The history of Douglas Lake Ranch spans a period of some 120 years, dating back to the mid-1880s. In fact, Douglas Lake Ranch itself traces its name back to 1872 when John Douglas Sr. homesteaded his first 320 acres (130 hectares) along its shore.
In 1884, John Douglas Sr. sold this property to Charles Beak, who, along with Joseph Greaves, Charles Thomson, and William Ward, founded Douglas Lake Cattle Company on June 30, 1886; a date which coincided with the first transcontinental train trip of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Charles Beak was a cattle rancher who had already amassed some 22,000 acres (8,900 hectares) in the Nicola Valley, whereas Greaves, Thomson, and Ward were members of a cattle syndicate that purchased cattle with a view to obtaining the Canadian Pacific Railway beef contract. In 1892 Charles Beak sold his interest to the remaining shareholders. Greaves and Thomson both remained until 1910, when Ward purchased their interest. By this time, the Ranch had grown to over 110,000 deeded acres (44,000 hectares), establishing it as the pre-eminent ranch in Canada.
The Ranch remained under the ownership and management of successive members of the Ward family until the family sold to Colonel Victor Spencer and William Studdert in 1950. However, during the period to April 1951, Frank Ross (later to become Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of British Columbia) joined Spencer and Studdert as a third owner. Studdert subsequently sold to Spencer and Ross. By then, the deeded acres had increased to over 145,000 acres (58,000 hectares). In 1959, Spencer and Ross sold Douglas Lake Ranch to Charles (Chunky) Woodward and John West. West's ownership continued until his death in 1968 at which time Woodward became the sole owner.
In July of 1998 the Woodward family sold to Bernard J. Ebbers, a Canadian born resident of Jackson, Mississippi, who then sold the ranch in 2003.
The present owner, Stan Kroenke, is a Missouri and Colorado based businessman with a commercial real estate and sports based business. He also has other ranches in Montana and Wyoming.
Life at the Ranch fosters teamwork between management and some 75 full and part time employees. This has created a strong culture and considerable employee loyalty. The employees value their way of life far more than the financial rewards. In fact, Douglas Lake has a history of employees who have spent their entire working careers at the Ranch and seldom found the need to leave its boundaries.
Douglas Lake Ranch is located 51 km (32 mi) east of Merritt and 93 km (58 mi) south of Kamloops via Hwys 5, 5A and Douglas Lake Road. Additionally, the Ranch owns and maintains a private paved airstrip which is 4,600 feet in length.
Established in 1886, this is Canada's largest working cattle ranch. The ranch is approximately 515,000 acres in size, has in the neighbourhood of 18,000 head of cattle and employs 60 people. In addition, the ranch has two of North America's top lakes for producing rainbow trout and operates a general store and post office.
Located in the heart of Douglas Lake Ranch, the general store is still housed in one of the original Ranch buildings, preserving its history with rustic charm. The store is open year-round, serving the more than twenty families living and working on the Ranch. During the peak season (May through October), the store is visited by tourists and avid fly fisherman from all corners of the world.
The general store carries a wide selection of groceries, fresh produce, clothing, souvenirs, western tacks, farm fresh eggs, and of course, cuts from the Ranch's famous beef. Drop in for a cup of coffee and a slice of the past where good country hospitality is just a way of life.
Douglas Lake Ranch provides dedicated anglers with some of the best and exclusive stillwater fly fishing in North America. The lakes are rich with hard fighting Kamloops Rainbow Trout weighing up to ten pounds.
This premier fee fishery is comprised of eleven private lakes ranging in size from 30 to 304 acres, including the highly rated Minnie and Stoney Lakes. The diligent management program includes a catch and release policy, and the number of anglers per lake is kept to a minimum. Guests are permitted to use fly rods with artificial flies on a single barbless hook.
Established in 1884, Douglas Lake Ranch, rated the largest working cattle company in Canada, provides a well-established tour program for both independent travelers and organized bus excursion groups. Douglas Lake Ranch is rich in history and tradition, and the tours are designed for guests who wish to explore the operation and share an honest view of the lifestyle and heritage.
All of the tours begin at the Home Ranch and feature the company town, general store, calving barn, quarter horse barn, feedlot, and silage storing area. Transportation and guide included. The tours are available for the following months: April, May, June, October, and November.
Background Photo Credit: Tourism British Columbia