Nipika’s early history

Nipika’s early history

Nipika has a colourful past, and the history of this place predates written history. The Ktunaxa people occupied this region for thousands of years, travelling the great Kootenay River hunting and fishing.

The Yearling Years

The land 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.

He spent five years in the Kootenay Mountains, trapping and hunting until 1925. The original Bill Yearling cabin still stands in its restored state as a guest cabin. If only walls could talk!

The Richter Years

Frank Richter, a German immigrant, bought the land from Yearling and homesteaded with his wife Helen for the next 32 years. There were no roads so they used 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. This stopped further homesteading, and 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 Elkhorn Ranch, a guest ranch/guiding outfit near Lake Windermere.

In the mid 1930s a larger cabin was constructed just 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.

The Guide Years

In the late 1950s, Dix Anderson and a group of guide outfitters bought the Richter homestead 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 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.