Driftwood On The Move

This 30 meter long cedar washed up on a local beach after a winter storm

Winter on the west coast means lot of rain, high water flows in rivers, and the highest tides of the year. That means storm tossed driftwood is on the move. Winter beachcombers are pleasantly surprised by the appearance of new woody debris on local beaches.

Often these drift logs, given up by the fury of the ocean goddesses, become the target of salvage operations. While recovered Douglas-fir is may be used for lumber or firewood, more valuable Western red-cedar, or Yellow-cedar, is valued for shakes, shingles, furniture, and structural wood.

30 meters of usable, if somewhat inaccessible, cedar 

Drift logs on beaches may be accessible to water, or land-based wood recovery efforts. I am amazed by the lengths the professionals will go to salvage beautiful chunks of wood from wherever they come to rest.

Shortly after the cedar washed up, the bole was cut and removed from the beach

I have seen some small scale log salvaging operations near my home on Billings Spit. Drift logs often show up in the Sooke River estuary after being washed down the Sooke River during high water flow events that scour the river and wash out fallen debris. Occasionally really big debris washes down to the sea.

Large drift log in the Sooke River estuary

I have watched small boats carrying salvagers with large chain saws approach drift logs in the Sooke River estuary in order to lay claim to prize woody resources. At high tide they move in, and the chain saw is used to cut the root section off so the log cab be slowly hauled away for processing.

Detail - cedar is very rot-resistant, and is highly sought after. Large cedars are becoming rarer.

Some of the drift logs on beaches are large enough to withstand not only the salvagers, but also the onslaught of years of winter weather. These semi permanent drift logs become lasting features on the otherwise ever-changing beach landscape. Until a really BIG storm comes along.

The storms give it up, the storms take it away, unless the beachcombers get to it first.

The biggest log in the background will only be
moved by the mother of all storms

I recently saw the results of a log salvage operation about 3 km up the Sooke River where a large cedar fell partially into the water. The middle section of the log had been sawed out, leaving the root section on the bank, and the top stranded alone in the middle of the river.

The saw operator had to work suspended over the water for both cuts - I would have liked to witness the skill this must have demanded.

Salvaging a red cedar from the Sooke River

The only way to get the log out is to float it down the river during high water, or high tide (preferably both) then wrangle it, tether it to a boat, and haul it somewhere it could be hoisted from the water.

Big trees and big storms mean big drift logs on the move. It is all part of the beauty of a west coast winter.

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