Thursday, September 14, 2017

River Wannigan

Gabrielle Here:

I live on the banks of the Mississippi River in central Minnesota and my hometown was the site of the largest sawmill in the world in the 1890's. But before the mill could cut all those logs, they had to be sent downriver from the lumber camps spread throughout the Big Woods of Minnesota.

Pine Tree Lumber Company in Little Falls, MN
Millions of feet of lumber flowed downriver from the logging camps in northern Minnesota each spring/summer/fall. All winter long the logging camps would cut and stack logs along streams and riverbanks. When the river thawed they would roll the logs into the Mississippi.

With each "drive" of logs, the camp would send along one or two river wannigans to travel with the men driving the logs.

The wannigan was a floating shack, usually 25 to 30 feet long, and built low to the water to keep it stable on the fast moving river. The main wannigan was used as a cook shack, and the second (if there was one) might be used for sleeping.

Your Turn: Have you ever heard of a wannigan before? Would you like to ride in one?

Gabrielle Meyer lives in central Minnesota on the banks of the Mississippi River with her husband and four children. As an employee of the Minnesota Historical Society, she fell in love with the rich history of her state and enjoys writing fictional stories inspired by real people and events.

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  1. I had never heard of a wannigan before, but I might find use of one in our area if I did some research. There were log drives on our area of the Kennebec River here in Maine, and we have some "islands" in the river that I believe were handmade to control the flow of the logs. My husband is the one who has done the reading on the area, so I won't say more for fear of giving wrong information!!!

  2. I learned a new word! Never heard of a wannigan before. And wow I think those guys standing on those logs were BRAVE!

  3. I have never heard of a wannigan, and I'm not sure that I would like to be on one. This was so interesting. Thank you for the post!

  4. I have heard of wannigan before. My family were first pioneers in the Spruce Community just outside of Bigfork Minnesota.My great uncle Cornelius "Con" Erickson was a "bull cook" on the wannigans that traveled the Bigfork and Rice Rivers and my great-grandmother Hildegard Marie entertained the loggers and hunters with her guitar.