River Work Reveals Old, Usable Logs

By Beacon Staff

BONNER – Removal of thousands of logs from the Blackfoot River has revealed thousands more in its sediment.

Nearly half a million board feet of Blackfoot logs are stored north of the former Stimson Lumber Co. sawmill and plywood plant in Bonner, just east of Missoula, and those are just the ones retrieved easily.

“We’ve been very excited about whole process,” said Scott Cooney, owner of the property where the logs are stored. “It’s like archiving the remnants of logging gone by. We’ve found different spikes, plates, old rail, even an old saw blade.”

Workers have removed 5,300 logs, many 16 feet long, from the riverbanks and there are estimates that 5,000 are in the sediment, logs transported in a bygone era.

Decades ago, loggers floated their harvests downstream to sawmills and sometimes the wood sank. A big flood in 1908 may be responsible for delivering some of the logs to the Blackfoot River locations where the came to rest.

Logs that had been submerged became visible last year when a small Blackfoot River dam at Bonner was removed.

State officials have 3,500 of the logs for possible use in riverbank restoration and remediation. Another 800 have been sold to bidders, and local government projects and nonprofit groups have picked up a few hundred. The Missoula County Parks Commission acquired 100 logs for $10 each.

“We want to build a log structure that fits the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) design out there at Fort Missoula,” Commissioner Jim Dayton said. “If we waited until we had plans up, we might end up paying $100 or more a log. At $10 a log, how could we possibly lose?”

Cooney envisions using some of the logs in a kiosk and a picnic pavilion that are in his plans for a development project.

Water preserved the wood’s strength but also delivered a lot of grit that got into the logs, giving them an abrasive coating hard on saws.

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