When Alvin Kesterson was a teenager he had big dreams. The youngster grew up surrounded by lush forests, quiet meadows and the Umpqua River, all contained within his family’s ranch. Kesterson wanted to share its beauty with others. So he dreamed of a day when a portion of the 2500 acre Big K Ranch would be set aside as a guest ranch, where cowhands herd cattle and sheep while anglers experienced the bounty of the Umpqua. Today, that dream is a reality. “This type of thing has been in my mind for a long time. Elkton needed something like this, ” Kesterson said.
A working ranch, Charles Franklin Kesterson established the Big K Ranch over 100 years ago when he bought 400 acres of land along the Umpqua River. Native tribes had fished and hunted on the property for generations before that. The area’s first white settlers had camped nearby for a time in the 1800′s, until the population center drifted toward present day Elkton, about 10 miles northwest of the guest ranch. Over the years, the Kestersons acquired small tracts of property from adjoining landowners until the ranch grew to its present size. Sheep and cattle, plus some logging, supply the family with most of its income. But Kesterson was not sure that farming would keep up with the property’s tax burden. The idea of a guest ranch took serious form in the late 1980′s. Alvin saw it as a way to give the family the means to ensure holding onto the ranch.
“We’re not a development company. This is our heart and soul,” says Kathie Larsen, guest ranch manager and Alvin’s daughter. “It’s an exciting venture for us.”