The Log Drives

log drive photo
Sending logs to the mills. An estimated 200 million board feet went down the St. John and Aroostook during a single seasonís run at the industry's height.

Beginning in the nineteenth century, Maine's rivers were used to move vast amounts of timber south from the North Woods to towns like Bangor, where the logs were milled and loaded aboard ships. Although impressive to see, the great log drives were hard on the rivers. Huge amounts of silt, bark, and detritus from the logs took a heavy toll on fish and other river life. The log drives were ended in the late 1970s--today timber is transported from the North Woods by truck. 

 

log workers photo
Workers on the Penobscot

 

dynamiting log jam photo
Dynamiting a log jam


The frenzied harvests of the era quickly depleted the supply of large pine trees, and within fifty years the big timber was gone and the industry went bust. Today, Maine's timber industry harvests mostly spruce to make pulp for paper mills. Although the rivers no longer carry timber, they still suffer occasionally from careless logging practices as well as the herbicides and pesticides sprayed by many of the larger forestry operations.  

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