pg 55 A Peep into the Past Vol. 1 Belle and Gordon Hall
At the turn of the century when Calgary was booming, its lumber had to come from somewhere. That somewhere happened to be Kananaskis Country. The logs were put in the Kananaskis River and floated down it to the river’s entry into the Bow where they went on down to Calgary. Here they were caught by a weir and went into the saws at the Eau Claire sawmills. The mills were located close to where Louise Bridge is now.
In 1909 the Seebe Power Dam was built and this stopped the log flow from the Kananaskis as that river ran into the Bow above the Seebe Dam. Eau Claire then changed their logging to the Ghost River area. At Meadow Creek and Waiparus Creek there were small dams built to hold back water to form a small lake of about 1-2 acres. This was done in the fall of the year, so that when freeze up came, the loggers had a frozen pond on which to pile their logs.
In the spring when the thaw came, they opened the dam and the ice melted and the logs went down the river. The Waiparus Creek drained into the main Ghost and down emptying into the Bow. When the logs had disappeared downstream, a clean-up crew followed them. These were known as log drive camps. The camp would consist of usually 10 men, with two teams of horses and a boat. Their job was to send logs down the river which had hung up com shore, often there were log jams on the small islands. Dynamite sometimes had to be used to blow these dams apart. The logs were all stamped with a metal stamp “EC”. These stamps were on a handle, so when they hit the end of a log, the stamp was embedded in the wood. Some claimed that if cut a Eau Clair log in half, you could still see the print of the stamp. This was meant to stop stealing of EC logs, I presume.
Then in 1929 the Ghost Dam was built and that put an end to the log drives, as the Ghost River ran into the Ghost Reservoir and there was no way to get logs over the dam. Another part of the past that is just memory.
In 1937 when I was big game hunting northwest of Sundre in the James River area, we ran across an old wood dam across the James River. We also found the old bunkhouses and log cabins. Returning to Sundre, we inquired about the story from oldtimers. It seems the Great West Logging Company had built the camp and dam in 1916. They were following the plan of Eau Claire Co. to float the logs down the James to the Big Red River. I never did find out where their mill was situated. Anyway, the logs got away on them and the story was that all the farmers from Sundre east through Red Deer and Drumheller, all had new log barns. I saw one of the barns near Fish Lake, east of Drumheller, in later years. I took some pictures of the old dam and they were printed in the Sundre paper.