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High-lead Logging on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1920s-30s

Groundlead yarding took a giant leap forward in the 1880s when steam-driven donkeys replaced horse- and oxen-power. Now logs were dragged along the skidroads using a system of cables and blocks driven by steam donkeys. The mainline was attached to single logs or turns of them and then wound up on a large spool powered by the donkey, pulling the timber along skidroads that were up to a mile long. The first donkeys had only a single spool and the mainline cable and butt rigging had to be dragged back to the cut timber by a draft animal (Figure 5). Very quickly, however, a second spool was added for the haulback, a cable that pulled the mainline and rigging back to the worksite so it could be attached to another turn. While the mechanical power sped up the process and made it more dangerous for loggers and the rigging crew, the basic principles of skidding the timber from the worksite to the landing remained the same.


Figure 5: Hall and Bishop Logging Company operations showing loggers and horses at a loading site, probably in or near Gettysburg, ca. 1905 (more info)

The introduction and extension of logging railroads, arriving on the Western Olympic Peninsula around 1900, removed the need to cut timber near large waterways (Figures 6 and 7). Narrow-gauge railroad spurs could now be run to areas remote from rivers, lakes, or the coast, opening them up to logging. Initially many of these railways terminated at a log dump along the coast where the timber could be sorted, formed into rafts, and then towed to mills (Figures 8-10). Coastal communities like Port Crescent, Gettysburg, Twin, and Pysht blossomed quickly but also, just as quickly, wilted as the newly accessible timberlands were cut down or the extension of the railroad made it possible—and affordable—to transport the logs to the mills by rail.


Figure 6: Hall and Bishop Logging Company operations at a loading site, probably in or near Gettysburg, ca. 1905 (more info)


Figure 7: Goodyear Logging Company logs transported by rail in or near Clallam Bay (more info)


Figure 8: Goodyear Logging Company dropping logs into holding pond in Clallam Bay (more info)


Figure 9: Men at a log dump, probably on the Olympic Peninsula (more info)


Figure 10: Goodyear Logging Company logs rafted in or near Clallam Bay (more info)

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