The photo shows a steam donkey engine yarder and cables alongside the logging railway in Jordan River. (Sooke Region Museum)

SOOKE HISTORY: Jordan River forestry a contrast in decades

Field trip to old logging site brings back memories

Elida Peers | Contributed

I was invited to accompany a group of private forest land holders last week on an excursion from their conference at the Prestige Oceanfront Resort to the historic log sort area at Jordan River.

We had a great field trip, with me enjoying expounding on our district’s early forest history, explaining that the hotel site was in view of the very beginnings of the industrial forest history of B.C. – the steam-powered sawmill of the John Muir family.

When the bus tour reached Jordan River, we met Loren Perraton, of Canadian Overseas Log and Lumber Ltd., where the group was outfitted with hard hats and treated to an interesting walking tour of the log sort activities.

It brought me back to the early days of B.C.’s forest industry, when in 1909 seven miles of logging railway carried the forest harvest down to tidewater at the river mouth. The logs were boomed and then towed by tugboat east towards Victoria’s sawmilling markets.

The photo shows a steam donkey engine yarder and cables alongside the logging railway, which ran down the hill where one approaches Jordan River by road today.

It was Michigan Pacific that first entered the industry at the river, and its efforts were soon followed by Canadian Puget Sound Lumber & Timber Company. CPS, as it was called, employed hundreds, and had its own bunkhouses and cookhouse.

Vehicle traffic was not possible until after 1912, and most traffic was by boat to Victoria. In the 1920s Harry Kirby operated a bus service (or crummy) which could carry loggers into Victoria for the weekend and some R&R, before the next work week began.

CPS became a subsidiary of Alaska Pine, and in time it was Western Forest Products that harvested in the area. Steel spars and automated equipment took the place of high riggers climbing to make spar trees, and machines like steam-powered yarders were no longer needed.

What with V.I. Power Company, a subsidiary of B.C. Electric, establishing a powerhouse at Jordan River in 1911, under the guidance of superintendent D. I. Walker, building the Diversion Dam and its miles of flume, adding their hundreds of men on the construction workforce, Jordan River was a bustling place in the first half of the 20th century.

Last week, it was great to see the enterprise established in 2011, Pacheedaht Anderson Timber Holdings, popularly called Queesto (for the renowned hereditary Pacheedaht chief), working in such a friendly, community-based style in the old log-sort that has seen so many changes over a century.

Today’s hard hats, safety vests and WCB regulations would have been a shock to crews working onsite 100 years ago.


Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Kids, parents cool off at Langford splash park

Centennial Park is home to a popular water feature

Saanich landfill gets used oil and antifreeze dropoff centre upgrades

BC Used Oil Management Association oversees upgrades, two new facilities in province

Saanich woman completes 10 marathons, raises double her initial goal amount

Over $20,000 raised for Victoria Hospitals Foundation

Colwood man to ride 400 kilometres to fight kids cancer

Man riding for a beloved family member who died from leukemia at 13-years-old

UPDATED: Missing 25-year-old Saanich woman found Saturday

Yuhan Jin thought to be travelling by foot or bus, carrying two suitcases

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Most Read