150 Years of History in the Hills
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the January 25, 2017 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Log drivers of the Gatineau River
The seasonal cycle of logging in the Gatineau Valley was especially visible each spring when the logs that were cut in winter filled the Gatineau River for their journey to the sawmills on the Ottawa River. The last log drive down the river took place in 1991, and now it is trucks filled with logs or woodchips that are evidence of the region's logging tradition.
The river drive itself didn't change much between the 1830s, when the Wrights first started the log drive on the Gatineau, and 1926-1927, when the dams at Low and Chelsea were completed. Then, things changed dramatically.
Logs were piled on the river and stream banks during the winter. When the spring thaw occurred, they were sent on their way downstream. Some of the logging men would remain after the end of the cut to follow the logs on their journey to help them on their way. These were the log drivers.
Log drivers would push the logs into the water and follow them with pointer boats - sturdy craft with identical sterns and bows, and planked with red or white pine. When logs jammed or needed extra help to move along, the drivers would stand on the logs and use pike-poles to pull or hook the logs and keep them moving. It was a dangerous occupation that required strong muscles and extreme agility. Many log drivers lost their lives, especially around log jams, when they slipped on the moving logs and were crushed.
Excerpted from 'Gatineau Valley North: Settled for Forests and Fortunes'
All photos are from the Malak Karsh collection, Library and Archives Canada, copyright assigned to LAC by copyright owner Malak Karsh, accession number 1985-070, Mikan: 4730808, 4731360, and 4731363.