Nestled along Sinker Creek in the Owyhee County desert lies Joyce Ranch, a legacy born of sacrifice and hard work. Established in 1865 by Matthew and Mary Joyce, Joyce Ranch is the oldest family-owned ranch in the state of Idaho.
First in Ruby City in the Owyhee mountains and then at Sinker Creek, the Joyce family bolstered the early population in Owyhee county by providing fine horses, cattle, pigs, produce, and other supplies, but it wasn’t always easy. Throughout the years, Matthew Joyce and his posterity have managed to withstand nearly all the hardships a person might imagine happening on an early western homestead, including flood, drought, severe winter weather, range and water rights, fires, and even the Bannock War. Unfortunately, a flood in 1943 destroyed many of the original buildings at Sinker Creek, but there are a few structures still in use including a rock barn, old bunkhouse, and a few log sheds.
Paul Nettleton and his son, Chad, are the fourth and fifth generation ranchers currently raising livestock at Sinker Creek. “Though I had big dreams of becoming a rodeo rider or a professional baseball pitcher, I always figured it was going to be my lot in life, taking care of this ranch. It’s too great a heritage to abandon,” says Paul. “I’m happy here and thank the Lord every day that I live where I live and do what I do.”
Today, Joyce Ranch includes multiple homesteads spread through the hills of Owyhee county, totaling 11,000 acres and 600 pairs of beef cows. Each year, about that many calves are born to the herd. To feed the livestock, 450 irrigated acres of hay is grown at the ranch, so there is always plenty of work to be done! “Chad is very involved and conducts all of the hands-on operations of the ranch,” explains Paul. “I take care of the paperwork, pay the bills, and do lots of riding and moving cattle.”
Paul still takes cattle up to graze in the green Owyhee mountain meadows each summer, and visitors to Silver City can arrange guided trail rides and tours with Sinker Creek Outfitters. “I’m a people person, so I enjoy meeting and visiting with lots of different people,” Paul says with a smile.
Joyce Ranch has been and continues to be exemplary of the diligence and determination the state of Idaho was founded upon and will instill those ideals in the generations to come.♦