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LOG DRIVES OF THE GATINEAU AND PONTIAC

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The Log Drive. Sketch by Gunda Lambton.Told by Harry Richardson:“After the logs were cut, I would work on the river drives. I’d be down home perhaps a month from the time the logs were out before the rivers opened up. When the ice went off, we got the word to go, because you had to drive the logs when the water was high and the water ran off quick up there. The crick would be open before the lakes.One spring we drove logs… from the Cameron Lake District twelve miles down the Crow River to the Coulonge River and 95 miles down the Coulonge River to the Coulonge Chute where the ICO took over.

The ICO (Upper Ottawa Valley Improvement Company) put the logs through the chutes and sent them on down to the Chenaux Boom and even to the Chaudière Falls. The marked logs were sorted and claimed by the proper lumber companies for their mills along the river route.”Richard described the beginning of the drive as follows:“We had to take the logs three miles across the lake and drive them 1 ½ miles down Wright’s Creek. They used a “cage” crib made of cedars all tied together and a winch or “tauro” to wind up the big anchor and the 300 feet of 3-inch rope to the raft across the lake. It was called the tauro because it had the strength of a bull; and the sound of the hollow log grating, as it turned on the post that was fastened to the raft, was like a bull growling, and at night you could hear it for miles.We had head wind every day that whole week while we were taking the logs across the lake.

No one could work during the days with the head wind so the day gang just fished and had fun for a week. The night gang had to work when the wind died down in the evening. I thought they would change us off with the night gang but they never asked us to work because that was their shift.When we reached the mouth of the Wright’s Creek, after six days, the wind changed. Then we had to drive the logs 1 ½ miles down the creek from the dam down to the Coulonge River. There were 22,000 logs that averaged 198 feet, which included tops and butts in that run. That was big timber.”(1)On the Gatineau, chutes similar to that on the Coulonge came into being when the Chelsea, Low and Baskatong dams were built. Before that, the rapids on the Gatineau made log-driving very dangerous. There were jams to be broken and tragedies occurred, like that described in “Jim Whelan” (a song about a Mississipi jam).

End Notes:
1. Harry Richard. Interview with V. Crawford. Vibert Pavillon Tales, 1983, pp. 8-9.