Heartwood | Author's Notes


Water Transportation Era Of Allegheny Logging


“Always something, always hauled away with the waters…” Igidius Rakestraw, in Heartwood

Circular saw blades and steam-driven machinery kept sawmilling in pace with the growing appetite for wood products. To move more logs, operations turned to the waterways to float larger quantities to mills and markets during times of high waters. As headwaters country where the Allegheny, West Susquehanna and Genesee began, the tier was riddled with a network of fast, proximate streams reaching into untouched timberlands.

Through the year, in anticipation of the Easter rise when the streams would burgeon with snow melt and spring rain, woodhicks skidded logs to the stream banks where they’d built successive splash dams to further swell the waterways. As the drives began, the splash dams were opened, starting at the topmost damn. Floods roared through the hollows, sweeping the logs onward.

In the early days, logs were then “grounded” at the confluence of larger waterways and built into rafts of softwood logs, mixed softwood and hardwood logs, or occasionally of lumber.Tough woodhicks piloted the rafts to mills as far away as the Chesapeake Bay. The frigid, springtime waters overflowed the decks, submerging the river-runners’ ankles. During their runs, from which many walked back, the men ate and slept in raft shanties.

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