|The history of River House started with the first time I saw the Bulkley Valley in the fall of 1986. I was invited as a last minute replacement for a steelhead fishing trip to the world famous Babine River. When we arrived in Smithers BC Canada, it was a pristine fall day with the sun shinning brightly.|
|As I walked out of the front door of the airport I was greeted by a breath taking view of Mt. Hudson’s Bay. Lake Katlyn at its base was shimmering in the sunlight. There was a fresh dusting of snow covering the mountain. Although I never returned until the fall of 1999 that image remained firmly in my mind and this was the beginning of the history of River House Estate.|
| In the fall of 1999, my wife Judith and I took our first RVing trip and of course Smithers was on the agenda. We spent ten days in the Bulkley Valley. The weather was beautiful and the fishing was excellent. During our visit we met several people from the area that were extremely nice and helpful. As we were leaving my wife asked “I wonder how much property is here”? That was music to my ears!
Within minutes of arriving home I was on the internet looking for a realtor in Smithers. We made contact with a realtor at Remax and told her we were looking for about forty acres on the Bulkley River. That seemed like a lot but after living in the San Francisco Bay area for many years we were interested in getting a place where we could enjoy some peace and quiet. In May we made a trip to Smithers and looked at some properties. One particular property caught our eye even thought it was 40 KM from Smithers and a whopping 293 acres. Over the next five months we worked with the existing owner and in October worked out a “deal” that served both our needs. We were able to buy the property and have the former owner stay as our caretaker.
|At the time of purchase the property was mostly “bush” with the exception of a 27 acre hay field at the river and a small clearing at the top of the property where the former owner’s, Louise Aulstead, trailer resided. AND about 12-15 kms of trails throughout the property. These were converted from game trails by Louise to a width that can accommodate skiers, snowmobiles and ATVs. What a wonderful way to enjoy the property. The property is close to a half section with a half mile of riverfront on the world famous Bulkley River and wonderful little lake of about 15 acres located on the southern property line.
We spent that first October at the lake in a rented travel trailer, enjoying the fishing and the beauty of our new place.
| Shortly after we purchased the property we were introduced to Peter Erbel, a local log builder. Judith and I wanted to do a log cabin, something we knew NOTHING about. Our “education” on log building was limited to a few magazines and looking at “milled” log structures. We had an initial meeting with Peter and then looked at one of his cabins. His work was beautiful.
One afternoon while fishing at the south end of our property, I looked up at the bluff above the river and decided that would be the place to put our house. Since we knew that this was a long term “project” we decided to first build a cabin so we could be comfortable while we decided exactly what we wanted to do on the property. In addition, while staying that October on the lake, we decided that would be a wonderful spot for a cabin too. Also, during this first fall we decided to call our place River House.
|By the time we were ready to leave that year, Peter had come up with the plans for the River Cabin. It is two stories with a bedroom loft. We designed it to have a main living area, two bathrooms, laundry room and a sauna. Our thinking was that once the house was built that we could use this for both guests and friends arriving in RVs and they could use the bathrooms, laundry and sauna.
We gave Peter the OK to start the cabin with a start date of early spring. Peter, Judith and I walked through the bush to establish the road and determine the exact location of River Cabin. While on the bluff I got a pretty good idea that we would have a pretty nice mountain and river view.
We started construction in April of 2000. First we needed to extend the road almost half a mile and bring in hydro (electricity) all the way from the top of the property, almost 3 KM. By this time we had met Gary Haywood, a local excavator, who took on the road project and eventually did all of the other excavation projects at River House. We finally got hydro into the building site at a mere three times the original quote! Welcome to building in the bush!!
We came up in July of 2000 to see the progress and do some fishing. We had our first two groups of friends visit us that month. We stayed in a trailer at the lake while our “guests” stayed in the small cabin, more like a shelter, located at the north shore of the lake. We had a great time fishing and showing them the Bulkley Valley. We showered outside, fought off lots of mosquitoes and expected a bear to pop out from behind every tree. AND we had a ball. The job of hauling water from town in a 100 gal tank was an endless job. We discovered immediately that we needed to dig a well….and soon!
|About this time it was apparent the River House was taking on a life of its own. We began to realize that even though the Bulkley Valley was a small place in a very remote location it was home to some very talented people. It seemed that really qualified, excellent craftsman were finding there way to our door. A German Log builder, a South African finish carpenter, a Bavarian mason along with local Canadians all pitched into make River Cabin the beginning of something special at River House. We came back in October to an “almost” finished River Cabin and moved in a week later. We enjoyed a beautiful October and enjoyed several more friends who came up for fall steelhead fishing.|
|We wanted to experience the winter and we came up a few days after Christmas in (2002) and enjoyed two weeks of our new winter wonderland. It was during that stay that we realized that a log cabin is a wonderful warm and cozy place to spend some time in the winter. We spent our time in front of the fire, snowshoeing and snowmobiling around the place. We were amazed that even though it hadn’t snowed in a week that the snow still clung to the trees and looked like your favorite Christmas card.|
|Two things happen next. First we decided to give Peter the go ahead for a small two bedroom, one story cabin on the lake and we turned our attention to designing the main house.|
In every house we ever owned, every time we had a party….everyone always ended up in the kitchen. Sooooo…we decided that at River House the kitchen would be in the middle of the house and the center of all activities. Judith wanted her studio close by so she could spend lots of time there doing her water colors, ceramic work and sewing. Still “bear paranoid” she asked that it would be close enough to be “connected”. In addition we wanted a couple of big fire places and I wanted a wood fired bread oven. Our original plan was to just have a one story with loft but one thing led to another and we ended up with a full lower level. This gave us plenty of room for an office, game room, home theater, and wine cellar which also serves as a covered “passage” to the studio cabin. Peter started on the plans and we began construction in 2003. Being a big project with a relatively short building season it took three years to complete construction.
By early in the summer of 2007 we completed the lower level and landscaping.
|The continued history of River House is an ever continuing project. One day, during construction, I visited the crew that always had lunch in a clearing just north of Judith’s studio. After talking with them for a few minutes I turned around to leave and was stunned by the view of River House with the Telkwa Mountains in the background. I immediately thought it would be a great place for a fire pit, Gazebo or both. Of course, I wanted it made of log and decided to talk to our Log Builder who came up with a simple and beautiful design. That dream came true in 2010 when Peter and his crew built the Gazebo.|
|I enjoy gardening and to get away during the three plus years of construction I built a garden near the lake; a long way from River House. The plot was shaded, the ground to wet in the spring but amazingly provided us with lots of fresh vegetables. I decided that the garden was too far away and decided to build something special near River House. I chose a spot just north of River House and fifty feet west of the Gazebo. It took several months to clear, level and fence a thirty two hundred foot area which enjoys almost perfect sunlight. I brought the eight by twelve foot green house from the other garden and built a variety of raised beds. Before planting began in 2011 I brought in truckloads of sandy loam from the bottom hayfield and “black gold” from the lake dredging done the previous year. I mixed those soils together along with truckloads of horse manure from our neighbors to create a wonderful mixture for the new garden. I wanted it to be a special place and River House worthy.|
|Projects started in 2016 and due to be completed by early 2017|
|For all the years we have owned River House Estate we did not have an entry gate. In doing the research on marketing this type of property we found out the ALL similar properties had impressive secure entry gates. I gave this a lot of thought as to location and design. I knew one thing. IF we were going to build one I wanted to ask Harry Hasselbach, the artisan that did all the rock work at River House Estate to do the work. Harry had since semi-retired and moved to Vancouver Island. I made the call and it was music to my ears when Harry agreed to take on the project. He started in July and designed and started building an amazing beautiful log and rock entry gate. Ole Man Winter came early halting the project which will resume in May and be completed by July 1st, 2017.|
|Judith and I have visited Death Valley many times and we especially enjoyed Scotty’s Castle. One of the many things that fascinated me about Scotty’s Castle was the cement fence posts that have been surrounding the place for almost a hundred years. I decided those posts would be perfect for the River House Estate and Garden and figured out a way to make exact duplicates of the fence posts and designed corner posts to compliment the design. We are fencing the entire Estate with animal friendly fencing except for the Bulkley River frontage. Pouring the posts started in 2016 and will be completed by May of 2017 and the entire fence will be completed by July 1st, 2017.|
|Another project that came to fruition, in 2016, was building an additional storage area near River House and River Cabin. Good, nearby fire wood storage is always welcome and the new log shelter makes a great place to store ATV’s and Snowmobiles; nearby but tucked away out of sight.|
We built River House to enjoy with our family and friends. We have enjoyed many visits and still look forward, in our short time left, to sharing this beautiful Estate, and country with guests. Our history of River House isn’t quite completed yet as there are still a few projects in the works to be completed in the Spring of 2018. Although the RHE is being sold, we optioned for another 85 acres next to our place to gain access to another 1/2 mile of River frontage but more importantly to provide the potential for a 1 mile airstrip if the next owner has a jet and wants to build a private airstrip.
IT’S YOUR TURN: We are looking to find a buyer with a vision to continue this ‘History of River House Estate’. Purchase this beautiful property in Northern British Columbia. Enjoy it as your full time residence, a summer get-away, a corporate retreat, a hunting or fishing lodge or possibly a luxury B&B.