Logging Was A Dangerous Profession In The Early Days


n By Dahniel Ferris

C

ollier State Park and Logging Museum provides a step back in time to the hardscrabble days of logging camp living.

The park and museum, located along a picturesque stretch of Highway 97 just 7.5 miles north of Kla-Mo-Ya Casino near the town of Chiloquin, is set amongst towering ponderosa pines near Spring Creek and the Williamson River. The area is serene and well cared for, which is conducive to the relaxation people enjoy while camping, fishing, and picnicking in the park.

One of the park’s biggest attractions is the logging museum, located across Highway 97 from the day use area and campground. An unexpected delight is a “Romeo and Juliet” style bridge that safely ushers pedestrians under the highway in order to visit the museum. Spring Creek rushes by nearly drowning out the sounds of traffic crossing the bridge overhead.

This large outdoor museum - with no entry fee - provides a window through time, demonstrating the evolution of logging practices that played a major role in the economic and cultural development of the area. The museum began in 1947 when Alfred and Andrew Collier donated a collection of antique logging equipment. They had already donated the 146 acres of land to the State of Oregon as a memorial to their parents, Charles and Janet Collier.  The museum takes visitors on a journey through time, showing genuine equipment, tools and ways of life in a logging camp.

The tour starts with pre-industrial era small-scale tree harvesting. It was back-breaking work that relied entirely on muscle power of men, horses and oxen.  One of the greatest technological advances of the time was the invention of the High Wheels, which made hauling logs much more efficient.  

Another essential component was the blacksmith, the man responsible for repairing broken tools and equipment as well as making shoes for all the animals.  The museum features a reproduction of an authentic blacksmith shop, making it easy to imagine the intense heat required to soften and mold the metals of the time.

The steam engine era dramatically changed logging, and is well-portrayed in the museum. While many benefits can be attributed to the steam engine, it essentially allowed harvesting in formerly inaccessible places; allowed more trees to be harvested in less time; and made it possible to process, sell and transport lumber over greater distances.

The efficiencies of logging were further enhanced by the use of the internal combustion engine.  Many examples of these tractors and machines can be found at the museum. One of the most impressive is the Beloit Tree Harvester, which could de-limb, de-bark and fell a tree in a matter of minutes. This machine could harvest up to 400 trees per day.

The technologies of the industry are not the only focus of the museum. The lives of the men who worked in logging camps is a focus as well. “Pioneer Village” consists of authentic cabins with artifacts depicting various purposes. They range from a trapper’s cabin to a homesteader’s cabin; from an outdoor privy to a general store.  The newly constructed dining hall beautifully shows what it was like to feed the hungry men who populated the camp and did the strenuous, and frequently dangerous, work of loggers.

Like every good museum, there is a gift shop that is a must-see for unusual postcards, books, maps and other novelties.  The gift shop is open seven days a week, year-round, as is the park and logging museum. If you want to see some of this amazing history come alive, be sure to visit on Father’s Day each year for Living History Days. There are demonstrations of the operations of the antique machines, horse-drawn carriage rides, pioneer skills demonstrations, food, entertainment and more. 

The logging museum is extensive and covers a large area. It can be enjoyed for a quick visit, but to really immerse yourself camp at the nearby Collier Park Campground. It boasts 18 tent sites, 50 RV sites, a 4-corral primitive horse camp, and laundry facilities. The campground operates April through October on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information on this amazing attraction, visit: www.collierloggingmuseum.org or www.DiscoverKlamath.com.