Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Log Rafts, Washington and Oregon"
Includes ... Log rafts ... Cigar rafts ... Benson Log Rafts ... Stella ... Coal Creek Slough ... Wallace Slough ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Penny Postcard, Log Raft at Stella - Coal Creek Slough, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft on the Columbia River, at Stella (Coal Creek Slough), Washington, ca.1915
Penny Postcard, "Sea-going log raft, 8,000,000 feet of timber, Oregon, ca.1915.". Published by Lipschuetz & Katz, Portland, Oregon. Divided back. Card #269. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2011, Stella, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Photo, "Cigar Raft" at Stella, Stella Historical Society Museum, Stella, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.

Caption on this image in the Stella Historical Society's "History of Stella" publication (1984) says "1896 Cigar raft. Cradle on right used to assemble the 65-foot-wide, 35-foot-deep, 600-foot-long raft. The ocean-going raft contained five million board feet of lumber. Made at Stella."


Log Rafts ...
(to come)

Modern day ...

Image, 2013, Logs, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Shipping logs, Columbia River, view from Hammond Mooring Basin, Hammond, Oregon. Image taken August 13, 2013.


"Cradle" ...

Penny Postcard, Log Raft cradle, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft cradle, ca.1915
Penny Postcard, ca.1915, "Cradle of an Ocean-going Log Raft, Oregon." Caption on back reads: "The heavy logs from the Oregon forest, being too large for transportation by boat or rail, immense rafts are constructed as shown in this picture, and are "towed" down the coast to California saw mills." Divided back, Published by Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. #P1118. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


"Cigar Rafts" ... Stella and Coal Creek Slough, Washington ...
Log rafts made at Stella, Washington on Coal Creek Slough were piling logs, many of which still exist today in structures in San Francisco, California.

CIGAR RAFTS:

"Cigar Rafts, gigantic masses of logs chained together in the shape of a cigar for towing through rough Pacific waters, belong to an era long gone. ...

The final cigar raft was made up in Coal Creek Slough at Stella (in 1921). Stern wheelers of the Shaver Transport Co. towed the monster boom downriver below Astoria where seagoing tugs took over for the thousand-mile journey to San Francisco. Pilings from that load still support piers and terminals from Fisherman's Wharf to the Embarcadero. These colossal rafts in their heyday contained eight million board feet of wood, enough to supply a modest sized sawmill for a year.

The Robertson Raft Company, the team of Robertson and Bain, built cigar rafts in Coal Creek Slough as early as 1895. Their first small raft broke at sea. Bain left the business, but Robertson tried again the next year, with success.

It was sheer size and three-inch chains that finally made the cigar raft work. It was much like building a ship. The raft began taking form in a huge wooden cradle shaped like the bottom of a ship. The logs were hoisted by cranes powered by small donkey engines. These cranes had 110-foot swing booms which carefully piled the logs in layers, taking care to overlap them precisely so that the structure of the raft itself would contribute to its strength. At the bow end a great steel prow was anchored by a huge center chain which ran from one end of the raft to the other. Side bracing was accomplished by cross wires and wrapper chains. The chain links were as big around as a man's wrist.

These wrapper chains were made fast and tightened by turnbuckles. When the cradle was full, the largest rafts would be 1,000 feet long inside, 55 feet wide, draw a 28-foot draft and have a freeboard of 17 feet above sea level. Then the retaining pins of the cradle were pulled, the side braces were parted, and the cradle opened to set the raft free at high tide. ...

The rafts made at Stella were piling, Benson's rafts, made on the Oregon side, were saw logs only. Hammond Company made rafts at Stella. The shape of the rafts made it possible to tow them from either end. At times, during a storm at sea, the raft would be cut loose to roll and then be picked up again after the storm was over. ..."

Source:   Stella Historical Society, 1984, "History of Stella", vol.1, excerpt written by Lester Howard.



"Sensing opportunity following the Panic of 1893, Montana businessman Andrew B. Hammond looked toward the more populous Oregon to expand his financial holdings. In 1894, the worst year of the depression, he purchased the bankrupt Oregon Pacific Railroad and accepted a contract to build the Astoria and Columbia River Railroad. By 1898, Hammond had completed the Astoria line and rebuilt the Oregon Pacific, now renamed the Corvallis and Eastern. Although both railroads were intended to offer transcontinental connections, their real value lay in providing access to the rich timber of the Coast Range and the Cascades. ...

Hammond continued to acquire timberlands, primarily in the Tillamook forest and along the North Santiam River. With his connections to the Southern Pacific, he bought 95,000 acres from the railroad, making him one of the largest private owners of timber in Oregon. Hammond purchased mills along the North Santiam in 1899 and the Hume mill in Astoria in 1908, which burned down in 1922. To haul raw logs to market in California, he partnered with Captain Hugh Robertson to establish the Oregon Rafting Company in 1901. Over the next twenty years, until Congress outlawed the practice as a hazard to navigation, Hammond used his fleet of steam schooners to tow massive cigar rafts of logs from the Columbia River to San Francisco."

Source:   Oregon Encyclopedia website, 2011, "Andrew B. Hammond."


Image, 2007, Coal Creek Slough, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Coal Creek Slough, Willow Grove, Washington. Image taken January 28, 2007.


"Benson Rafts" ... Wallace Slough, Oregon ...
Log rafts made along Wallace Slough, Oregon were made of logs destined for the sawmills of San Diego, California, and were known as "Benson Rafts" after logging tycoon Simon Benson.

"... photograph of men posing atop a “Benson raft” was originally sold as a stereograph by Underwood & Underwood, a stereographic distributing company, established in 1882. Stereographic cards contained two identical images side by side and were looked at through special spectacles, creating a three-dimensional effect for viewers. According to the accompanying text, the photograph dates to 1902. However, the photograph is likely misdated, since rafts of this size were not yet built until 1906. Log rafts like the one pictured here were first developed in 1906 by Simon Benson, a Portland-based timber magnate. Although Benson was not the first timberman to transport his company’s logs to market by rafting them together, he was the first to develop an ocean-worthy raft that could dependably transport “millions of feet” at a time.

Determined to find a way to profit from the high demand for lumber in the booming city of San Diego, California, Benson developed his log rafts so that he could circumvent the high costs of railroad and/or ocean barge transportation along the Pacific Coast. After working out his own design, he hired John A. Festabend to supervise construction of the cigar-shaped rafts, which were assembled in the calm waters of the Wallace Slough, near Clatskanie.

Raft construction began with the building of a floating wooden “cradle,” which slightly resembled the wooden frame of a large sailing ship. A floating derrick then lifted logs into the cradle over a period of four to seven weeks. Although logs of all sizes were transported, a large volume of tree-length logs were included in the raft to give it strength and stability in its voyage across the Columbia River bar and in the open ocean. Enormous chains were also used to lash the raft together, with one running lengthwise through the center, some encircling the raft approximately every fifteen to twenty feet, and still more attaching the chains to each other at strategic points throughout the raft.

When a raft was complete, one side of the cradle was removed and the raft was “kicked out.” Once free-floating, rafts would “flatten out” in the water, further tightening the circle chains and making them even stronger. Most rafts hauled approximately 4 to 6 million feet of logs and were typically about 800 to 1000 feet long, 55 feet wide, and 35 feet thick from top to bottom—usually drafting 26 to 28 feet deep. Holding them together was anywhere from 175 to 250 tons of chain.

Benson’s rafts were transported the 1,100 miles to San Diego during the summer, arriving at his saw mill roughly 15 days after leaving Clatskanie. The rafts were a huge success. Between 1906 and 1941, 120 Benson rafts were sent to San Diego from the Columbia River, with only 4 being lost by ocean storm or fire. More than half the time, the rafts were “deck loaded” with processed lumber like shingles, fence posts, poles and spurs to maximize profits. Even so, Simon Benson quickly outgrew the business venture and sold all of his holdings in Clatskanie and San Diego between 1909 and 1911."

Source:   Oregon History Project website, 2011.


Image, 2012, Wallace Slough, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wallace Slough, looking east, Oregon. Wallace Island is on the left. Image taken September 17, 2012.
Image, 2012, Wallace Slough, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wallace Slough, looking east, Oregon. Wallace Island is on the left. Image taken September 17, 2012.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Log Raft at Stella - Coal Creek Slough, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft on the Columbia River, at Stella (Coal Creek Slough), Washington, ca.1915
Penny Postcard, "Sea-going log raft, 8,000,000 feet of timber, Oregon, ca.1915.". Published by Lipschuetz & Katz, Portland, Oregon. Divided back. Card #269. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
The Stella Historical Society identifies this image as being from Stella, Washington. The rafts at Stella were assembled in Coal Creek Slough.

Penny Postcard, Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1906
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft on the Columbia River, 7 Million Feet of Lumber, ca.1906
Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1906, "Log Raft, Columbia River -- 7,000,000 Feet of Lumber.". Published by D.M. Averill & Co., Portland, Oregon. Undivided back. Card is postmarked November 21, 1906. Card #515. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

Penny Postcard, Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1909
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1909
Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1909, "Towing Log Raft from Columbia River to Pacific Ocean.". Published by The Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. Made in Germany. Card is postmarked March 1909. Card #119. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1905
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1905
Penny Postcard. Photo card, undivided back. No other information on card. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Log Raft on the Columbia River, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Rafts on the Columbia River, ca.1915
Penny Postcard. Photo card, divided back, white edges. No other information on card. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Log Raft cradle, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Raft cradle, ca.1915
Penny Postcard, ca.1915, "Cradle of an Ocean-going Log Raft, Oregon." Caption on back reads: "The heavy logs from the Oregon forest, being too large for transportation by boat or rail, immense rafts are constructed as shown in this picture, and are "towed" down the coast to California saw mills." Divided back, Published by Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. #P1118. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Log Rafts, San Diego, California, ca.1915
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Log Rafts from the Columbia, waiting at San Diego, ca.1915
Penny Postcard, ca.1915, "Log Rafts of five million feet each, 900 feet long, depth 28 feet below Waterline, San Diego, Cal." Divided back, Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, published by Eno & Matteson, San Diego. Made in U.S.A. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft ...
a cold wet morning. rain Contd. untill [blank] oClock     we Set out early [from Prescott Beach, Oregon, area] & proceeded on the Corse of last night &c.

N. 50° W. 1 mile
on the Lard. Side under Some high land.    bold rockey Shore

N. 60° W. 1 mile
under a bold rockey Shore on the Lard Side, opsd. the upper point of a Island [Cottonwood Island] close under the Stard Side the high lands closeing the river on that Side [Carrolls Bluff]    above river wide


N. 75° W. 12 miles
to a point of high land on the Lard Side, passed two Lodges on the Lard Side at 2 miles in a bottom, The high land [Carrolls Bluff] leave The river on the Stard. Side.    passd. a remarkable Knob of high land on the Stard. Side at 3 miles Close on the Waters edge [Mount Coffin, Lewis and Clark missed the Cowlitz River mouth]...    passed a Island nearest the Lard. Side at 10 mile [Walker Island] the head of a Isd. on Std. [Fisher Island] opposit High Cliffs [Green Point, location of today's Mayger, Oregon], with Several Speces of Pine Cedars &c. arber vita & different Species of under groth.

N. 80° W. 2 miles
under a high clift on the Lard Side [Green Point, location of today's Mayger Island]     the lower point of the Island on Stard. [Fisher Island] opposit those hills are Covered thickly ...

N. 88° W. 5 miles
to a high Clift a little below an old village in the Stard. bend [possibly Bunker Hill, the location of today's Stella, Washington] and opposit an old village on a Lard. point of a handsom & extensive bottom [Beaver Slough/Clatskanie River bottom].     passed a Island in the middle of the river 3 miles long and one wide [Crims Island], passed a Small Island Close on the Stard. Side [Gull Island] & a lower point of a former Isld. below which the lands high & with Clifts to the river Stard. Side

S. 45° W. 5 miles
under a Clift of verry high land on the Stard. side [possibly the Oak Point and Eagle Cliff area] wind high a head. ...

S. 50° W. 1 mile
under a high rockey Hill of pine. The Indians leave us, Steep assent, Som Clifts

S. 75° W. 1 mile
under a high hill with a bold rocky Shore, high assent     river about 1 mile wide

West 1 mile
under a high Steep hill bold rockey Shore, Encampd under the hill on Stones [near Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County] Scercely land Sufficent between the hills and river Clear of the tide for us to lie. Cloudy & rain all wet and disagreeable. this evening made large fires on the Stones and dried our bedding. ...





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Oregon Encyclopedia website, 2011;   Oregon History Project website, 2011;   Stella Historical Society, 1984, "History of Stella", vol.1;  

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
January 2014