Raised the son of a geologist in Texas, Bass studied petroleum geology at Utah State University. He started writing short stories on his lunch breaks while working as a petroleum geologist in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1987, he moved with his wife, the artist Elizabeth Hughes, to the remote Yaak Valley near Troy, Montana, where he has been active in working to protect his adopted home from roads and logging. Rick serves on the board of the Yaak Valley Forest Council and Round River Conservation Studies.
He is the author of over twenty books, including nonfiction nature writing, essay collections, short story collections, novellas and novels. Among his works are The Deer Pasture, Oil Notes, Wild to the Heart, Winter: Notes from Montana, The Ninemile Wolves, The Lost Grizzlies, The Book of Yaak, Where the Sea Used to Be, Fiber,"The Hermit's Story", and Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and an O. Henry Award.