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AN OREGON GOLD STORY: Dave Rutan-Developer lays claim to more than gold in Oregon wilderness.


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News Posted Mar 13, 2010 By Les Zaitz The Oregonian/OregonLive

Lead: “Dave Rutan runs a gold mining retreat in the wilderness of southern Oregon. His desire to commercially dredge miles of the Chetco River concerns some environmentalists” Three years ago, Dave Rutan opened a gold mining retreat inside the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of southern Oregon, bringing in helicopters, gas-powered dredges and paying customers. He did so without the permission county authorities say he needed. Now he wants to commercially dredge miles of the Chetco, one of Oregon's purest rivers. He plans to helicopter in four-man crews to seek gold from the equivalent of nearly 50 truckloads of river gravel each season"

 I highly recommend reading the full story of Dave’s long drawn out battle with the Forest Service, the county, and environmentalist over his various gold camps and mining issues. He managed to seemingly fight the bureaucrats to a stand-off and a stale mate, (even after he was denied permits and was banned from building cabins on patented property in the wilderness, he used helicopters to fly in manufactured cabins and mining guests) and continued his fight for mining and property rights.



In the spring of 2002, I happened to attend a gold show in Monroe, WA, where I first met Dave Rutan and his father Dale, who had a large vendor booth set up and were promoting a 3 day all inclusive pay to dig type operation. They owned over a hundred acres which included original log cabins, a large lodge and a gold bearing creek that ran through the property located on Jump-Off Joe creek near Grants Pass, Oregon. A back hoe, a large mobile trommel and several high-banker sluices completed the equipment requirements for their guests which usually averaged about 7-8 greenhorn prospectors; mostly father/son and buddy teams.

I asked about metal detectors and they gave me a blank look. They didn’t know a thing about metal detectors. Nada. But they seemed fascinated by the concept and said they would like to see one in action. As a result, they invited me to come down for one of the three day mining slots free of charge and demonstrate how a metal detector worked.

I had been on my way to Boise Basin for a detecting trip and wasn’t really excited about a gold camp experience, but I had never been to Grants Pass, and what elevated my interest even more was the offer for me to keep any gold I found. They also told me a story about a ¼ oz nugget found by a 14 yr old son of one of their guests who had been walking the creek on their claim and had spied the emerald green quartz/gold specimen lying on a flat rock in the middle of the stream. I saw the gold nugget specimen which Dave had bought from his guests. It was a real beauty and mostly gold.

I was rapidly warming to the idea when they threw in a verifiable historical reference concerning a Mr. Henry Wines, the original owner of the claim/property in the 1860’s, who had robbed and murdered several employee-miners and buried them on the property. Mr. Wines was known to have buried a large quantity of gold nuggets on his property over a several year period and was killed by one of his miner-employees in the middle of the night when Wines attempted to murder the miner in his sleep. A few days after Wines was shot and killed, the local sheriff’s party conducted a search of the property and found several buried murder victims but never found the gold nuggets.

(I verified the story through old newspaper accounts and mining journals compiled in the book: Settling the Rogue Valley-the tough times-the forgotten people. “Henry Wines-The Meanest Miner on the Jackson-Josephine Border” by Barbara Hegne) Good reading.

An agreement was reached where I could have unrestricted access to metal detect the property, including searching for the Wine’s gold stash, and at that point I decided I could spare three days. I met up with Dave and Dale in Grants Pass the first week of July when the creek on their property was just starting to dry up in spots. The road to the claim was a rock crawler’s paradise and took the better part of 2 hours to go just a few miles. At that time I was running a long bed Ford F-250 4X4 truck with a cab over camper and a 4 Runner in tow. I dropped off the tow vehicle at a storage facility and headed out to the property guided by Dave Rutan who took us by way of the “shortcut” described above.

Part-2 to follow.





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2 hours ago, Haderly said:

I was able to go to both camps also. Great area and lots of fun. Too bad that Emly Camp is now gone.

As I recall, Dave compromised by giving up Emily in order to keep his other remote gold camp. Given the circumstances and who he was fighting, I'm amazed he came out with anything at all. He risked a lot, but apparently came out OK in the end.

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Henry Wines sounds a lot like Chuck Stanton, the crook who took over the town of Antelope Station in AZ near Rich Hill. The common denominator is gold, and how it can change some people. 
 "Stanton wasted no time in recruiting the help of some Mexican bandits so he could wipe out his competition and take control of the town."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanton,_Arizona#:~:text=Stanton is a populated place,the town in the 1870s.

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Oregon Gold Story: Dave Rutan Part-2

I realized the minute I laid eyes on the camp that the odds of finding any stashes of gold nuggets or coins with a metal detector would be slim to none. As many prospectors know from experience, one of the main problems with metal detecting in Oregon or any place where there are a lot of trees and dead fall is the difficulty in getting a coil close to the ground. Sometimes it's impossible.

Trees and brush, overgrowth and carpeted landscape of that nature is the usual ground cover, and Wines camp was no exception. Except for the immediate area around the cabins, parts of the creek banks, and the road going in, the area was a thicket and looked to be practically impossible to get a coil within a foot of the surface, except in a few places where mining had occurred and the brush had been cleared. Most of those areas were of course, littered with trash and mining debris.

History of the Claim:

From what I could find out about Henry Wines documented history beginning in 1866, and the history of the property, I concluded that the likelihood of him having amassed and buried a considerable amount of both nuggets and gold coins was pretty good, due to the circumstances of his death, which was sudden; and his known propensities to hoard his larger nuggets and buy provisions with his smaller nuggets and fines. At the time of his death, Wines had 20 active claims, about 5 miles of property, including both homesteaded and patented land. His creek property was several miles in length and the pay streaks on the properties were documented to be from 300-600 feet in width. When he went to Grant's Pass for provisions, he always brought with him from $500.00 to $1900.00 in gold that he bought gold coins with. He was never known to have spent a single gold coin, which added to the speculation that Wines was hoarding and burying his gold.

At the peak of his mining success, in addition to several cabins, Wines had water ditches, a barn, horses, flumes and a hydraulic giant on his land. From the very beginning though, the main problem in the new mining community that straddled a disputed section of the Jackson-Josephine county was lack of legal jurisdiction and law enforcement. The counties fought over who was responsible for the border area, a condition that basically normalized claim jumping and intimidation by anyone who had the nerve to try it. The record shows that hundreds of angry and disgruntled miners tried to push Wines off his land and jump his claims in the process. He managed to keep them at bay by patrolling his property armed with a rifle, which he apparently, was not reluctant to use. Many miners that wandered onto Wine's property was said to have simply disappeared, never to be heard from again.

On several occasions, Wine's was witnessed to be in possession of the personal property of missing miners such as a watch, clothes, and a rifle, and when these observations were reported to the local sheriff, nothing was ever done about it because of the counties dispute over boundaries and jurisdiction, and so the disappearances continued on for years. Wines managed to hold on to his claims, and periodically would acquire one or two new employees and/or partners who were good workers but they never seem to hang around for too long. Maybe just long enough to accumulate a grubstake towards getting a start somewhere else in the new land. Wines would respond to people gruffly when pressed about the matter, and since he was feared for his violent, threatening reputation, he was never pinned down on the issue.

Wines was not married, but on one occasion a new miner from California drifted in to Grants Pass on a day that Wines was in town. The miner recognized Wines as being wanted by the law for the murder of his wife in California. The miner alleged that Henry Wines was an assumed name but the miner could not recall what Wine's real name was (or at least the name he was wanted under back in California) So, again, nothing ever came of the incident.

July 2002:

Since we had arrived on the day before the scheduled 3 day event, Dave and Dale took me around the property on a tour of the old log cabins, the main Lodge (2-story) with a loft, all well preserved and maintained. The original seasoned rustic appearance looked just as it did in old photographs of the buildings. We walked the gold bearing creek which still had occasional stretches of waist deep water in places, and holes that were slightly deeper. Dave mentioned that the creek almost dries up completely in August which is when the 1/4 oz sun baker nugget had been found.

I was carrying an SD-2200 with an 11" mono coil as we walked along the creek while they explained how they would set up high bankers for each 2-3 person team every 30-40 yards or so.

The backhoe and trommel were parked in the area of the most recently discovered pay streak next to a tall pile of overburden that would be used for the last day for the "common" dig and the participants would split the gold for that event, plus keep the gold found on their own at the high banker stations.

Dave said there was one problem that they hadn't been able to get worked out, which was initially determining the best place to set up the high bankers to make sure the users would be finding gold right when they started. It was time consuming to try and test all the different spots up and down the creek that they needed, so usually, they just let the guests work the creek for awhile, then keep moving the equipment around to other spots until they hit on gold. Sometimes that method worked out, but not always. There were many small scattered multi-layered pay streaks on the claim that eroded into the creek, some more consistent and productive than others.

I told Dave that I could try detecting the bank with the PI, but to actually search in the water was another matter. The only water detector I had was a Fisher CZ 6-a with submersible coils and I didn't think the sensitivity would pick up on small gold. So, they watched for a few minutes while I detected along the edges of the creek bank and they happily dug all the signals which turned out to be the usual rusty trash targets and a few bullets.

Both Dave and Dale were astonished and amazed every time they dug up a piece of trash. They acted like a caveman who had just discovered fire. It was pretty hilarious watching these two grown kids laughing and having fun, and after awhile I noticed that every few feet along the edge of the creek, the banks had eroded off, leaving a horse shoe shaped depression, about a foot wide that water had back filled into. The result was a layer of silt an inch or two inches deep with about an inch of water on top. I decided to test these areas, so I set the 11" inch mono down on top of the water, just barely touching. I immediately started getting soft and faint but repeatable mosquito whispers which turned out to be "pickers"

Dale scooped up a shovel full of mud from the first depression and dumped it into Dave's gold pan and several seconds of panning left a couple of nice flakes of gold in the pan. We repeated the process down the length of the creek and kept finding gold the same way, sometimes 2-3 pieces per pan. Now, they were really excited. I have to admit that I was also impressed at learning something new, and with just how sensitive the mono coil was!

Later that afternoon, Jim D. one of the other partners showed up to get the equipment ready for the following morning. Jim was the back hoe/front loader operator and the mechanic/fix it man. He was cordial but I could tell he wasn't real happy at having someone brought in without having to pay. After hearing the explanation from Dave, and learning that I would not be using a high banker to mine the creek, he seemed to be OK with me being there and didn't mind me metal detecting since he obviously didn't know anything about detectors either!

Part 3 to follow.












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Oregon Gold Story-Dave Rutan: Part-3

Throughout the day before the event, the guests trickled in, with groups of 2-3, being the average and everyone got the guided tour from Dave, then visited and mingled until almost sundown. At that time, almost a dozen people collected in the Lodge, seated around a couple of hand - hewn wooden tables. After plentiful drinks, sandwiches, and a few tall tales, everybody turned in. The following morning after coffee, I hit it early and spent some time probing and detecting the most likely spots around the camp and ended up with lots of trash to show for it. I worked underwater (submersed coil), at the creek with the Fisher, and retrieved nuts and bolts and square nails, as anticipated.

At 5:00 pm, I ambled back to the lodge and found Dale distressed and in a lather to get dinner out on time. Dale was several years older than I was, and was the only one responsible for preparing the food. He was the cook, did the food prep and set up, and served the meals, along with doing the clean up afterwards. I could see he was swamped and it wasn't going to work, so I jumped in to help meet the 6:00 pm dinner schedule. I decided to sacrifice some of my detecting time to help Dale out since he was a super nice guy and really did appreciate the help. Between the two of us, the kitchen was kept humming, and I still got in 2-3 hrs per day detecting time which I used to find, "hot spots" to help the high bankers find a place to set up on and I was able to continue pulling in a few "pickers" which keep things interesting (while hoping for a nugget like the 1/4 oz specimen previously found)

On the last day, I decided to walk the property to look for old diggings and signs of previous mining. After about an hour of walking and spot detecting in between fallen trees and logs, I found what I would have liked to have seen the first day. A hillside with a huge half moon shaped cut, that had been hydraulically washed out of a cliff face. The hillside wall had trees and bushes growing straight out of it horizontally. I spent about an hour going over stacks and piles of rocks, digging numerous deep signals with the PI and 11" coil. I was finding what appeared to be parts and pieces of the high pressure"Giant" " that had collapsed the wall. I soon began to wish I had brought my GB-2 with me from my truck, so I could have avoided some of the deeper trash targets.

It was obvious the hydraulic pit had not been detected before and even though the PI was wearing me down, I knew it should have be just a matter of time before a nice nugget turned up. Unfortunately, that was not to be, since I was out of time. Before I headed back to camp, I discovered two long tom sluice boxes buried deep in the mounds of gravel that had been washed down from the hillside. In addition to being covered with gravel size and larger rocks, the "Toms" were almost completely covered with old logs and a double layer of dead fall on top.

It would have probably taken half a day to dig those sluices out, but it sure might have been worth the effort, if I'd only had the time left. When I got back to camp, I told Dave and Jim what I had found. It turned out no one knew where the hydraulic pit or the sluice boxes were located on the property! Jim was grateful for the information and said he had heard a rumor about hydraulic mining having been done somewhere on the place but hadn't been able to take the time to wander around looking for the spot.

On the final evening at the camp, after everyone had been fed, and the final tally and split of the gold was completed; assorted brew and mash was served and shared, and good byes were being said. Jim D, who had been a little skeptical of my presence the first day, sat a bottle of bourbon on the kitchen counter where Dale and I were finishing up with the dishes and cleaning. He poured us all a short one, thanked me for the help and told me I was welcome to come back anytime I wanted to.

I would have liked to have gone back at the end of July when the next 3 day event was scheduled and had a chance to work the hydraulic pit but that was not to be. I was off to the next adventure which happened to be a summer of prospecting around Idaho City, Idaho, then wintered in Arizona and New Mexico. 

Dave Rutan continued to expand his interest and investments in prospecting and Gold Camp development which entailed a multi-year long battle with environmentalists and the National Forest Service over claims and patented land ownership and access in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon. He finally relinquished claims for one gold camp as a means to retain ownership of a second prime gold camp location until an apparent lightning caused forest fire which destroyed the cabins and equipment he had brought in by helicopter. Rather than go through another lengthy legal battle to rebuild, he elected to put the property up for sale.

Dave Rutan had to have grit and determination to stay in the fight so long in order to realize his dreams and ambitions and I saw a lot of parallels between Dave and the rugged miners who came before him. He put up a good legal fight.

But I wonder what Henry Wines would have done?


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