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A Brief History of Old Growth Forests

Some of the timber recovered can be traced back to humble beginnings almost a thousand years ago. These timbers began life as tiny seedlings long before humans conquered the natural world with machinery, high speed travel and massive population growth. These trees took shape as William of Normandy was conquering England and Genghis Khan invaded China and went on to build the largest empire in history. They grew larger still as the bubonic plague decimated Europe and Columbus reached the new world. Their later years saw the first English colony of Jamestown established i North America, the Declaration of Independence and the battle of Waterloo. Their centuries long lifespan coincided with many of recorded history's most significant events. They were finally harvested by hand in the 18th and 19th centuries paving the way for the foundation of USA's 'and Canada's expansion across one of the last remaining untouched forests of the world.

Though these trees, and the subsequent submerged logs, are extremely rich in history, they are equally as rich in quality and character. Trees simply don't grow the way they used to before humans began managing forests, and added air and water pollution to the mix. Trees left undisturbed, as they once were, take much longer to grow in both sunlight and rain. Today's managed trees are planted in optimal locations and conditions to optimize rapid growth. The longer growth period and natural habitat affected the width of the trees growth rings, which resulted in much tighter, finer rings and therefore finer grain. This also means that in a given diameter, old growth timber contains more wood and less glue holding it together. The increased density is synchronous with increased strength and durability.

Topside: Loggers load log onto boatEarly Logging - The Engine behind the new worlds growth

Long before cars , computers and air travel were available to the masses, logging played a huge role in the economic growth in the USA and Canada and fueled the unprecedented expansion westward as thousands rode the 19th century logging boom from the shores of the Atlantic up the Saint Lawrence river, through the Great Lakes and across the plains to the Pacific coast. Few people realize the importance the lumber industry played to the development of the communities and transportation systems that lead to the exponential growth of North Americas population and the places they inhabited.


Before modern-day transportation systems were developed, logging companies used the most efficient and largest volume avenue available to them; the areas waterways. Rivers, bays, lakes and even rapids were used as a means to move millions of fallen trees from the massive old growth forests to destinations in North America and in Europe, where many of their native forests were exhausted in the rush to construct ships to fight the numerous wars of the time and to build communities required to house their growing populace.

Rolling logs through St. Lawrence SeawayThe feat of transporting timber first from the forests to the sawmills and then to the end user consumers was absolutely remarkable and a testament to human ingenuity and perserverence.

To move the timber down the crowded rivers and along rock shorelines, logging companies employed log rollers who literally rolled the logs down the river and fixed log-jambs that occurred when logs would bunch up at narrow points or when they caught on something along the water's edge. They used simple hook-poles to leverage their strength against that of the coursing water and thousands of pounds of wet wood to keep things flowing smoothly.

Sometimes longer trips taking upwards of three weeks were undertaken by the brave, or foolish, depending on your perspective. Log surfers would band large quantities of lumber into giant rafts complete with outbuildings including cooking and bathroom facilities. They would ride these rafts through the rapids of the St. Lawrence River without the benefit of any safety gear. Occasionally when floating on the great lakes in large storms or when floating large rapids these rafts would break apart. It is estimated that as many as one third of the logs sank to the bottom where they currently lay stacked up in the bottoms mud.

Lumber companies also employed large schooner sailing ships that would be filed to the brim with squared off logs and sent overseas to markets where the products commanded a premium. They also began using steam powered ships toward the end of the logging boom as they became more reliable and efficient.

The end of the peak shipping era was heralded in by the long awaited and much anticipated railroad system that was quicker , more reliable and efficient to utilize. With the advent of this revolutionary transportation system came an exodus of settlers making their way westward.

Divers attach line to submerged logCurrent supply of Submerged Lumber

There are a limited number of these logs lost, and submerged in their watery graves. As the logging industry in the great lakes region has slowed production to a trickle from it's once seemingly limitless peak, it has also increased the rarity and value of old growth hardwood , making it economical to undertake log salvage and recovery operations.

Estimates based on historical records , photographs and surveys confirm that there are thousands of submerged logs waiting to be discovered in the great lakes region. Surveyors are currently undertaking a broad exploration program to identify potential sources of these sunken treasures and anticipate locating sufficient supplies to enable continued operations for many years to come.

Benefits of Submerged Lumber

  • Historically significant - High cultural and historical value
  • High quality - unmatched quality and unique character which is only available in the original old growth trees
  • Environmentally friendly - saves living trees from being cut down, uses environmentally friendly recovery techniques and equipment.