7/08/2012

Log Booms Past And Present

Log boom off Clover Point in Victoria, July 04, 2012
Log booms were once a common sight on Canada's west coast. During Vancouver Island's logging heyday in the 1950s, giant log booms transported the big trees from the Douglas-fir forests of the east coast to mills up the Fraser River. The rafts, like long puzzles assembled in protected booming grounds, held millions of board feet of prime timber.

The Strait of Georgia was a salt water highway for the industry, and tugs towed rafts hundreds of meters long in an often perilous journey. Quickly changing weather, fog, strong tides, and rocks were constant threats, and many a log were lost on the trip.

Up until recently, the only log booms in transit I have witnessed were along the Sunshine Coast on Georgia Strait. Therefore, I was surprised to see a large boom off Clover Point during a recent visit to Victoria. Judging by the crowd that was gathered to see the tugboat maneuver the boom along the shore, it is indeed a rare sight these days.

Prior to the late 1980s, log booms entering Sooke Harbour destined for the old mill on Goodridge Island could be seen frequently.

Log booms at Sooke Forest Products mill, Goodridge Island, in the 1970's
Photo: Sooke News Mirror
The decades after WWII were boom years for logging on southern Vancouver Island as the industry creamed out on the best trees that will ever grow here. The Sooke Forest Products mill cut Douglas-fir into railway ties destined for the UK, and milled Douglas-fir and Hemlock into lumber for industrial and home construction. In the 1970s the mill began to process only Western red-cedar, the wonder wood of the west coast.

The Sooke Forest Products mill closed its doors for good at the end of the 1980s, which signaled the end of the logging era in the small coastal town.

As the most lucrative old growth becomes increasingly rare, logging is in decline. You are more likely to see a bulk whole log carrier shipping second and third growth trees overseas, than tugs towing booms along the salt water highway. 

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