the north face backpacks A History of Timbering in Minnesota
There are few places where you can walk the kind of forests that
covered Northern Minnesota 150 years ago. Giant white pines rose to 200 feet. When Minnesota became a state, more than half its land was in deep shade.
THERE’S A WOODS NORTH OF GRAND RAPIDS called the Lost Forty. In an age when policy makers argue about whether a tree is “old growth” at 90 years or 120, the Lost Forty is the real thing. It’s never been cut. Some of these white pines are 400 years old. In the 1830s, 3.5 million acres of Minnesota forest were dominated by such pines. But the Lost Forty, says forester Chuck Wingard, is still here only because of a mistake.
Wingard: There was a surveying error in the area we’re looking at it was shown as part of Cottington Lake. And since it showed in the survey records as lake, nobody could buy it. And if they couldn’t buy it,
they couldn’t cut the timber from it, so it’s here for us to see today. Traditionally we measure ’em four and a half feet from the
ground, so that’s about here okay, our diameter on this one is 39.6
inches. Circumference is about 10.9 feet. We’re probably
looking at about 2,000 board feet in a tree that size.
Four hundred years old, 2,000 board feet. Enough in one tree for a
two stall garage, or a century ago,
a small barn, farmhouse, or church.
In 1837 a treaty with Ojibwe Indians, the same treaty now being contested
over hunting and fishing rights, opened a large triangle of east central
Minnesota to logging. But the heyday was still 50 years off. Most of the
timber being used to build the American frontier was being cut in the
abundant pine forests of Michigan and Wisconsin. What jump started the
timber trade in Minnesota was a potent union of technology and demand.
Skip Drake: Steam power began to replace waterpower in the sawmills. Before this time, you had to locate sawmills on a watercourse, preferably a falls, like St. Anthony Falls, to generate power for the mill.
Skip Drake is director of the Forest History Center, a logging museum inDrake: Then steam began to be applied to milling, which allowed sawmills to be located virtually anywhere. And we found sawmills moving from St. Anthony Falls, much closer to the North Woods, up towards Duluth, Cloquet, Brainerd,