BLISS, Idaho • The historic, geothermally heated White Arrow Ranch is being sold Thursday to the highest bidder. The sale marks the first time the property has been open to the public in 12 years.
The road out of Bliss is dry as dust and feels empty in all directions, save for a few homes. The main population out here is cattle and sagebrush.
Tucked behind the post office in Bliss is a steep and narrow road that appears to be a dead end, but keep driving. After a few more miles of the flat, sagebrush covered land the paved country road curves to the entrance of some of the most pristine territory in the Magic Valley.
Broad hills emerge and dominate the landscape. For miles the road itself is the only evidence of civilization - and the cows that stand in the middle of the road. Less than a mile from the White Arrow Ranch entrance, nearly all of the sprawling architecture is hidden behind foothills. Through the gate, an oasis of manicured buildings leads to a ranch that looks like something out of 1950s Hollywood.
White Arrow Ranch Owner George Panagiotou said many of his visitors are stunned when they come.
“The first reaction is their mouths are open as they walk into the front door,” Panagiotou said. “White Arrow Ranch is seductive and charismatic because it encapsulates a lot of the beauty of the Magic Valley in one location.”
Rough-hewn cedar planked walls rise to a red, A-frame roof. Inside is a spacious and sunlit, five-bedroom, seven-bathroom house with geothermally heated slate floors. One of the largest, privately owned hot springs in the country flows more than 300,000 gallons of 160 degree water per day underneath much of the property. During the winter, massive plumes of steam rise from the land; snow never sticks. Panagiotou said it “looks almost like outer space.”
“I’d have to pay $500 to $1,000 to heat the house because it’s a big house,” Panagiotou said. “The ground completely heats the house in the winter.”
Large stones line the floors and surrounding property. Panagiotou controls the heat of those stones with a valve. “The house could be 80 degrees when it’s 15 minus outside.”
Panagiotou, who invented a no-heat Hollywood lighting system, said a family owned the house before him and were forced to leave because of bankruptcy. He bought the ranch 12 years ago to fix and sell it.
“The idea was to buy this place, flip it and sell it,” Panagiotou said. “It was a mess; you couldn’t sell it. Then after I fixed it I loved it and then the economy went to hell so there was a string of events that didn’t allow me to sell it and now I can.”
After interviewing some of the top Realtors in the nation, Panagiotou hired Randy Wells, owner of Realty Auction Services in Coeur d’Alene. Wells said he and a partner company auction 5,000 properties per year around the world. He’s never seen a property like the White Arrow Ranch.
“This is the first property we’ve sold with hot springs and the first commercial greenhouse operation we’ve sold,” Wells said. “It’s the first property we’ve sold that’s been geothermally heated.”
After explaining his relationship with the ranch, Panagiotou got in a pickup truck and drove passed 42,000 square feet of greenhouses to a steaming creek.
Ancient Hot Springs
Pnagiotou said scientists from Switzerland tested the water and found it to be anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 years old when it surfaces, coming from thousands of feet below the earth.
“This is a very special place,” Panagiotou said. “All this attracted me, but most of all it was the tranquility out here and the hot water. …Usually a hot spring is just a little bit of water coming out at 90 or 100 degrees. This water is very hot, very voluminous.”
A Rich History
Built around 1979, the White Arrow Ranch is surrounded by undeveloped Bureau of Land Management property. Native American hieroglyphics are plentiful in the surrounding caves and mountains. The ranch was named when early developers found a large white arrow while excavating a swimming pool. Panagiotou said there are many arrowheads and remnants of pottery scattered across his property.
“I’ve never looked for arrowheads out here,” Panagiotou said. “My friends look for them and they have made me bows and arrows, hammers and all kinds of Indian artifacts. I have never found an arrowhead. I figure it’s my property. It’s mine so let it stay where it’s at.”
Panagiotou said there is also untouched evidence of early settlers on the property. There is a cemetery nearby with graves dated as far back as 1850. Near an eagle nesting site are the remains of what Panagiotou believes to be a stone shepherd home.
The White Arrow Ranch is being auctioned in three segments: 7,000 square foot home on 155 acres, 42,000 square feet of geothermally heated greenhouses on 45 acres and 26 lots on 80 acres of what Panagiotou describes as being located on, “The most pristine hunting and fishing region of the Magic Valley.” There is no minimum bid except for a required $75,000 down on the hunting sanctuary.
Panagiotou said so far he’s gotten a tremendous response at open houses.
“Most of the interest has been in the greenhouses,” Panagiotou said. “The second most interest is in the lodge and resort idea. Perhaps half of that are private people who want to live there.”
Randy Wells said auctioning is often more effective for “unique property” than a traditional real estate sale.
“You can list a property like that and if you check traditional listings, a property like that is going to be on the market from two to five years,” Wells said. “With the auction method, you get to pick the day, the time and closing. … What we try to accomplish through the bidding process is to get the current market value of that day.”