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John Werner and Fred Kelley, with an assist from Bob Allen are the winners.

Beaver Creek Flume is the answer for our 49th week of a feature to celebrate Orofino's history and heritage.

Beaver Creek Flume is a relic of a bygone logging era when logs from the backcountry were transported to the North Fork of the Clearwater River for the annual spring log drives to the Clearwater Timber Company mill in Lewiston.

According to the book, The Beaver Creek Flume, by Gerald C. Franc, the flume was used extensively from 1930 through 1944 to move logs. It wound gracefully from one bank to the other of Beaver Creek, until it reached the North Fork. In the late 1920s roads were few in the North Fork country and though the Camas Prairie Railroad had been constructed into the Pierce and Headquarters area, railroad logging was impossible in the steep river face country. With flumes in use in other parts of the country, the method was adopted here as well.

At the writing of the book in the mid 1970s, remnants of the flume could still be seen by those driving between Headquarters and Canyon Creek Ranger Station. Much of the information was supplied by Al Roeben, a retired Potlatch Forest employee. He was working for Clearwater Timber Company in 1927 when asked to build the flume.

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One of the first tasks was to determine what size flume was needed and where he would have to "pick up" the creek. The route was marked with stakes placed 14 feet apart. Ideally a flume drops at a rate of two to nine percent. In some places it was necessary to pitch it 80 percent, but most of the Beaver Creek Flume dropped at between 3-3 1/2 percent. Doyle Dam was constructed to provide "head" for the water that would move the logs down the flume. Because the flume was not water tight and lost some water, feeder dams were sometimes built. An equalization dam was built at Sourdough Creek to keep the logs sorted and moving through the relatively level point in Beaver Creek.

A sawmill was moved into the area to cut lumber for the flume and a crew of 20 carpenters worked on its construction. Work proceeded down from the mill and sometimes lumber was floated down the flume to the construction point. A detailed description of the flume's construction is included in the book. On curves and other areas of high friction, the flume was lined with "flume steel". The steel came in sheets about 20 feet long and four to eight inches wide. It was 3/8 inch thick.

The gates of Doyle Dam were opened daily to provide "head" to move the logs which were rolled on at landings as long as the head lasted. Logs and water also entered the flume from tributary flumes and feeder dams helped to keep logs moving. Sometimes logs got hung up and tore out the sidewalls of the flume and sometimes the logs had to be freed by hand if there was a pile up, Franc wrote.

Depending on the head and size of logs, they traveled between 15 and 30 miles per hour. Flume walkers were employed to look for and report problems along particular parts of the flume. They reported by ground line phone. Logs were skidded by horse along "trimming chutes" that were kept greased by "grease monkeys" that put grease on the chutes with a rag on the end of a pole.

Franc said that when all the white pine was logged along the Beaver Creek Flume, tributary flumes were constructed on several other creeks. The entire Beaver Creek system was over 20 miles long and took an estimated 4 million board feet of lumber to build. While it was in operation, in excess of 170 million board feet of logs were sent down the flume.

Photo: Logs being loaded on Beaver Creek Flume. (Photo courtesy of Clearwater Historical Museum)

For further information on Beaver Creek Flume, see the book, photos and displays at Clearwater Historical Museum.

Monday: Relic

Tuesday: It curved gracefully.

Wednesday: A crew of 20 carpenters.

Thursday: Sheets of steel reinforced curves and other friction prone areas.

Friday: It was over 20 miles long.

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P.O. Box 2444
Orofino, ID 83544
Fax: 208-476-3407