08 Feb Nipika – A History: Part 1
Nipika has a colourful past. The history of this rocky mountain accommodation predates written history. The Ktunaxa people have occupied this region for literally thousands of years, travelling the great Kootenay River hunting and fishing. The title was created after World War I and trapper Bill Yearling got the title of this Rocky Mountain wilderness from Her Majesty the Queen. Yearling Creek, which flows through the meadow, is named after Bill Yearling. Yearling spent five years in the Kootenay Mountains, trapping and hunting until 1925, when he sold the land to a German immigrant, Frank Richter. The original Bill Yearling cabin is still standing in its restored state on the North side of the meadow. If only cabins could talk!
Frank Richter and his young bride Helen homesteaded for the next 32 years. There were no roads only a horse trail to a cable crossing the Kootenay River that got them to their home. The horse trail eventually became known as Settler’s Road, our access road. In 1934 with the completion of the Windermere Hwy, the B.C. government created a Wildlife Reserve in the entire upper Kootenay River valley, thus stopping further homesteading. The region still exists under the same piece of legislation.
Frank and Helen raised a family on the homestead and the historic pictures in the cabins are from the Richter family photo albums. Frank worked as a hunting guide for the Elkhorn Ranch, a guest ranch/guiding outfit near Lake Windermere. In the mid 1930s a larger cabin was constructed just to the East of the Yearling Cabin. It lasted until the mid 1960s when a drunken cook managed to burn it to the ground. Fortunately he was found passed out in the grass just outside the front door.
Dix Anderson and a group of Guide Outfitters bought the Richter homestead in the late 1950s for use as a base camp for hunts up the Kootenay, Cross, Mitchell and Palliser River drainages. There still exists a vast network of horse trails throughout the region surrounding Nipika wilderness resort carved out by Dix Anderson, Buster Tegart and other guide/outfitters. Anderson wrote a colourful book of his adventures in the Kootenay Mountains called “Trails I Have Traveled.”
In the 1960s, road access was gained to the east side of the Kootenay for logging, and valuable minerals were found up the Mitchell River near Magnesite Creek. To this day, mining and logging are the main traffic on Settler’s Road. Anderson retired from the strenuous life of big game guide. He sold the land to a Vancouver based real estate investor, Frank Relling, who held it for a few years until 1979 when Lyle Wilson wandered into Radium Hot Springs looking for a remote piece of land to create his Rocky Mountain Wilderness Resort.