In case you’ve recently resurfaced from a subterranean den, you’re probably aware that rich Las Vegas developer and luxury resort owner David Lipson is trying to trademark “The Last Best Place,” a phrase coined by Missoula author William Kittredge in 1988. (Google the phrase and you’ll find that Lipson’s embattled Resort at Paws Up is the second link on the list.) You also might have heard that another mega-rich guy, Atlanta’s James Cox Kennedy, is blocking public access to the Ruby River with restrictive fencing. And as it turns out, it’s again a luxury resort that appears to be Kennedy’s motivation for making it hard to get to the water.
Fishing guide Captain Rick Grassett, of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Sarasota, Fla., outlined a fishing experience at Crane Meadow Lodge on the website www.fishorshutup.com: “We fished the Beaverhead, Ruby, Jefferson, Madison and Big Hole rivers. We also fished several spring creeks and sloughs that connect to the Ruby River on the Kennedy Ranch, where Crane Meadow Lodge, an Orvis-Endorsed operation, is located.”
According to a listing on the website www.visitmt.com, “Crane Meadow’s 20 plus miles of exclusively private wade fishing offers their guests an opportunity to fish the west as it was 30 years ago. All the lodge’s private water is managed on a rest-rotation system to ensure their guests a quality fishing experience.”
We were curious what fishing on “exclusively private,” water is worth to out-of-state visitors.
Turns out a five day fishing trip, the “most requested” according to Crane Meadow’s website, includes five days fishing and six nights lodging for $2,565 per person. A two-day, three-night trip runs $1,225 per person. “Private Water Fees” fetch a mere $65 per person per day.
Wonder how much it will set you back to spend time at the so-far semi-official “Last Best Place,” i.e. the Resort at Paws Up?
Well, the “luxurious” two bedroom meadow homes “offering approximately 1,300 square feet of pure comfort” start at $248. If you want to sleep in a luxury tent at Paws Up, plan to fork over $450 per night. For the grandeur of the expansive six-bed Big Timber Home, you’re looking at up to $995 per night. And if you really want a first-rate Montana experience, you might want to stay at the Historic Morris House for a mere $1,495 per diem. All accommodations require a minimum of two nights stay.
In a state where the median income hovers around $35,000, these resorts clearly aren’t meant for Montanans. Of course we all know that the biggest perk of living and working in Montana is the scenery. (It sure ain’t the money.) Which makes it too damn bad that out-of-state private landowners are trying to gobble up all our Last Best Places.