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Logging on the Gatineau

For over a century the logging industry was the backbone of the Gatineau Valley's economy, along with agriculture (they supported each other). Being labour intensive, the industry employed scores of men. In addition, the economic impacts of the lumber and pulp trades were far reaching.

Entire cities were founded by the pioneers in the lumber industry, Ottawa and Hull being prime examples. Infrastructure arose accordingly, with rail lines, roads, and even hydroelectric dams being constructed to serve the interests of logging.

The Drive

Tugboat above the Paugan
A tugboat working the booms, above the Paugan dam c. 1940.

The log drive ran on the Gatineau for over 150 years. Millions of logs floated down the river, through rapids before the 1920s, and through purpose built chutes after the construction of the dams. Strong in local memory are the images of massive booms filled with thousands of logs drifting downstream. For several decades, many of the local residents and cottagers woke up to the tugboats chugging through the early morning mists. But before the damming of the river in 1926, the log drive was a much more violent and turbulent affair. Indeed, more than a few men lost their legs and lives to a log jam.

The Cut

Piles of logs to be skidded
A logging gang with a day's work c. 1920.

Even if the log drive was the most memorable aspect of the history of the Gatineau River, the cut was certainly its most important. It was the winter cut which was the heart of the area's economy, employing far more people. Many of these men were local farmers, supplementing their summer incomes.

Social Impact

The social effects of the logging industry are also evident in the valley. Even though the log drive on the Gatineau River stopped almost a decade ago, the image of huge booms brimming with logs lives on in the areas resident’s minds.

Stories and songs of the hearty souls who spent their winters in log shanties, felling trees with axes and saws, skidding the logs to the river, and finally driving them to the mill in the spring, are present to this day.

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