B.C.’s historic K2 Ranch has colourful history

The ranch, which was founded in 1898, still custom grazes 300 cattle on its meadowlands during the summer

INVERMERE, B.C. — In a meadow on a long laneway off the Westbank road south of Invermere sits British Columbia’s historic K2 Ranch.

Founded in 1898 by rancher and Paradise Mine prospector Tom “Blanket” Jones, the early ranch consisted of 640 acres of forests and meadow lands. The original name of the ranch was named after the Elenvale Creek, which ran through the property.

The ranch was surrounded by big timber forests on the edge of the Purcell Mountain range. Jones grew potatoes for local sales and grazed cattle on the grasslands.

The ranch was sold in 1909 to Charles Ellis and Walter Stoddart as the Elenvale Creek Ranch and again in 1921, this time to a United States naval captain named Captain MacCarthy.

MacCarthy previously owned the Karmax Ranch, which was several kilometres to the north on Toby Creek bench, the road to the present-day Panorama ski resort. The captain was a well-known outdoors man and mountain climber and he climbed with the legendry Conrad Kain, one of Canada’s first mountain guides.

MacCarthy and Kain did the first assent of Mount Robson and later in 1925, he led the first assent of Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan.

He named his new ranch K2 or Karmax 2 after one of the mountains he climbed with Kain.

MacCarthy owned the ranch until 1941 and during that time he raised Hereford cattle and built a large hip-roof barn, a house and a log cabin. He installed irrigation systems and built near-by MacCarthy Lake. Over the years, the ranch expanded and additional buildings were erected by several new owners. In the late 1990s, a logging company from Idaho severely logged the ranch with clear-cutting and decimated the forest.

Again, the ranch was sold, but this time the new owners took an interest in restoring the 11,700-acre ranch.

The historic three-storey barn, which is the largest of its kind in British Columbia, as well as the cookhouse cabin, blacksmith shop and other buildings were restored. The previous owner had used poor logging practices and the forested areas needed a lot of rejuvenation. Stream beds were enhanced, many trees were planted, and the extensive watersheds and riparian areas on the ranch were restored.

The K2 Ranch is a no-hunting preserve, but on some areas the public is invited to hike and visit the pristine natural areas.

As part of the recent Wings Over the Rockies Festival at Invermere, the ranch was featured as one of the many conservation and land use events that participants could attend.

The ranch is still a working cattle ranch with about 300 cattle custom-grazing the meadow lands during the summer.

Currently, the ranch is involved in building part of the 25 kilometre Columbia Valley Greenways Trail, a paved non-motorized hiking and biking trail going from Invermere to Fairmont.

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