Following Everett Ruess Into the San Francisco Peaks

In my last post, I reported on how researching the history of a local wildlife area for a story in Arizona Wildlife Views magazine led to an accidental encounter with legendary wanderer Everett Ruess.

The question that began to obsess me was, “Did Ruess once stay at what is now Lamar Haines Wildlife Area?”

At my excellent local library, I checked out “Finding Everett Ruess” by David Roberts. It describes Ruess’s 1931 meeting with the wildlife area’s former owner, Randolph “Pat” Jenks, and the weeks Ruess spent at Jenks’s “Deerwater Ranch.” Was this the same place as our Lamar Haines Wildlife Area?

I was confused by rumors of two properties nicknamed “Deerwater.” I couldn’t tell if there really were two. If so, were both owned by Jenks? That would mean Ruess could have stayed at Jenks’s other “Deerwater,” wherever that might be — not at what is now the Game and Fish Department’s wildlife area.

Roberts described how Ruess “chipped in with the chores of cutting down aspen trees and building fences. He also hiked up some of the peaks that towered to the east.” The detail about the aspens, and the description of Ruess hiking those peaks, encouraged me to believe this Deerwater might be our area. Lamar Haines is around 8,500 feet. It’s a lot easier to hike to the peaks starting from there than starting from somewhere out west of town at a much lower elevation, where the second Deerwater was rumored to be. But I needed more evidence.

My next step was to follow up on the fact that Jenks was an ornithologist. Maybe I could find records of birds collected at a place called “Deerwater.” Sure enough, I found two official descriptions of study skins collected at a place by that name. The two records described Deerwater as either 7 miles NNW of Flagstaff at 8,500 feet, or 10 miles NW. I didn’t know what to make of the different distances. Did this mean there were two Deerwaters, or was poor record-keeping to blame?

On my next visit to Flagstaff Public Library, I asked to see a map called “San Francisco Peaks Horse Trails and Homesteads.” The map was hand-drawn in 2006 from original township surveys and Forest Service maps dating from the 1860s through 1912, and other records.

Right there on a drawing of the San Francisco Peaks, in the approximate location where our wildlife area sits today, I saw the inscription “Deer Water Ranch.” It’s next to dots for “Veit Spring” and “Jenks Cabin.” Veit was the earliest recorded owner of the wildlife area, and Jenks is, of course, Pat Jenks, the person who sold the area to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in 1948.

That is a very exciting clue, but I want to be a careful researcher. Much of the history of this wildlife area has been inaccurately recorded. I don’t want to make the next mistake in the historical record. So, though the map is interesting, I still need something more, if I’m going to prove Ruess visited what is now Lamar Haines Wildlife Area.

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7 thoughts on “Following Everett Ruess Into the San Francisco Peaks

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  1. This is a fun adventure for you, but also for your readers. I’m glad you are on this pursuit to resolve these mysteries. Maybe finding history on the cabin (now in the Flagstaff Park) will provide more leads.

    1. I have a call in to the city of Flagstaff to see whether someone there can tell me anything (or, in a perfect world, everything) about that cabin, which was moved from the wildlife area in the 1970s. I’ll let you know!

      1. I happened to come across this. I may have some information you are looking for. Ludwig Veit was my ancestor. The original cabin still exists near Flag High

      2. Jared, that’s wonderful! I’m so glad you contacted me. Please send me an email at hammonds.julie.c at gmail.com. I look forward to talking with you!

  2. The cabin that was moved by the Forest Service from Veit Spgs/Lamar Haines to its current spot close to the Francis Short Pond in 1977 was the Jenks cabin, not one of the original Veit cabins. About that same time, one of the 2 Veit cabins had become too dangerous from rot & abuse by frat keggers & squatters that the Forest Service removed it. The second cabin had dangerously rotten lower logs, so the Forest Service “lowered” that cabin, which also made it less attractive to squatters. This remaining upper half of this cabin was in decent condition until the heavy snows of the winter of 2011-12 caved the corrugated iron roof in.

    I also have additional information about the primary source(s) of the perfectly legitimate story of Everett Reuss’ short stay at DeerWater in June 1931, 2&1/2 years before his disappearance. And I have my own personal explanation of his disappearance, which i’ve shared with a few folks.

    1. Bill, thanks so much for this information! I would love to hear more about Reuss’s stay at Deerwater, and about the cabins. How do we know there were two Forest Service cabins? When did Jenks build the cabin that is now at Francis Short Pond?

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