Rescue the Rogue Oregon/Washington BLM



Rescue the Rogue

A band of heroic firefighters rush to save classic Western author Zane Grey's historic cabin from raging wildfires along Oregon's Rogue River.

story by Kristen Hauge, Matt Christenson, and Pam Robbins
photos by Colby Hawkinson

Western author Zane Grey's historic Oregon cabin had to be turned into a space-age silver chalet to protect it from raging summer firestorms.

But before there was a cabin to save, there was a man.

His name was Zane Grey.

Zane Grey, one of the earliest masters of the American western novel, made Oregon's Rogue River not only the backdrop to his novel, Rogue River Feud. He also made this area his home.

Iconoclast Zane Grey was a novelist, explorer, world record-holding angler, minor league baseball player, and intermittent dentist. An unstereotypical Ivy Leaguer, Grey began his adult life attending the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship before graduating to play in the minor leagues.

But after struggling on the professional diamond, Grey succumbed to growing pressure from his father to take a more suitable livelihood. Thus did the former New Jersey outfielder become Dr. Zane Grey, dentist, hanging his shingle in New York City - an inauspicious introduction to one of America's greatest outdoorsmen and chroniclers of thrilling tales.

Cabin Fever

Amidst extractions and cavities, our dentist soon became restless. He told his family and friends he needed adventure. And thus Zane Grey did look west to explore the remaining unsettled natural lands - and begin a writing career that would span 40 years.

Hearing his wild siren's song, Zane Grey went rogue to leave the confines of New York City for the open splendor of the natural world. And in the Northwest, he was specifically drawn to the solitude and the hunting and fishing in Oregon - especially that which he found along the fittingly-named Rogue River.

After running the Rogue's rapids, Zane purchased a mining claim here at Winkle Bar where he built his cabin in the early 1920s. The author spent many happy years in this picaresque location that inspired Rogue River Feud.

A Partnership for Posterity

Zane Grey died at the age of 67 in 1939. But his historic property has lived on. First it was purchased by the Haas family, long-time owners of Levi Straus. This transition of Grey's property seemed well-suited to the makers of denim overalls for the western pioneers of the 19th century. And though the Haas family built new homes on the property, they always maintained Zane Grey's cabin, welcoming intrepid visitors willing to run the Rogue or make the five-mile overland hike to reach this isolated property.

Then beginning in the 1970s, the BLM joined with the Haas family to share a management agreement and provide support for the land in a spirit of cooperation. And in 2005, when The Trust for Public Land notified the BLM that they intended to purchase the property from the Haas family, both organizations worked together to obtain these 32 acres. In 2008, the official transfer to the BLM took place.

Plovers Progress
photo by Colby Hawkinson

Trouble Brewing

Cut to 2013. Summer storms let loose lightening in this area and caused a storm of wildfire. A series of three fires - collectively known as the Big Windy Fire Complex - burned thousands of acres and threatened to destroy Zane Grey's cabin.

In order to protect Zane's Oregon legacy, BLM firefighters spent weeks digging fire lines that would create natural barriers to limit the fire's spread. In addition, the firefighters prepared the buildings to be able to withstand a possible burn-over.

Serve & Protect

Protecting Zane Grey's cabin began with a few basics such as reducing everything around it that could potentially burn. Brush and trees were cut. Overhanging branches were trimmed. Other flammable woody debris was removed from the structure's perimeter. And firefighters installed smart sprinklers driven by a generator that would wet down the cabin and the adjacent area should flames become a direct threat.

In addition, the cabin was wrapped with protective material that turned it into a silvery space-age rendition of a log cabin. This same fire shelter material which also protects firefighters from flames was wrapped around the building to keep heat and embers from igniting the dry logs and shingle roofs.

Now all the firefighters could do was wait.

A Happy Ending?

So what happened to Zane Grey's celebrated cabin? Well, thanks to the work of BLM firefighters, this historic site survived the 2013 wildfires. This structure looks to remain safe and secure for another hundred years - right along with our heartfelt tribute to the rogue along his Rogue.

But that doesn't mean you should wait that long to visit it.

See for yourself this piece of history (and firefighting marvel). Take the trip by boat or by foot to walk the same path where America's past - and current - heroes have tread.

Directions to Zane Grey's cabin - and other incredible stops along the Rogue River - are available online!