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A rare chance to own Badlands beauty

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- A ranch with premier views of North Dakota's Badlands and the Little Missouri Scenic River will be up for auction this fall after being in one family for generations.

The Woodie Lee Watson Ranch has been in one family for three generations, is adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City, N.D. photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service
The Woodie Lee Watson Ranch has been in one family for three generations, is adjacent to Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Watford City, N.D. photo by Eric Hylden/Forum News Service

WATFORD CITY, N.D. - A ranch with premier views of North Dakota's Badlands and the Little Missouri Scenic River will be up for auction this fall after being in one family for generations.

The Watson family is selling the Woodie Lee Watson Family Trust Ranch south of Watford City to consolidate their ranching operation to one location.

The family's decision to sell gives potential buyers a rare opportunity to own land next to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where bighorn sheep and other wildlife sightings are common.

"I sell property every day and this one is easy to fall in love with," said Steve Link, a Realtor with Pifer's Auction & Realty.

The nearly 2,000 acres near the Long X Bridge on U.S. Highway 85 is being auctioned as seven separate parcels, ranging in size from 40 acres to more than 600 acres. Each parcel offers unique characteristics, such as river frontage, Badlands views, hay land, grassland and prime hunting opportunities.

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The sellers would love to see the property sold to one buyer and keep the property in tact as one unit, Link said.

"Some of this land is so rare to the market and so special, that somebody might be willing to pay a premium to get their own piece of God's country out there," Link said.

Linda Watson, wife of Woodie Lee Watson, who died in 2013, said she hopes the new buyers take care of the land as well as her family has.

"We're stewards of the land," Linda Watson said. "This is pristine land."

Woodie Lee Watson's father, also named Woodie, moved to the ranch about 15 miles south of Watford City in 1931. He was recovering from stomach surgery at the time and was unable to ride a horse, so he walked and herded his livestock cross country from Montana, according to his obituary.

The ranch became well known in the area for Woodie's Barn, which hosted Friday night dances and many wedding dances.

"Woodie's dad loved to visit with people, entertain people," Linda Watson said. "It would be interesting to know how many romances we're responsible for."

The barn, which has never had hay on the top floor, last held a wedding dance in 1979. It remains on the property and Linda said she's dreamed of turning it into a resort or a restaurant.

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Most recently, the ranch has been managed by Linda and Woodie Lee Watson's son, Terry, and his wife, Pam, who have three children.

Terry and Pam Watson also manage a ranch about 12 miles away near Grassy Butte that was previously owned by Linda Watson's parents. With Woodie Lee no longer living and their children pursuing other careers, managing both ranches became difficult.

"That's why we're moving," Terry said. "It's too much."

The family says there's a lot they will miss about the ranch, including finding bighorn sheep in the backyard and climbing buttes to enjoy the view. Terry said he once found a rock with Theodore Roosevelt's name carved in it.

"But I don't think it was Teddy because I don't think he'd misspell his name," Terry said.

The family also has hosted friends from around the state for deer hunting in the fall.

The property is in the Bakken but does not have any oil wells. Link said the family is keeping the mineral rights.

Pifer's Auction & Realty will hold a live auction at 1 p.m. Sept. 28 at Outlaws Bar & Grill in Watford City. More information is available at www.pifers.com .

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