When the Collier brothers donated 146 acres and some antique logging equipment to the state of Oregon in the 1940s, they probably never suspected it would turn into the state’s most comprehensive logging museum. What began as a memorial to their parents, is now a campground, museum, relocated pioneer village, and a Paul Bunyan-sized collection of outdoor exhibits unlike any found elsewhere.
Back in the 1860s, if you needed employment in Klamath County’s logging industry, there were several job titles to choose from: bullwhacker (controlled the teams of oxen), puncher (nailed shoes on the oxen and repaired slings and yokes), faller (made the undercuts that determined the direction the tree would fall, and also the man who got to yell T – I – M – B – E – R– R– R– R!), and bucker (cut the felled trees into 16-foot logs). If you were the foreman and ran the logging camp, you were the Bull of the Woods. Keep in mind these “timberbeasts” worked 10-12 hour shifts a day, 6 days a week, and netted $30-$40 a month for their backbreaking labor. But to these hardy souls, this sweaty, physically demanding way to make a living was all in a day’s work.
Today, it’s easy to take a walk through several decades of history at Collier Memorial State Park and Logging Museum and learn about the early loggers and their equipment. If you don’t know the difference between “high wheels,” “stinger tongue” wheels, “slip tongue” wheels, or a steam donkey, roam around for a while and you will! The vast quantity of machinery on display here is amazing. And the facts you’ll pick up are equally interesting. Did you know that it was steam power and the invention of wire rope that really revolutionized log handling? Manila rope stretched, frayed, and broke, but in 1890, steel wire came into play. John Dolbeer of Crescent City, California invented the original steam donkey and “Stout Abner” is the name of the giant steam engine you’ll see here, named for Abner Weed, founder of Weed, California.
In addition to the rare and antique logging equipment, railroad buffs will enjoy learning about the role the railroad played in logging. In the early days, all logging had to be done near bodies of water in order to float logs to a mill. Floating logs to mills is still efficient and economical today, but railroads also enabled woodsmen to move raw timber great distances. The pioneer village at the park gives insight into how the loggers once lived. Several authentic cabins, fill with artifacts, have been relocated here.
From oxen and axes to chain saws and modern mills, Collier Memorial State Park is the best place in Oregon to learn about the bygone era and evolution of the logging industry. And if you’re a trout fisherman, all the better because the crystal-clear Williamson River runs through here and is regionally famous for consistently producing trophy fish.
Collier Memorial State Park is found on US 97, 30 miles north of Klamath Falls. The campground is open April through October and offers 50 sites with full hookups.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com