Saturday, July 11, 2020

Nicola Valley, BC ~ Historic ~ Ranchland

The road through Nicola Valley connects Merritt to Kamloops and covers zillions of acres beyond.  The history goes way back and has some very interesting connections to the past.  Nicola was named by the fur traders after the most prominent of the chiefs of the First Nations people as they couldn’t pronounce his name properly.

Nicola Lake

Hwy 5A follows this scenic valley and passes by several lakes as we drive through the valley.  The Nicola Lake is the first one we see when we leave Merritt.  It was glacially formed and it was this lake that attracted the Nicola people to settle in this location.  Nicola Lake wanders the curve of the valley for 22 km offering several locations for vacationers to enjoy.

Nicola Ranch Country Gifts

The Nicola Ranch is still a community on Hwy 5A that includes this store with great Country Gifts inside.  The Court House, built in 1886, sits next door and offers overnight accommodations for visitors who wish to enjoy the pleasure of the past and present.  Tragically the Old Church that was a vital part of this historic community since 1876, was burned down January 2019.

Quilchena Lodge

The Quilchena Lodge offers far more history that I’m able to share here.  It was built by one of the Guichon brothers and opened in 1908.  It closed in 1917 due to WW1 with bullet holes in the bar that are still visible to this day.  It then reopened in 1958 and has been open ever since although it is temporarily closed at this time due to the CoVid virus. (July 2020)

Nicola Valley Ranchland

Quilchena, named by local First Nations means “where the willows grow”.  This ranch was purchased by the Guichon brothers, originally from France, who arrived in the Nicola Valley following the California Gold Rush of 1860’s.  The Quilchena Cattle Co was purchased by Douglas Lake Ranch in 2013 combining the two historical ranches of the Nicola Valley.

Log Church Hwy 5A and Douglas Lake Rd

This beautiful log church sits on the corner of Old Merritt Highway 5A and Douglas Lake Road.  It is well worth a stop to have a look at it.  We’ve not gone up to Douglas Lake Cattle Company but find the history interesting.  It is the largest working cattle ranch in the world!  It was founded in 1886 and was purchased by Chunky Woodward, of the Woodward Dept. store family in 1957.  Douglas Lake Ranch then bred more champion horses than any other ranch in history.  Mr. Woodward died in 1990 and his family operated the ranch until 1998 when it was purchased by others.

Stump Lake

Stump Lake offers some good fishing in the Spring and fall with Rainbow and Brook Trout and Kokanee.  They’re not as large as they once were but still big enough for a good meal after a successful fishing day. There is a boat launch just off the highway and a day use site for the public to use but that wasn’t visible due to high water when we were here on this day.  Stump Lake Ranch, established in 1883 is still in these ranchland hills but much smaller than it was at one time.  

Bald Headed Eagles

The approximately 100 km (60 mi) of road though the Nicola Valley passes by several lakes.  Between Merritt to Kamloops, they include Nicola, Stump, Napier, Ritchie, Trapp and Shumway Lakes.  Other lakes are accessed by side roads off of 5A.  This photo was taken on a previous trip when the eagles and their young were enjoying the flooded fields.  We stopped to watch their playful time before moving onto find another group, as well.

Trapp Lake

The scenery we see while driving through the valley is very picturesque, great to enjoy on a nice summer day and imagining the history of this beautiful valley.   Trapp Lake is not known for fishing nor for recreational although paddlers have access to the lake and as we follow them, we see it makes a nice scenic drive for a motorcycle ride, too.

Ranch on Shumway

There are several ranches throughout the Nicola Valley, some of which are very famous.  The Nicola Ranch, Quilchena Ranch, Stump Lake Ranch and Douglas Lake ranch likely the best known, have all existed for a very long time and with interesting history, as well. 

Shumway Lake

Kamloops has several groups like the Kamloops Canoe and Kayak Club who call Shumway Lake home.  During the 25 years that KCKC have been, they’ve produced some successful paddlers and events as well as collected several awards.  They’re not active due to the CoVid virus at this time so the lake is very quiet but we did see one kayaker making her way down the lake.

Now ends our scenic tour of the Nicola Valley and the history lesson of this pretty valley.  Just another reason to see why there is no place like home.