The Great Log Jams

 © Photographed September 10, 2016
Erected 2006 as an Eagle Scout Project by Peter Weber
St. Croix Falls, Polk County, Wisconsin
45.414447, -92.645763 (marker location)
45.414447, -92.645763 (parking to access the marker)

Log jams in the late 1800s repeatedly blocked the St. Croix River with the millions of feet of timber stripped from the banks of the river and its many tributaries by the loggers who were eager to feed the voracious mills downriver. From St. Croix Falls, where the first lumber company was established in 1837, to Franconia, to Osceola, to Marine on the St. Croix, to Stillwater, the winter's cut of logs would flow with the first spring thaw. But at the Dalles of the St. Croix where the river narrows through the rocky gorge, particularly at Angie Rock on the west bank of the river, logs would get hung up, and often, despite the desperate efforts of the lumber jacks with their pike poles and peaveys, the river's burden of logs would lodge tight in the grip of the Dalles. The jumble of logs would back up for miles through the series of rapids that compromised the "Falls of the Sr. Croix."

Major log jams, which could take months to loosen, occurred in 1865, 1877, 1883, and again in 1886 when an estimated 150 million feet of timber was tied up in the jam that has been noted as possibly the greatest in the history of the country. "Ruin and stagnation" was the fate of the lumbermen whose idle saws and millhands waited downriver. Worse yet was the blocking of this river thoroughfare, which cut off steamboat and ferry traffic, with delivery of supplies and passengers, and communication, to the river towns.

The spectacle of the log-jammed river, and the thrilling battle of the lumbermen to clear the mass of logs drew spectators from many miles around, and the cry of "log jam" brought businessmen, housewives and children to line the banks of the river.
Breaking up a jam was deadly dangerous, and cost many lives. The tremendous pressure of the jam itself would cause a lot to "jill-poke", to rocket out into the sky. Dynamite blasts were added to the poking and prodding of the lumberjacks, boats steamed upriver to add pulling power to the log jumble, until finally a key log was pulled to release the flow.

Those log jams were costly to the sawmill operators, with resulting loss of employment and timber production, and their solution to the problem was the construction in 1890 of Nevers Dam, 11 miles upriver near Wolf Creek, to control the flow of river and lots. Nevers Dam became a landmark, even after it was torn out in 1955, long after the heyday of logging on the St. Croix River. It is today the site of a National Park Service stopping place.
The marker is located adjacent to the east bank of the St. Croix River, and is accessible from a walking path that heads south from the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Visitor Center and Park Headquarters, at the intersection of West Massachusetts Street and North Hamilton Street, St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin 54204.

Log Jam on the St. Croix River

With the St. Croix River in the background.

en route to The Great Log Jams  marker.

The marker is adjacent to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
Visitor Center and Park Headquarters.

The marker is located in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

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