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Northern Michigan In Focus: Legend of the Log Slide

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s much of Michigan was logged off and there were a lot of different ways they moved those logs to get them to the mill. For today’s Northern Michigan in Focus takes you to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for the Legend of the Log Slide.

The dunes are a magical place.

While the Pictured Rocks National Shoreline is known for its stunning cliffs on the west end on the east end, by Grand Marais, are these massive 300 foot sand dunes. Like the pictured rocks these dunes hold many stories and legends, one called the log slide.

Like a lot of other areas in Michigan this was one time forested with mostly white pine and red pine. In the late 1800’s, mostly in the 1890’s, the logging boom came up through the Upper Peninsula starting in the east and working its way west.

Today the log slide area is a place for people to come and relax have a picnic, take a hike or get a great view of Lake Superior when it’s not fogged in.  Back in the late 1800’s this area was a huge logging operation but there was a 300 foot problem getting the logs to the lake for transport.

By the time it got here they had all this virgin timber but they wanted to harvest and they were always looking for what was the most economical way to get it to the sawmill.  They realize that this location in the dunes that they could build a big wooden chute that went down. They called it the the log slide and logs will be brought up here and then they would just be sent down and let gravity do all the work. They would go flying down that big wooden chute.

The chute was like a 5-600 feet long toboggan ride for these logs and they were moving!

As they were flying down there it was recorded that it would only take about 10 seconds to hit the bottom from the top. It also got the nickname the devils slide because it wasn’t uncommon for the logs to actually catch on fire from the friction as it traveled down the chute.  So from a distance you would see flames and smoke going up.

At the bottom, the logs would be collected in a big boom. One story goes one time a log was moving so fast it caused a terrible accident.

There was a crew of men working on the outside of the boom next to a ship that was going to haul the lumber away and this one piece of wood actually went down and had so much momentum it skipped across the water and it actually instantly killed two people that were standing out there on the other side of the boom.

Sadly, there’s no pictures of the slide or the logging operation.  Once the trees were gone, so was the slide.

We don’t even know exactly what year it was built.  It was probably around the late 1880’s and it was probably there throughout most of the 1890’s and then at some point it was abandoned because most of this area was to timbered out and they went on to other areas.

Another chapter in Michigan’s history for all of us to enjoy.

It’s just one of those interesting parts of history. We lose so many of these things where you hear the stories of pretty rugged individuals, men and women and then how quickly it all went away.

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