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Logging in Washington State - The River Pigs

Eleven River Pigs take a break from their dangerous work on the Cowlitz River. Source: State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990.

Logging camps started the process in the fall, once the waters rose after winter and the logging crew could roll the timber into the river and allow it to drift at will. The River Pigs themselves would clamber about the floating logs, often traveling miles downriver. The River Pigs’ lives were difficult and deadly, but the logging companies often provided care for the crews with floating kitchens or wanigans. Tobacco, clothing, and medicine were brought along in wagons for the men as they camped for the night. Though driving soon died out with the increased use of railroads and logging trucks, some remote locations employed River Pigs until the 1970s.

The Washington State Digital Archives has many thousands of records documenting the history of the Washington State timber industry. You can view this image and many more at State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990.

Written by Whitney Wyngaert