Flowers in the Thompson Okanagan, Photo Allen Jones
Douglas Lake Ranch is only 3 1/2 hours from Vancouver and located just east of Merritt. The ranch is Canada’s largest working cattle ranch and has two of North America’s top lakes for producing rainbow trout. The lakes are rich with hard fighting Kamloops Rainbow Trout weighing up to ten pounds. Take a tour of the ranch. Established in 1884, Douglas Lake Ranch 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.
Douglas Lake Ranch is located 51 km (32 mi) east of Merritt and 93 km (58 mi) south of Kamloops via Highways 5, 5A and Douglas Lake Road. Additionally, the Ranch owns and maintains a private paved airstrip which is 4,600 feet in length.
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.