Note to Readers: We are so happy to have Ian Pooley join our ranks as a Guest Blogger. Ian, a local educator and historian, first wrote for us during Heritage Week when he submitted Heritage Afloat. Welcome Aboard, Ian, we hope to hear a lot from you in the future.
Logging Chutes in Lake Country
Early Okanagan loggers faced the problem of moving their logs from the hillsides down to the lakes, where they could be boomed and towed to sawmills. The usual solution was to skid the logs to landings with horses, and then move the logs from the landings down to the lakes with two horse teams and bobsleds, taking advantage of the winter snow.
Where it was convenient, these methods were combined with logging chutes. These were built of heavy raw logs, peeled and laid side-by-side in a continuous parallel line down the slope of the hill. Logs were sent down the chute one at a time; the operation was not always reliable: a fast moving log could jump from the chute without warning, and when the chute was in use, the area around it was often littered with stray logs that hadn’t made it all the way to the bottom. Early newspaper accounts mention logging chutes at Carr’s Landing and Wilson’s Landing on Okanagan Lake, and south of Oyama on Wood Lake.
On the east side of Wood Lake, Johnston and Carswell, who had a sawmill at the north end of Long Lake (Kalamalka Lake), had a big logging chute over a mile long. When it first opened, in the winter of 1912, the logs that had been sent down it were hauled by horse from the bottom of the chute to a steep bank above the lake. From there the loggers rolled them into the water. By mid December the chute was improved by adding a shorter second chute to connect directly with the lake.
By the end of winter the logs were piled up in the lake and ready to be moved. The Kelowna Record reported: “There are now over a million feet of logs piled up at the dump on Woods Lake, ready to be boomed and taken up to the mill at the head of Long Lake, when the ice is out of the lakes.”
By the end of April the Kelowna Record noted: “The tug towed the first boom of logs up to [the Johnston and Carswell] mill last Saturday.” The little tug did double duty as the local freight boat, which the newspaper account goes on to describe:” A large consignment of fruit trees came down with the first trip of the Johnson and Carswell boat from the head of Long Lake to the Oceola wharf [on Wood Lake]. The bulk of them were for the Okanagan Valley Land Co. [at Okanagan Centre], and also some for the Duck Lake Fruit Lands Co.”
Once logging moved into the back valleys and plateaus further from the main valleys, early loggers no longer built logging chutes, but for a while, the sight of the huge freshly cut logs sizzling their way down the chute and landing in the lake with a roar and a plume of water must have been an exciting spectacle for local settlers.
Photograph source: Okanagan Heritage Museum, KPA 8311.