Kesterson Bros. Logging Co. Helps Turn Vision Into Reality
Story and photos by Craig Reed
Alvin Kesterson would be pleased to know his vision for Big K Ranch has been carried on by his descendants.
Alvin wanted to create an operation that would exist and thrive beyond his own life. He died in 2013 at age 84. His brother and business partner, Virgil, died in 2016 at age 91. Of the 2 brothers, Alvin was the visionary in developing a succession plan for their ranch that’s been in the family for more than a century.
The brothers’ grandfather, Charles, bought the ranch’s original 400 acres 115 years ago. Each generation since has bought adjoining acreage, bringing the total to 2,500 acres.
Alvin’s children and grandchildren have made his vision a reality through their management of the ranch’s timberlands, livestock and pastures, and with hunting and fishing opportunities it offers at its guest lodge.
In 1964, Alvin and Virgil founded Kesterson Bros. Logging Co. for the purpose of managing and harvesting the ranch’s timber. The logging company also allowed the brothers to contract log timber for other owners.
Guests Are Welcome
The Big K Guest Ranch, nestled within a curve of the Umpqua River, has been offering guests recreational and special event opportunities for 30 years.
The guest ranch features a full kitchen, dining room, special event room and 20 cabins. Visitors can enjoy guided fishing or hunting trips or book the resort for special occasions such as weddings, family reunions, corporate retreats or just simple, relaxing getaways.
For more information, visit the Big K Guest Ranch website.
The company was recently recognized and honored for its management of the property’s 1,700 acres of timberlands. The Douglas County Small Woodlands Association named the company Tree Farmer of the Year for 2023.
“The stewardship of the land has continued, and this Tree Farmer of the Year award is a bonus,” says Kathie Kesterson Gray, Alvin’s daughter. “It’s amazing to be recognized, and I believe my dad would know that.”
Kathie’s sons, Seth and Gary Williamson, are the ranch’s operating managers. Gary is the ranch manager, and Seth is the timber manager.
“Those two make a lot of decisions regarding the timberland on behalf of the family heritage for the future,” Kathie says.
“That said, we have to give credence and credit to the entire fifth generation because everybody feels good about what is going on—the continuing of the stewardship of the ranch.”
Seth and Gary emphasize the focus is on the stewardship of the land, not just on the timberland. The ranch borders about 9 miles of the Umpqua River. The brothers believe the marine air that comes up the river from the coast gives the bordering hillsides additional moisture that benefits growing trees.
“We want to make sure the land can provide for our family, for the natural resources, our livestock and our recreation,” Gary says. “That’s pretty much been the foundation for our family’s outlook over the last generations and the last 115 years.
“I can only hope they (Alvin and Virgil) would be proud of the hard work, loyalty and dedication we have put back into the ranch for future generations.”
Seth agrees Alvin and Virgil would be proud, “but I think they would be shocked at the way the world has evolved and how we now manage timber,” he says. “I think they might also be shocked at how refined the process is now for growing trees. It’s come a long way over the years.”
Dan Newton, a member of the Douglas County Small Woodlands Association board, says it was not a difficult decision to nominate and then select Kesterson Bros. Logging Co. for the annual award.
“The stewardship on their timberland is outstanding with exceptional forestry practices,” he says. “Some of the values of the Small Woodlands Association are stewardship, advocacy, fellowship and education. Their property fits with all that.”
Dan says 115 years of successful ranching and forestry into the sixth generation also figured into the decision to honor the Kesterson family.
Big K Ranch has Douglas fir timber stands of varying ages, from seedlings to old growth. Scotch broom, berry vines and grass have been hand-sprayed to benefit and protect the trees. Miles of fence keep the ranch’s 100 mother cows and their calves out of the timber stands so they don’t rub trees and compact the soil.
“Our goal is to take care of the land to the best of our ability for future generations,” Seth says. “Ultimately, they will have their own thoughts and ideas on what stewardship means.
“The award is a great honor we weren’t trying to win, but the fact people recognize what we’re doing speaks a lot. To me, it’s a community award that represents many generations of work, not only my family but lots of friends and partners who have helped along the way. The award reinforces the fruits of our efforts, that we’re doing things that other people appreciate. It’s nice to have others recognize that we’re doing things the right way.”