The Last Logjam
From “Machias River Log Drive,” text and photos by Glenn Richmond, in our May 1971 issue.
Last April, 20 men of the St. Regis Paper Company of Bucksport drove 4½ million board feet of white and red pine logs down the Machias River. For two weeks, the river drivers, working on foot and from small boats, kept the logs moving for 40 miles over rapids and falls and stretches of smooth water. At Whitneyville, the logs were contained in holding booms, waiting to be sawed into lumber.
The drive started on the upper Machias, and logjams piled up almost from the outset. Veteran river boss Richard Albee and his crew wasted little time in locating the key logs and prying them loose with long-handled peaveys. Usually the rivermen could leap ashore before the logs broke, but occasionally a man had to ride the slippery logs until he was picked up by boat. The seasoned and surefooted river drivers escaped even a dunking in the icy, fast-flowing river.
“I doubt if there will be any more drives like this one,” said superintendent Bob Wright. “Economically, it just doesn’t pay. We can cut logs here and truck them to Whitneyville for less money and in less time.”
In 2017, the Maine State Legislature passed a law to end log drives for good. Lawmakers wanted the drives stopped for environmental and recreational reasons, but as Wright suggested, the practice was already on its way out. When the last major log drive in the continental U.S. took place on the Kennebec River on November 16, 1975, the event brought reporters and television crews to Maine from around the country.