On the Verge
A Film by Arc'teryx
"In the mountains behind the coastal town of Powell River, BC, a small group of rock climbers has spent decades quietly pioneering routes on some of the largest granite walls in Canada. As the last stands of old-growth trees harboured in these valleys come under threat of logging, the climbing community faces the uncertain future of a place that has come to define their lives and legacies.
Confronted with the decision to fight for these last ancient trees and potentially lose access or look away as the valley is stripped for timber, On The Verge is a snapshot of outdoors culture in British Columbia. The way we reconcile industries that give us access to the wilderness with the destruction they cause. The desire to protect our backyard but keep it for ourselves at the same time. The importance of these places to the people who have shaped them and been shaped by them in return."
Some of the following information was collected from the Powell River Forestry Heritage Society.
Long before white settlers arrived, First Nations people logged the area very selectively, taking only what they needed in a very sustainable way. Evidence of Culturally Modified Trees can be seen in and around Powell River. For example: cedar strips harvested for basket weaving.
Lumbering in British Columbia did not begin seriously until the 1850s. The early industry exploited the huge trees close to the tidewater (mainly Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar) and served markets scattered around the Pacific and as distant as South Africa.
Lumbering on the rugged West Coast required considerable adaptation of eastern techniques. Three times as many oxen were required; snow roads were impossible in the milder coastal climate (so skid roads had to be built of logs); cuts were made higher on the huge trunks (meaning a springboard was required for each of the two axmen to stand on); and heavy, double-bitted axes were developed.
Check out the Willingdon Beach Trail, which showcases many pieces of retired logging equipment or watch this quick video below!
Transportation of Timber
Early in the logging history, loggers used oxen for transporting trees. Teams of oxen pulled timber to the waters edge or rail lines up until WWI. Seven pairs of oxen, called the bull team, would pull two logs at a time.
Steam power was then introduced to logging operations in the early 1900's in the form of a small steam donkey that replaced oxen teams. Steam donkey engines created the steam that powered winches. They were used to load large logs from the woods to the railway landing. Some were very big, with several steam engines and single large boilers on one set of timber skids. Logs were moved in the bush on greased-log skid roads.
Steam also powered other logging equipment such as steam shovels for road construction and steam locomotives to haul the logs by rail. In the 1930's, steam donkeys were replaced by gas/diesel-powered machines. By the 1950's, steam had disappeared from the forests.
Logging railroads appeared in Powell River around the turn of the century where the yield from a section of the forest was attractive and the terrain suitable. Their heyday was between 1900 and 1935 and replaced the skid roads.
As logging moved further and further back into the mountains, logging roads and trucks began overtaking rail for moving logs from the forest.
* click thumbnails to enlarge photos