Flooding fun enjoyed by Cariboo family

Sam Zirnhelt along with his sons, his brother and nephews enjoyed a spring lake that resulted from flooding at the family ranch in Beaver Valley east of Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)
Here the water has dropped three feet from the seven feet level it rose above normal due to flooding this spring. (Photo submitted)
Sam Zirnhelt said he and his brother Robin, along with their sons, had some fun with the water that flooded the ranch this spring. (Photo submitted)
An article in the Williams Lake Tribune May 19, 1965 edition talks about David Zirnhelt, Sam’s father, and David’s friend Billy Bell, attempting to river raft the San Jose River. (Williams Lake Tribune Archives)

A family living on a ranch east of Williams Lake has made the best of this year’s flooding by enjoying a ‘spring’ lake where normally they have hay fields in the summer.

Sam Zirnhelt said the water levels in lower Beaver Valley usually come up on Opheim Lake Road in mid-April where he grew up, but this year it was higher than normal.

“This is was the highest year that I know of in my life,” he told the Tribune Friday. “It was amazing. It was seven feet deep on top of the road.”

He said half of the ranch was cut off and his dad and mom, David and Susan Zirnhelt, were cut off and had to boat in and out for a few weeks.

Read more: Aerial tour of flooding in Williams Lake area

Zirnhelt and his sons, seven and nine years old, along with his brother Robin and his three sons, had a lot of fun with the water, he added.

“The boys were swimming and kayaking through the forests. I think about 100 acres of our ranch was under water.”

They paddled boats over the tops of the fences and rode horses through the water.

They even had a Mother’s Day picnic on the road, which due to flooding looked like a beach.

“The kids liked how the water was above the fences,” Zirnhelt added, noting they went out on the horses Thursday, May 14. “We went through and the water had dropped, but it still up to your stirrups. It’s fun.”

When asked if mosquitoes have arrived yet, Zirnhelt said they have been wondering how bad they will be this year with all the water.

“We’ve had COVID and floods and the next thing we’ll be dealing with is the mosquitoes,” he said, chuckling.

At the Tribune we dug up an article from May 1965 which proves the apples don’t fall too far from the tree.

In the article, titled Would-be river rats deflated on San Jose, David Zirnhelt is featured riding a raft in the San Jose River.

“Well, the San Jose is no Colorado, but in freshet there are runs of rapids to tempt the adventurous spirit of the young,” the author of the article suggested.

Read more: Cowboy poetry a family affair as young Zirnhelt carries on grandfather’s legacy


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