety birds."

"There were no song birds, no meadowlarks, nothing,"Chet says. "It had become such a monoculture, there was nothing here for them to feed on."

More than a dozen years later, Chet's "dead ranch" has been revitalized. From abundant wildlife to active bird inhabitants and an ever-increasing cattle herd, signs of life are everywhere Chet and Claudia, an accomplished botanist, look.

For the rest of this story, see the April 2006 issue of Western Horseman.