“Timber!”

If you’re in the woods and hear that word shouted, watch out! A tree could be falling any second.

Lumberjacks yell “Timber!” to alert others in the area when they’re cutting down a tree. Timber is another word for a growing tree. Trees cut down to be used to make things out of wood are often split into planks called lumber.

The workers who cut down and transport trees to saw mills and factories for processing into wood products are called lumberjacks. Today, lumberjacks use all sorts of modern tools, including chainsaws, to do their work.

Back in the days before the end of World War II (approximately 1945), though, lumberjacks cut down entire forests mainly using axes or large, two-man hand saws. It was difficult, dangerous work that required men to live in primitive living conditions far away from the nearest towns and cities.

Lumberjacks have been popularized by folklore legends, such as Paul Bunyan, that portray them as strong men who boldly face danger and love to live in the wild. Today, lumberjacks are mainly known as loggers. Female loggers are sometimes called lumberjills.

For lumberjacks in the old days, cutting down the trees was only the first job. Once the trees were down, they had to figure out how to transport them to saw mills for processing. Since lumberjacks could be cutting down trees in dense forests miles from the nearest road or railroad, this could be quite a problem.

If terrain could be traveled by horses, trees could be loaded onto wagons and pulled by horses to the nearest saw mill or railroad. If the trees were in rough terrain, however, different solutions had to be invented.

One such solution was the log flume. In mountainous areas, special troughs could be built from the logging area down the side of the mountain to a saw mill at the bottom. Lumberjacks could fill the trough with water and float logs down to the saw mill. These contraptions were the inspiration for modern-day log flume rides at amusement parks.

In areas that had rivers, lumberjacks figured out how to use the rivers like a log flume. This process was called river driving.

In the winter, lumberjacks would use chains to pull cut timber to a frozen river, where they would stack it. When spring came, the river would thaw and workers — called river drivers — would float the logs down the river.

The river drivers would balance on top of the floating logs. Their only tools were their spiked boots — called caulks — and long poles topped with metal spikes. Can you imagine how dangerous it must have been to be a river driver? River driving was the inspiration for the modern sport of log rolling.

Sometimes rivers would become so full of logs that the logs would pack together so tightly that nothing would move. This was known as a log jam. Log jams were common in areas with shallow water or bends in the river.

Log jams were very serious situations, since they blocked traffic and were very dangerous to fix. River drivers would try to move logs by hand, but they often had to resort to blasting logs with dynamite to get them moving again.

Some believe the largest log jam in the world occurred in 1894 on the Mississippi River near Little Falls, Minnesota. This log jam was nearly seven miles long, a half-mile wide and almost 60 feet thick. It took 150 lumberjacks, five horse teams and a steam engine over six months to break it up!

The real experience of a log jam gave rise to a new word — logjam — that is often used to describe a blockage, deadlock or impasse. For example, business negotiations might develop a logjam coming to an agreement that requires a special mediator to resolve it.

 

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    • Thanks for being the very first Wonder Friends to leave us a comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®, Elle and Michelle! We think you ROCK and we hope you learned some cool new facts about log jams! :-)

    • We’re sure happy that YOU posted a comment to let us know you liked the video for today’s Wonder, Diya…THANK YOU! We hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I liked the log jam video. It was cool.
    Maybe tomorrow’s wonder will be about drinks or coca cola? Can beavers live in the log jams? I bet Ella is going to post a comment ?
    Ava
    P.S You’re my heroes.
    P.S Have a great day
    Happy wondering ! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)
    I’ll try to get Mrs.Kennedy on wonderopolis

    • Hi, Ava! We’re glad you thought the log jam video was cool! We’ll have to see what tomorrow’s Wonder will be about, but we really like your guess! We hope you have a GREAT day, too! :-)

  2. I never knew that Paul Bunyan was a really tall pearson!!!!!!!!! HAVE A NICE WEEKEND WONDEROPOLIS!!!!!!!!! I LOVE YOU GUYS.

    • Your comment ROCKS, Barbara! Thanks for letting us know you learned something new and interesting about Paul Bunyan by exploring today’s Wonder! We hope you have a nice weekend, too! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder, Hannah, and thank you for suggesting a future Wonder about hospitals! :-)

    • We’re really sorry you didn’t care for today’s Wonder, Sharell! Did you know there are 528 past Wonders of the Day® you can explore? There is sure to be a Wonder that suits you! You can click on any of the categories on the right of this page and go exploring! You can also click here to visit ALL the Wonders: http://wonderopolis.org/wonders/. :-)

  3. OK, I GET IT. THEY ARE LIKE TRAFFIC JAMS, BUT THEY ARE LOGS AND IN THE WATER. I THINK THAT IF WE EVER HAD A LOG JAM THEN WE WOULD BE VERY DEVASTATED BECAUSE WE WOULDN’T GO TO WORK, WHICH MEANS THAT WE WOULDN’T GET MONEY TO FEED THE CHILDREN. THAT IS SO SAD. SAD, SAD SAD. BUT I AM GLAD THAT THE WORKERS GOT IT FIXED AND I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW. I KNOW THAT IT WILL BE GOOD..

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about what might happen due to a log jam, Sydney! Guess what? We can’t wait until tomorrow’s Wonder, either! We are super excited about it, and we’re so happy you are, too! :-)

  4. Dear wonderoplis,

    I did not know what a log jam was until this wonder. I hope my friend, Ava, if she came on, liked the video too! I just saw that Diya posted too! :)

    • We’re so happy to receive so many WONDERful comments from you and your friends, Ella! We’re glad you liked learning about log jams today! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you thought today’s Wonder was AMAZING, Torii! We appreciate your comment very much! :-)

    • We think that’s an AWESOME personal connection to share about today’s Wonder, Andrea! Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

    • We really like learning and having fun at the same time, too, Deanna! That’s why we LOVE exploring Wonders in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hello, Dhyani! Thanks so much for letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate the opinions of all of our Wonder Friends! We hope you had fun learning about log jams! :-)

  5. Dear Wonderopolis,

    That is cool how lumberjacks call timber instead of “get out of the way”. And that women are called lumberjills. That is cool how they used a piece of wood to move outer wood.

    from
    cheyenne

    • Those are some cool facts you learned by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day® about log jams, Cheyenne! We think that ROCKS! :-)

  6. I did not know that timber meant a growing tree. I did not know log jams could be so big. How long does it take to take down one tree with just an axe?

    • We like that you learned so much about log jams by visiting Wonderopolis today, Selina! We also like that you are WONDERing more about what you learned! We’re not sure how long it takes to chop down one tree with only an axe. We think it would depend on many factors, such as the size of the tree, the location of the tree, the sharpness of the axe, the strength of the person using the axe…even the weather! :-)

    • We really liked getting your comment today, Tejauna! Thank you for making us smile and letting us know you loved today’s Wonder! :-)

    • We think that idea is EXPLODING with creativity, Mr. P. and Miss Skimin’s 4th graders! ;-) We WONDERed a little more after we read your question, and found that log jams can be quite dangerous. They make rivers impassable for people who use those rivers for recreation and commerce. If people don’t know there is a log jam, and the water is fast-moving, they could arrive at a log jam and get hurt. The people who work hard to remove the log jams also run the risk of getting hurt. Thank you so much for WONDERing in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Hi, Cheyenne! A log jam is what happens when logs that lumber jacks “float” down the river to mills get all “jammed” together in a certain part of the river. :-)

  7. A log jam is a bunch of sticks and stuff so they called it a log jam, and they have logs in the way of the river going somewhere else than just staying in that exact spot than traveling somewhere else. Sorry for all of this, I don’t get to the point fast. :-(

    • It makes us SUPER happy to hear that you learned some cool new facts about log jams by watching the video for today’s Wonder, Christian! We hope you learned some more great facts by exploring the rest of the Wonder, too! :-)

    • We like that description very much, Skylar! Great job! Thanks for adding something AWESOME to today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  8. Hi Wonderopolis. I think your website is really cool! Today wonder was really interesting. Now I know what a log jam is.
    Thanks for teaching me something.

    • It’s WONDERful that you learned something about log jams today, Juliana, AND that you think Wonderopolis is COOL! We think YOU are COOL for saying that! :-)

  9. I never guessed this would be the wonder!!!!!!! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be how do you get dehydrated?

    • That’s a really GREAT guess, Audrey! We can’t wait to visit tomorrow’s Wonder to see if your guess was correct! :-)

  10. That was an interesting wonder. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be “How much water do people drink in one day?” Please don’t respond to me, though. It will be scary to me.

  11. Hi wonderopolis! I think a log jam is when logs fall in to a lake, but I have one question are there still bridges made of logs?

    • Hi to you, too, Abhinav! That’s a GREAT question! We’re sure there are lots of wooden bridges still out there in the world, so we’ll both have to do a bit more WONDERing about them! :-)

  12. DOWN BY MY GRANDPA’S, THERE IS ONE, AND I TOLD MY GRANDPA TO HELP IT, AND HE DID, SO NOW THE RIVER’S FLOWING AGAIN. I’M SO PROUD BECAUSE WE HELPED THE ENVIRONMENT!

    • Thanks for sharing your story about your grandpa helping to clear the log jam, Jazzi! It was a GREAT personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • Hello, Patrick! We’re glad you’re WONDERing more about river drivers! River drivers were special workers who “rode” or “walked” on the logs to help them move downstream. They wore special shoes with spikes in them to help them keep their balance while they were on top of the logs. Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  13. Okay, here’s my deal! Monday through Friday I’m going to come onto this site and read an article if I get to comment a question and have it answered! Hip, hip, hooray!

    My question today is…is that OK?

    • Hello, Devan! We think it would be GREAT if you visited Wonderopolis every day this week! We hope you find LOTS of Wonders that interest you! Thanks for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your favorite food with everyone in Wonderopolis today, Wonder Friend “Y!” We appreciate your comment! :-)

  14. HI
    Wonderopolis

    I am wondering whether the term (log in) used by the internet access has been taken from the process of putting the logs IN the river …or not?

    and thank you

    • That’s a really CLEVER question, Malek! We’re not sure about the answer to that one! We think it would make a GREAT future Wonder of the Day®, though! Thank you for making us WONDER today! :-)

    • That’s a fun word to say, isn’t it, “Wonder?” Thanks for checking out this Wonder of the Day® today! :-)

    • Hello, Wonder Friend! We know sometimes homework might not be our favorite thing to do, but learning new things makes us smarter and better equipped to be productive citizens of this WONDERful world! We hope you have a GREAT day…thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • We’re happy to hear that, Kim! Thanks for stopping by this Wonder and learning some new things about log jams with us today! :-)

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