Silvies Valley Ranch History
Even before the pioneers came to settle in the valley, explorers and trappers alike recognized the assets that this unique meadow landscape had to offer. Surrounded by ancient timber forests and fed by snow covered mountain peaks, the river valley was home to one of the most sought after commodities of the 1800’s – beaver. As trappers moved into the western territories, they too carved out a place in the valley’s history.
"Silvies" is the result of misspellings of the name of the first French trapper to enter the valley in the early 1830s. According to historical records, he was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company which ultimately trapped over 200,000 beaver out of the Silvies Valley! Silvies Valley Ranch was homesteaded and the first water rights patented in 1883. Over the years, hardy pioneers and cowboys worked the meadows, valleys and surrounding mountains –many found the country too rugged and hard and moved on. One who came and stayed was John “Jack” Craddock who bought up many of the smaller places by the late ‘20s when the railroad was put through the valley. He was followed by his son Chet Craddock who put the ranch together much as it is today.
Starting in the late 1950s, the ranch passed from the Craddock’s and for the next half-century was in the hands of a series of eight different owners who were neither ranchers nor native Oregonians, but instead Californians, insurance companies, a grazing association, an investment broker, and even a restaurateur. These people harvested the timber, crops, livestock and wildlife, and subjected the ranch to many schemes including bankruptcy twice and turning the ranch into exotic wildlife hunting farms, buffalo refuges, dude ranches and even wild horse sanctuaries – but they did little to build or even maintain the ranch as a working cattle ranch with valuable natural environmental assets and wildlife.
In 2007, the ranch was purchased by Silvies Valley Ranch, L.L.C., a private company founded by the Campbell’s – a family with pioneer roots in Eastern Oregon much older than the ranch. The name of the ranch was returned to its historic name of “Silvies Valley Ranch” and a rendition of one of the earliest ranch brands was recorded to help write a new chapter in the ranch’s long history.
In early 2008, Robb & Lisa Foster (also a long time Eastern Oregon family) joined the ranch as owners and day-to-day managers. The ranch’s management team finalized a Five Year Plan to return Silvies Valley Ranch to its former position as one of the leading enterprises in Eastern Oregon.
The Five Year Plan calls for the acquisition of more wildlife habitat, investment for development of new modern facilities, new homes for ranch associate families, new barns for livestock and hay, dozens of miles of new fences, as well as a significant investment in riparian and wildlife habitat restoration.
Today the ranch is made up of 140,000 acres of deeded and leased National Forest and BLM lands in and surrounding Silvies Valley Oregon. Of the over 60 square miles of deeded property, there are 6,000 acres of mountain meadows, 14,000 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest, 20 miles of the Silvies River, over 20 named creeks and drainages, cattle and horses, as well as native Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sage hens, grouse, pine martins, quail, black bear, cougar, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, squirrels, chipmunks, porcupines, beaver, raccoons, river otters, hawks, eagles, pigmy rabbits, wild turkeys, cranes, geese, ducks, song birds, woodpeckers, bass, catfish, perch and native redband trout, among other residents.