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RIVER HOUSE HISTORY

The first time I saw the beautiful Bulkley Valley was 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 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 fall sun.  The trees were in full fall color and 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.

 

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 quite.  In May we made a trip to Smithers a looked at some properties.  One particular property caught our eye even thought it was 40 KM from Smithers and a whopping 296 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.

 

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.

 

We spent that first October at the lake in a rented travel trailer, enjoying the fishing and the beauty of our new place.

 

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, 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 need 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 “green shack” a 10’ x 12’ 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, rang in the New Year (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 the 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 storey 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 “tunnel” to the studio.  Peter started on the plans and we began construction in 2003.  Being a big project with a relatively short building season it has taken three years to be near completion.

 

By early summer (2007) we will have the lower level and landscaping completed.

 

We built River House to enjoy with our family and friends.  We have enjoyed many visits and look forward to sharing this beautiful place, valley and country with you for many years to come.