The Squared Timber Trade

The first timber raft left on its way to Quebec city in 1806 guided by Philemon Wright, his sons and other crew.

Huge rafts of squared timber were floated down the Ottawa River from far upstream, navigating around falls and rapids by means of timber slides.  The first areas cleared were of course for farming in the Ottawa valley, producing hardwood and softwood.  White pine was the major export, and initially one of the main customers for the virgin growth was  the British Navy, who prized these massive straight, strong trees as masts.(the oldest trees were up to 230 feet tall)  There are cross sections of white pine taken in Algonquin Park that are 500 years old.  Due to logging and pulp and paper, there is little chance of seeing any of these monsters for some time.  One of the prime lumbermen in Ottawa was  J.R.Booth.

Here some pre-1900 views of the rafts at Ottawa.

 The last raft of the season, 1870's.  Note the tents, cooking facilities on board...and the lumber stored where the bike path exists today.  This is before government buildings displaced large homes on the bluff in the foreground.

 The timber slide on the south side of the Chaudiere Falls close to Victoria Island is shown below.  (there was also a slide built in 1829 on the Quebec side)  Note the tower of the West Block of the parliament buildings actually looks taller than the main block tower.  Of course this is pre-fire of 1900 when the main parliament buildings (except for the conical Library) burnt down as well as much of the (wood) homes in the city.  The slide was built in 1832 by John Buchanon taken over by the goverment  in 1845 when the lease was revoked.  In 1850 300-500 cribs passed down the slide per day.  In 1860 the Prince of Wales was given a ride down the slide along with other dignitaries.  For more photos of lumbering in the 1800's and description of life in the bush, refer to the Bytown Museum site:

www.bytownmuseum.com/en/timber-days.html

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