History

The origin of Silver Hilton Steelhead Lodge lies with Bob Wickwire; in 1961 he and a friend blindly immigrated to Canada from Oregon after reading an article in Field and Stream on the little known Babine River and its massive steelhead. Their first location, known as the Last Resort was over 30 miles up Babine Lake and proved to be too far from the River to be practical. Bob and his wife Jerrie Lou then purchased another partially completed camp that was known as Babine River Resort and subsequently Babine River Steelhead Lodge, it was located only a mile above the mouth of the river.

The introduction of the outboard jet unit in the mid-60's opened up 20 or 30 miles of previously inaccessible river for exploration. Soon Babine River Steelhead Lodge sprang up on the banks of the Babine about 7 miles below the mouth of the river and for many years was the destination of choice for anglers looking for a premium wilderness steelhead angling experience and as time passed fly-fishing became the primary focus.

As with most adventurers, sitting still for too long resulted in itchy feet, and in a few years "Babine Bob" wanted something new. So in the spring of 1984 Bob and his son Jud set off further down the river to find what the rest of the Babine had to offer.

The lower river proved to be very different in nature, more open and scenic but the river was rockier with a steeper gradient that generally provided more of a challenge to the anglers but also more variety as the pools were shorter and each one required a different approach and technique to cover the water effectively. Silver Hilton Steelhead Lodge was built to be the best of the best with more comforts and space than any other lodge at the time and very limited access. Construction was challenging as everything had to be brought in by helicopter, the design was done on the spot and all of the buildings were framed and ready for the first guests by the first week of September of 1984. The summer of 1985 was spent finishing the interiors and exteriors and fine-tuning the facilities to make them as comfortable as possible.

Bob, Jerrie Lou Wickwire and their son Jud were partners and operated the lodge as a hands-on family business. Jerrie Lou took care of the kitchens, housekeeping and bookkeeping, Bob and Jud guided and looked after the operations, Cynthia Schneider (Wickwire) looked after groceries and supplies in Smithers and transported guest to the appropriate airline, helicopter or ground transportation, and Cynthia\'s husband Dale guided and helped look after maintenance. Silver Hilton quickly gained a reputation for excellence in service along with premium opportunities to hook the world\'s largest steelhead in a pristine wilderness environment.

In 1986 Lani Waller brought Scientific Anglers (a division of the 3M Corporation), and a full film crew into Silver Hilton for 2 weeks to film the last tape in a 3 part series on fly-fishing for trophy steelhead. Lani hosted the program and insisted that the final tape be shot at Silver Hilton. The series was an instant success and was distributed all over the world. It is still considered to be one of the best sources of steelhead fly-fishing techniques available.

The lodge has always enjoyed a very high level of repeat clientele, usually making up well over half of the guest list from year to year. The guests can expect to see mostly familiar faces among the staff as well which contributes to a comfortable sense of being among friends when you return to the lodge.

In 1989 a Hiller 12-E helicopter was added to the operation to explore nearby lakes, rivers and mountains and was piloted by Jud Wickwire. The destinations proved to be a real adventure as in the course of a day you could fly-fish for trout in an alpine lake, hike on a glacier, photograph mountain goats from 100 yards and finish up with a two hour white-water rafting trip back to the lodge. The helicopter was also used to transport boats, equipment and fuel in the course of the season. However it proved to be too costly and was sold after two seasons and Jud returned to flying airplanes.

Over the years a number of issues have threatened the steelhead and the wilderness values of the Babine River. Silver Hilton, along with the other lodge owners and concerned parties, have resisted the push to have bridge crossings and cut-blocks on or near the river. There have been at least four bridge crossings thwarted as the result of lobbying efforts and in the late 90\'s a wilderness corridor was established for almost the full length of the river. The corridor was the first major breakthrough in long-term preservation as earlier issues had to be fought on an individual basis and then the battle moved elsewhere. The corridor was legislated as a Provincial Wilderness Park in 1999 further securing the river itself. The concerns now focus on preserving the boundaries from encroachment right up to the fringes, leaving nothing but a pencil thin park. Preservation issues continue, including efforts to reduce or eliminate the salmon gillnet fishery in the lower Skeena.

The Wickwires left behind a 35-year heritage of traditions and many of those traditions still carry on today.

In 1998 the Silver Steelhead Lodge Company purchased the lodge from Bob, Jerrie Lou and Jud Wickwire. Stephen Myers, who is the principal shareholder of the Silver Steelhead Lodge Company, is an avid fly fisherman who was in search of a world-class lodge at the time. His search included properties and lodges in the western United States as well as Western Canada.

"I was looking for something unique and special. Something unspoiled and in a natural wilderness setting," says Myers. "These types of properties are becoming increasingly hard to find and even more difficult to keep that way. I did not realize at that time what a great responsibility the stewardship of such a property would be. We only need to look around at rivers in other parts of the world to realize how these natural resources are being ruined and lost forever."

The Silver Hilton and the Babine River is one of the crown jewels of British Columbia and is everything an avid fisherman is looking for. It is one of the best steelhead fisheries in the world, and boasts some of the largest fish ever caught; regularly producing fish in excess of 20 pounds with the occasional 30-plus pounder every year.

Improvements to Silver Hilton commenced soon after the change of ownership in 1998. Jud Wickwire, who is a building contractor, supervised the construction which was achieved with almost 100 percent local labor and materials purchased locally. The main lodge was totally gutted from the ground up. The expanded lodge included a spectacular fireplace, proshop library and a new kitchen. In addition, an 8-room staff cabin was built to house the guides and support staff. New generators and jet boats with state-of-the-art quiet engines were purchased. "Almost everything had to be replaced," says Myers. "It was either pay now or pay later! We could have managed a couple more years out of the generators and jet boats, however, they were becoming unreliable so we decided to start off on the right foot and replace them."

Upriver, the Triple Header camp also received a facelift and an addition. Triple Header now has four bedrooms vs. two, so each guest has their own room. No more snoring issues. A pro-shop and library, like those at Main Camp, were also added.

We at Silver Hilton believe that no other steelhead lodge anywhere, on any river, offers the kind of wilderness seclusion we do. Our level of service, meals, accommodations, equipment and dedication to quality are second to none, and we are devoted to maintaining this standard of excellence for our clients.