Construction Equipment North America

Before “Gold Rush” There Was “Rock Rush”

Tucked away in the creases and crevices of mountainous terrain that characterize Brightwood, Ore., is an aggregates operation that has been around since the 1950s: Mt. Hood Rock. (click for video) The man who took it over in the 1980s and made it a success, Jim Turin, has a famous son, but he is pretty well known himself as a local supplier of high-quality construction materials.

Dave Turin from Gold Rush and his dad Jim Turin

By Mark S. Kuhar (

“I was a high school teacher and football coach, but got started as an asphalt paving contractor,” said Jim Turin. “We built a lot of tennis courts and driveways back in the 1970s. Then we graduated to roads.”

Eventually the owners of a small asphalt plant sold Jim Turin their business, and he ran that for five years. “But then the adjacent quarry where we bought our stone came up for sale, so we acquired that too,” he said. “That was our start at crushing rock.”

Jim Turin said the plant came with equipment, but it really wasn’t very good equipment. That required some changes. “We traded in a huge loader and got a couple of smaller ones, then added onto the plant,” he said. There was an existing customer base at the quarry, but “we grew that big time,” he added.

The quarry – located about an hour southeast of Portland, Ore. – has grown indeed, and evolved over the years, but the family commitment to hard work and quality products has never changed. That work ethic was passed down to Jim Turin’s son Dave, who along with his brothers, helps operate the family business as its vice president and quarry manager. Dave Turin would go on to even greater fame as “Dozer Dave” on the Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush.”

Today, the 350-tph capacity plant cranks out material sold to a variety of customers. About 40 percent is sold as road base; 30 percent goes to the company’s asphalt plant; and 30 percent is sold to contractors, state and county agencies, and general customers.

Starts with a Blast

The quarry is located at the top of a twisting road. Passing the office and scale house, the top of the asphalt plant becomes visible, then comes into sight; and as the haul road rounds to the left, the centrally located aggregates plant drops material onto the ground.

The production process starts with a blast. The quarry shoots two or three times a month in warmer weather, less often in the winter months.

“We contract out our blasting,” Dave Turin said. “McCallum Rock Products handles that for us. They are a big company, running state-of-the-art drills. It is a big improvement over when we used to do it ourselves. It might be a little more expensive but it takes all of the headaches away.”

After the shotrock falls, material reduction proceeds. But change is coming at this juncture of the quarry. The company is currently in the process of upgrading the way it handles primary crushing.

“Our old primary gave up the ghost, so right now we are feeding a rented Metso 30 x 54 jaw crusher until we install our new primary, a 32 x 54 Trio jaw,” Dave Turin said. “It’s going to help quite a bit with processing the larger rock we are getting off the ledge at the top of the quarry where we are working now.”

A loader works at a feverish pace, running material from the muckpile to the primary. From the primary, material goes to a surge bin to even out the fluctuations in material flow. That’s where secondary production begins.

“From there, material goes to a triple-deck Simplicity scalping screen,” Dave Turin said. “We scalp out the ‘dirty rock,’ ¾-in. minus stuff that we sell at a reduced price as cheap fill. Off the top deck, anything from 3- to 6-in. goes to an El-Jay cone crusher. All the oversize, anything bigger than 1-1/2 in., goes to a Canica crusher that knocks it down again and then we recirculate back to the Canica.

“Material then goes to a KPI-JCI 6 x 16, triple-deck sizing screen,” he continued. “Product then goes to two 5 x 16 El-Jay horizontal screens. We pull ½- to ¼-in. material and crush it with a 3040 Pioneer roll crusher. Then the bulk of what we make is a state-spec 1-in. minus material, which is our main product and the majority of what we sell.”

A recent development at the plant centers on the use screening media. “We always used steel wire,” Dave Turin said, “But from my experience on ‘Gold Rush,’ I learned about Polydeck screens. I loved the screens and they lasted so long, that we invested in Polydeck screens in our most severe abrasion areas at Mt. Hood Rock. We now get 10 times the wear life. And it’s not just the screens saving us money – it’s the labor, uptime is higher and downtime is lower. It’s amazing. They last and last and last.”

Heavy Iron

Mt Hood Rock employs a wide variety of rolling stock used for a variety of purposes. Newest piece of equipment on-site is a Volvo L150G front-end loader. “It’s a 5-yd. machine that works very well for us,” Dave Turin said. “We need our loaders to stand up to the tough conditions here, and this one fits the bill.”

According to Volvo Construction Equipment North America, the L150G loader features the Volvo 13-liter, 6-cylinder high-performance, low-fuel-consumption turbocharged diesel engine with high pressure unit injector system, delivering high torque at low engine speeds.

Automatic Power Shift allows it to operate in the ideal gear by sensing engine/travel speed, kick down, engine braking and more. This results in more efficient work cycles with less wear and lower fuel consumption.

The machine’s Torque Parallel linkage delivers high breakout torque throughout the entire range, including the highest lift position. The loader also provides very good parallel movement. The standard double sealed pins and bushings are designed to withstand tough working environments for demanding customers.

“We also have two Cat 980G loaders and a 988F that we typically use to feed the plant,” Dave Turin said. “The 988 is a 10-yd. machine, the biggest we own, but we are not using it right now until we install the Trio primary.”

The company also owns a Hitachi excavator and a John Deere excavator. “We move the Hitachi all around,” Dave Turin said. “We move rock, dirt, wherever it is needed. It is a good strong quarry machine, we use it a lot up top in tight quarters, to widen benches, things like that. The John Deere excavator is used to load heavy landscape rock.” Mt Hood Rock also utilizes Caterpillar D9H and D10N dozers.

Adjacent to the aggregates operation is the latest incarnation of the company’s asphalt plant. They haul stone between the quarry and the plant using older Cat 769 30-ton haul trucks.

Maintenance is always a challenge for any aggregates operation. Mt. Hood Rock contracts that out to a private company, which makes regular stops at the quarry to make sure loaders and haul trucks are in top running shape.

After the Gold Rush

For fans of the TV show “Gold Rush,” Dave Turin is a familiar face. However, you won’t see him on the show this season. But that doesn’t mean his star turn is over.

“I have a few ideas I am working on,” he said. “I learned a lot during my time on the show, and there are other possibilities for me up the road.”

In the meantime, Mt. Hood Rock is occupying a lot of his time. “There is plenty to do here,” he said. “We are going to get the new Trio installed, which will improve our production process immensely. We are always considering other improvements. We have a nice operation and I am proud to be part of it.”

Aggregates Operations in Mt. Hood Rock is a Family Affair for Jim Turin and Sons