Big River News – A monthly news digest for the coastal Mendocino County

I was in our new library sifting and sorting through a pile of donated magazines when I came across the two pages you see below:

Big River News - November 1984 front page

Big River News – November 1984 front page

Big River News - front page February 1985

Big River News – front page February 1985

I have been the historian for our club for ten years or more but I have never heard of nor seen this “mag.” To say the least I am intrigued. I have just two front pages. If anyone has more or knows more I would be delighted to hear from them.

Big trees

I have a large collection of pics of big trees. The big ones fascinate me. My book collection – now part of the Club’s library – contains all the big tree books I have come across since I moved here in 2000. Before 2000 I was an urbanite and did not know of the majesty of the “big one”. Enough of my claptrap here are pics that I particularly like:

[Click on any pic to see the gallery and pics full size.]

Boom Camp on Big River in Mendocino

When I found the pics I could barely see what they were about. After playing with all the controls on my pic proggy I did somewhat enhance them:

Old photo #1 of Big River, Mendocino

Old photo #1 of Big River, Mendocino

Old photo #2 of Big River, Mendocino

Old photo #2 of Big River, Mendocino

Not good eh? Things did improve when they were converted to grayscale. I don’t know exactly where the photos were taken on Big River. However, they must have been taken 4 to 7 miles inland where the river narrows.

Boom Camp on Big River Mendocino

Boom Camp on Big River Mendocino

Jam of logs on Big River

Jam of logs on Big River




Big River, Mendocino – Aftermath of Flood

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were quite frequent floods along the Mendocino coast. Whilst I haven’t actually found pictures of places flooded I did find this pic which shows what had to be cleaned up after a flood on Big, River Mendocino.

Big River Flood Aftermath in early 1900s

Big River Flood Aftermath in early 1900s

Note the flimsiness of the track.

River Log Drive

Alas, I have yet to find a vid of logs being “driven” down Big River in Mendocino – the only river along the Mendocino Coast susceptible to such an operation. I know logs jams were routinely “blown up” with gunpowder – I have pics of that happening. Therefore any vid showing a river log drive is definitely of interest. This clip is an excerpt from “Timber on the Move: A History of Log Moving Technology,” a documentary film from the Forest History Society:…

Hell’s Gate Dam on Big River

Dams were used by the Mendocino mill on Big River to bring the cut logs to the mill. The Mendocino Lumber Company was “famous” for damming Big River. With rare exceptions, dams along Big River were used only during the winter season. Logs were stored in the stream beds. Winter rains furnished the freshet (body of water) for floating the logs down river, but in most cases, did not. Dams were then used to build up a reservoir of water. When the dams were tripped (blown up), a flood was created along with a “head.” A head is similar to the shore side of an ocean wave. Near the dam, a head might begin as high as 10 feet dropping to three-foot height 15 miles down river. A higher head, which would result in being able to float more logs a greater distance, would be obtained by tripping/blowing up more than one dam in succession. This, for sure, was in the days before environmentalists were invented.

We have modeled Hell’s Gate dam on our layout without much help in the form of old photos. Hence these three photos will be very valuable when we work on our Big River diorama in the coming winter. Click on the photos to enlarge them

Hell's Gate dam being built

Hell’s Gate dam being built

Hell's Gate Dam.

Hell’s Gate Dam.

Hell's Gate Dam

Hell’s Gate Dam