Hiking in a Redwood Park

Historic Redwood Logging

Lumber Industry in Del Norte County 1939 - 1953

Continued from: Largest Coast Redwoods

This page is one of a 6 page set on historical redwood logging. See:

Historic Coast Redwood Logging Equipment and Machinery

REDWOOD LOGGING HUMBOLDT COUNTY 1850-1860

REDWOOD LOGGING DEL NORTE COUNTY 1853-1881

REDWOOD LOGGING DEL NORTE COUNTY 1881-1939

REDWOOD LOGGING CAMPS 1870-1920

REDWOOD LOGGING HISTORY

Immediately following the end of World War II, the lumber industry of Del Norte County, which had died prematurely when Hobbs, Wall Co. shut down in 1939, received "a most effective shot in the arm." Operators from Washington and Oregon were looking toward a rapid expansion of the industry. To whet the operators' interest, the Del Norte Chamber of Commerce had circulated promotional literature, calling attention to the bountiful supply of timber in the region. When they came the northern operators brought with them "know-how and skills" that quickly changed Crescent City "from a slow-moving, relaxed resort town into a busy, small town metropolis with visions of a promising future."

With the companies came experienced loggers, mill hands, truckers, and shippers. Between 1940 and 1952 the population of the county doubled. Gone were the colorful days of the logging camps, donkeys, skid roads, and railroads. The operators of the late 1940s and early 1950s used power saws, bulldozers, trucks, and trailers. Instead of living in camps, the loggers were family men, who commuted to and from work.

The lumbering industry, as before the closing of Hobbs, Wall, again became the county's major industry. By 1954, of the county's aggregate labor force of nearly 4,500 there were 2,800 engaged in lumbering and related industries. Nine of the 40 logging, lumber, and plywood operations in Del Norte owned standing timber. According to the county assessor, there were on the books, 140,000 acres of privately owned commercial timberlands. This acreage held 5,725,000,000 board feet, of which 75 percent was owned by five companies—Simpson Logging, M & M Woodworking Co., S. A. Agnew, Howard Mill, and Arrow Mill. The annual timber harvest zoomed from 53,000,000 feet in 1946 to 300,000,000 in 1953.

As another index of the importance of the lumbering industry, it was pointed out that in 1953 the six largest operators had paid over 40 per cent of the taxes needed to keep the county in business.

In 1953 there were in the county about 400,000 acres of public land administered by the United States Forest Service, on which there was an estimated 5,800,000,000 board feet of marketable timber. Jurisdiction over this timber was divided between the Siskiyou and Six Rivers National Forests. Most of this timber was Douglas fir. Guidelines established by Department of Agriculture foresters permitted this timber to be cut at a rate of 50-60,000,000 feet per year on a sustained yield basis.

Currently, cuttings had fallen short of the sustained yield capacity, because of the inaccessibility of much of the timber. Roads would have to be opened to get at much of the federally owned stumpage. The two state parks, Jed Smith and Del Norte, in 1953 embraced 15,000 acres, containing 1,800,000,000 board feet of virgin timber.

News that 300,000,000 feet of timber had been harvested in 1953 caused concern to conservationists. Checking this figure against reserves, they found that this figure greatly exceeded the sustained yield of the county. It was urged that the cut figure be reduced to 150-200 million feet per year. Another pressing problem was to provide for "an orderly removal of the over-mature and decadent portions of the stands, using wisely with as little waste as possible." Fire must be controlled, and the logged areas left in good condition for rejuvenation.

PAGE SOURCE

The information on this page is from:

REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK: History Basic Data, Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, California - 1969 / 1982

National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service Division of History Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation.