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log drive down the Clearwater

Discussion in 'Forestry and Logging Forum' started by mtngun, Nov 26, 2009.

  1. mtngun

    mtngun Addicted to ArboristSite

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    This may be old news to some of you, but in the old days, logs were transported to the Potlatch mill in Lewiston, Idaho by water. Flumes might carry logs to the river, and then every spring there would be a big "log drive" down the Clearwater River to the mill.
    [​IMG]
    I had the privilige of being good friends with a man who grew up in Headquarters, Idaho (a Potlatch company town) and spent most of his life logging, including working on the log drives. I enjoyed listening to his stories.

    At the risk of getting in trouble for linking to someone else's pictures without permission, here's a few snapshots.

    As you can imagine, it was dangerous work.
    [​IMG]

    Log drives took place in the spring, when the river was high with snow melt. Water temperature around 37 degrees.
    [​IMG]

    Jams had to be cleared. Sometimes dynamite was used.
    [​IMG]

    Scrambling to safety as a jam breaks.
    [​IMG]

    A floating bunkhouse/cook shack called a wanigan followed the drive. Note the Clearwater River can be a bit rough in the spring.[​IMG]

    Many, many more logging pics at the Forest History Society website.

    The log drive came to an end when Dworshak Dam was built. Now logs are trucked to the mill down Highway 12.

    And oh, by the way, my friend who worked the log drives..... was sort of an environmentalist, critical of the forest industry for over cutting. :D
     
    forestryworks likes this.
  2. turnkey4099

    turnkey4099 Tree Freak

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    My folks moved to Ahsahka (at the confluence of the North fork (or is tht the South fork and the Clearwater river) somewhere around 1955 or 1956. Lived right on the banks of the river. I visited there once in, I think, 1956 and got to see the tail end of the drive. Also log trucks coming out of the canyon on the opposide of the river loaded with only 2 or 3 big logs. Those days of logging huge fir and pine are gone forever.

    Harry K
     
  3. cbolyard

    cbolyard ArboristSite Operative

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    mtngun, thanks for sharing the photos... very cool stuff. It would have been really cool to be there to see it in person I can only imagine!
     
  4. Mountainman

    Mountainman ArboristSite Operative

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    My Dad started his career in forestry with Potlatch, at Headquarters. He lived right beside Mr. Red McCollister, who ended up being the last River Boss for the drive. As the story goes, Michigan Bill was the only one who could navigate the Wanigan through all the curves and rapids, and he worked best when he was about half drunk. The only problem was, every year, Bill would pull off to the bank at the bridge by Orofino, I believe, and head on into town to pull a drunk. They would give him a couple days, then start searching the houses of ill repute until they turned him up, and off they went for the rest of the drive.

    If you put your hands on another man's peavey, there was usually at least a hot exchange of words. They sometimes developed a condition called 'squeak heel' from being in the cold water all day, and it didn't sound like much fun.

    There are two books that I know of, Timber Country, and Timber Country Revisited, that show some great photos of the last river drive. My Dad recognized a few faces in those photos, including Red McCollister, Harvey Spears the cook, and a few others. Potlatch used to sell a CD of old photos from back in the day. Only the best of the bunch were selected for the log drive each Spring. And Red McCollister ran the show after the old Frenchman retired in about 1954. That says a lot for Mr. McCollister in my book.

    I would love to see some type of reunion for those old geezers, but most are probably dead and gone, or way too old to travel, like my Dad.

    There's not much left of Headquarters now, from what the areal photos show. Sad, but life goes on.
     
    Gologit likes this.
  5. climbit

    climbit ArboristSite Member

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    a site you may enjoy

    Hey I thought you may enjoy this site. Maybe you already have seen it. Its a little hard to navigate but there are some great pics.

    CLICKY

    Not much left at headquaters anymore. Drove through there last spring, they are still loggin around there though. My father-in-law runs all that country, he used to work there. Pretty good stories from him.
     
  6. watsonr

    watsonr Aftermarket Parts Pusher

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    Started in Idaho, ended up in Virginia!
    Old post but funny I came across it, was researching an old logging book. I was raised in Lewiston and my father was a Potlatch employee until he died, 35+ years in one job. I actually watched the last log drive and was on the Wanigan several times. I really don't remember any names of people but my dad did tell me lots of stories about logging in the Headquarters area. We knew a bunch of log drivers and hunted with some of them. I do remember that he said the cook made the best breakfast in the world.

    Thanks for the pictures MNTGUN!

    Randy
     
  7. brokenbudget

    brokenbudget Addicted to ArboristSite

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  8. Mountainman

    Mountainman ArboristSite Operative

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    I ran across this old thread, and wanted to add Red McCollister's obituary:

    This week's obituaries

    My dad has passed as well, God bless him. I called Red's wife, June, and told her. First time I ever talked with her, but it was a memorable conversation. She seemed to be doing well.

    The 'old cook' someone referred to was probably Harvey Spears.

    When Dad worked the drive, Michigan Bill piloted the Wannigan. Dad said he was a drunk, and did not have a real impressive presence, but no one else could pilot the Wannigan as well as he could. I believe it was the bridge at Orofino where Dad said that every year, Bill would pull up to the bank, tie off, jump ship, and head for town for a drinking/whoring spree. They would just wait patiently for a couple of days until they figured he had run out of money, then head into town and pull him out of whatever flop house he was holed up in, take him back to the boat, give him a day to sober up.... and off they went again.

    Fun times, I imagine.
     

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