The Walnut Grove Dam Disaster of 1890 has inspired treasure hunters for decades as rumors abound of valuables that were lost as Bob Brow’s Saloon was washed away with the broken dam.
Author Greg Hawk, the president of Desert Roamer Press, has immense experience as an adventure travel publisher. In the past, he was the owner and operator of Fantasy Dive Charters in Port Douglas, Australia where he used to lead diving expeditions into the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea in search of sunken ships and planes.
His passion is for history, lost treasures, and life. He now spends his time traveling the Southwest while searching for lost treasures and intrigue. As he goes on these adventures, he shares his journey with others through a Treasure Hunting video series where he offers his own understanding of treasures that may still be concealed all around the deserts and mountains of Arizona.
This is the treasure story
The Walnut Grove Dam Disaster of 1890 is the story of Bob Brow’s Saloon which vanished with barrels of whiskey and a safe which was rumored to carry between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of valuables. It is generally suspected that it’s still buried somewhere downstream of the failed dam in the sands of the Hassayampa River.
The details of the Walnut Grove Dam failure is the focus of the book, “Arizona’s Worst Disaster: The Hassayampa Story 1886 – 2009”, by Jim Liggett, a retired professor from Cornell University who has a Ph.D. in engineering. Desert Roamer Press has recently been given the publishing rights after Greg contacted the author and asked permission to republish the book as it had been out of print.
Greg and his friend, Prof. Jim Fink, a geophysicist and geological engineer in Tucson, worked together to research all of the details of the disaster. They went over weekly newspaper articles and magazine articles during that time period which detailed the dam during construction and the failure. They also studied numerous Arizona history books which proved an invaluable resource as to the small towns, roads, stage routes, stage stations, and Wells Fargo stops to better grasp the possible location of where Bob Brow’s Saloon was located.
Their journey started with the most important question of all: When the dam failed, where was the saloon exactly? Most treasure hunters think that it had to be downstream and close to a lower dam while others believe that it was closer to Wickenburg – a burgeoning small town miles downstream of the dam site.
At the time, the dam failure was the largest natural disaster in Arizona’s history, with bodies being found 30 miles downstream from their original location, and massive boulders flying around as if they were tennis balls. The 110-foot-high dam was holding back nine billion gallons of water, and it’s failure resulted in waves reaching heights of 80 to 100 feet as it traversed down the canyon. Even when the wave reached Wickenburg and had lost some of its initial height, it still stood at a whopping 20 feet high.
Finding the location
After considering the unique story and the excitement of finding the treasure of the dam disaster, Greg and Jim have visited where the Walnut Grove Dam used to be. The owners of the land showed them the ruins of the dam and offered old pictures of the dam and reservoir prior to the disaster, as well as providing insight into the history of the area. As fourth-generation ranchers, and family owners of the land since 1909, they have invaluable information that may lead to the actual location of Bob Brow’s Saloon.
Treasure hunter and author, Greg Hawk, is in the process of hammering out the possibility of producing a documentary on the ranch which lies close to Wagoner, Arizona. The story will detail the Walnut Grove Dam Disaster, the search for the location of Bob Brow’s Saloon and lost safe. The documentary will also contain some of the vast amounts of Arizona’s Territorial history in this area leading up to the dam failure.
If you’re keen to learn more about Greg Hawk’s adventures, head to his website to see his Travel Blog and Videos, as well as his own book, “Random Tangents: Embracing Adventures in Life,” which details his own adventures from his home town in Illinois to Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.