The Logging Camps in California USA

These camps were set up near a stream which supplied water for the steam engines. Their location was usually in a gully so the logs could be slid down from the forest then moved further down to the waiting transport.

It was easier to fell trees in winter because the sap had stopped rising, also it was easier to slide the logs on snow. Cutting them down was originally done with an axe, but by 1870 the two handed saw, some as long as 18 feet were used. Two men would chose a tree and by cutting notches and inserting scaffold about 10 feet above ground, this was because the lower part of the tree is all twisted grain and unusable. They would then decide where it was going to fall and then pile branches as a cushion for the tree to fall on. The mature Sequoias are very brittle and shatter when hitting the ground. The Coast Redwood was much stronger and harder and could survive the impact better. Don't forget these trees could weigh between 1000 and 2000 tons. After felling they were cut into 10 or 12 foot lengths. A roadway would be built down the mountain to the camp, smaller logs would be half buried down the path and greased with tallow, and teams of Oxen would drag the giant logs to the mill.

Once in the mill the logs were cut into boards. In the early days the two man saw was used. They would dig a ditch under the log, one man would stand in the pit and the other stood on top of the log, by pushing and pulling they would cut the log into slabs. By the late1800s steam engines driving circular saws and then band saws could keep up with the amount of trees being felled.

However it was to prove that the Giant Sequoia was not suitable for the timber market. It was not strong, very brittle and what parts of the tree that were salvaged, ended up as fence posts, roof shingles, even matchsticks. A very sad end to what had been a magnificent tree thousands of years old.

In contrast the Redwoods were a good timber for house building and proved to be a much greater commercial success. Areas of forest were left with thousands of stumps and the landscape changed. Public outcry at the mess left behind and the sheer destruction of these wonderful trees led to the forming of the National parks and the preservation of the forests.

Next time.
Moving to Australia. The Eucalyptus, the tallest hardwood tree.