Saturday, August 14, 2010

Afternoon on the River

My lovely wife organized a trip down the Androscoggin River. It turned out to be a beautiful day on the water. Our group had about 8 kayaks and 3 canoes. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Back when I was a little kid I remember the river being full of pulpwood. Softwood trees would be cut into 4 foot lengths and floated down the river to the mill. I remember the logs well as my dad would take me fishing and my line would keep snagging logs. It frustrated the heck out of me.

Decades later there are still reminders of the logging days. Many logs became so water saturated they sank to the bottom. Some were eventually recovered, but most are still down there. The river has sections where tiny islands dot the middle. They were once boomdocks. Long wooden booms divided the river, going between the small artificial islands. Two paper mills shared the same river so they divided it down the middle. Very much like Solomon.

Ecologically, the river has recovered. On our trip we saw fish jumping, Osprey and Great Blue Heron's hunting, and many water birds. Given a chance, nature can come back.

Why were logs floated down rivers in the first place? That was done back in the days before petroleum was common. It was a time of steam locomotives and horses. Wood was dragged to the river using horses, oxen, or even narrow gauge steam trains. Then the river would carry the wood right to the mill.

Petroleum changed all that. Instead of water power bringing logs, trucks did the job. Horses and oxen were replace by bulldozers and skidders. Asphalt roads replaced rivers.

What happens when the petroleum gets outrageously expensive or runs short? Some people think our low energy future will look like the past. It won't. The mills those logs were once floated to are no longer there. They've been sold for scrap. My guess is that we'll have to do with a lot less paper products. No one will be investing in new huge mills in the low energy future. Other demands on capital and energy will be more pressing -like people trying to get enough food to eat.

Today I paddled my plastic canoe on a river that petroleum cleaned up. The petroleum won't last forever. My modern canoe won't last forever. However, a canoe is a canoe. Go back far enough and that river was traveled by canoes. Canoes built of birch bark, cedar, ash and spruce pitch. That could happen again. If I had to choose, I'd take a clean river over tissue paper.



  1. Any sane person would make that choice. Which is why I say most people are nuts, because they don't give a damn about where they live, much less anywhere else...

  2. Sixbears there ya go making sense again!