One of the most popular sites on Oregon's Rogue River is a simple one-room cabin of peeled logs and hand-split shingles. The cabin was once...
One of the most popular sites on Oregon’s Rogue River is a simple one-room cabin of peeled logs and hand-split shingles.
The cabin was once owned by Zane Grey, best known for his Western novels, including “Riders of the Purple Sage.” But now the 32 acres and the buildings on it belong to everyone, and rafters on the southwest Oregon river can continue stopping by for a glimpse of literary history.
The cabin was bought by the Trust for Public Lands and resold in May to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which is nominating it for the National Register of Historic Places. The purchase means the site will remain open to visitors.
“I think it’s fantastic that they are preserving it,” said Eric Grey, the late author’s great-grandson, who lives in New Jersey.
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Nelson Mathews, Northwest program director for The Trust for Public Land, said the property was assessed at $840,000. The actual sale price was not disclosed. It includes the original cabin, two modern cabins, a compound of outbuildings, one of the original boats Zane Grey used to descend the Rogue, a grass air strip and a garden.
Grey was a regular on best-seller lists, with one or more top-10 books from 1917 to 1924. He became a Hollywood figure in 1915, when “Graft” became the first of at least 112 movies based on Grey’s works. He died in 1939 at age 67.
A wilderness retreat
After floating the Rogue River’s rapids and falling in love with its steelhead, he bought a mining claim in 1926 at Winkle Bar, where he built the cabin, which became his wilderness retreat.
“My great-grandfather said that he spent ‘one of the briefest and happiest days I have ever had’ on the Rogue near Winkle Bar, despite the fact he never got a single bite fishing,” his great-grandson wrote in an e-mail. “He was in love with the wilderness, and the pristine Rogue was a remnant of what America had been.”
After Grey’s death, the cabin was acquired by the Haas family of San Francisco, owners of Levi Strauss, who built their own modern cabins on the property, but allowed the public to walk around the old Zane Grey cabin as long as they took nothing but pictures.
Grey set his novel “Rogue River Feud” on the river, which courses through the Klamath Mountains of southern Oregon and was among the original rivers protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968.
Many rafters stop by to peer in the cabin’s windows and marvel that one of the most famous writers of his day would choose to live in such rustic conditions.
Todd Newport, president of the Zane Grey’s West Society, said from Prescott, Ariz., that Grey’s “love for fishing drove him to such places.”
“He was able to write books as well as movies and magazines, and it was able to pay for his fishing.”
Eric Grey said his great-grandfather was “constantly getting swarmed by people,” who would even walk in without knocking at the writer’s Hopi-style home on Catalina Island in California as if it were a public building. The cabin in Oregon was his hideaway.
“I think he really loved the scenery and the fact that it was very similar to what California looked like 50 years before,” Eric Grey said of the Rogue. “He remarked on several occasions that he was upset that all the rivers in California were dying and all the fish were gone, but Oregon was still essentially intact.
“We’ve definitely seen more of it disappear. It obviously concerns me. I’m glad there are at least efforts to preserve places like the Rogue. Maybe I’ll have kids someday, and it will be there for me.”