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Where We Live: The Broughton Lumber flume

Washington

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The timber industry helped build the Pacific Northwest — wood products from Oregon and Washington are shipped around the world.

A historical photo of the constructions of the Broughton Lumber flume along the Columbia River Gorge. (Courtesy photo) 

In the Columbia River Gorge, there are remnants of a unique way to get unfinished logs from one place to another. It’s a piece of Northwest history in this place where we live. 

The Broughton Lumber flume carried unfinished lumber called cants from the Broughton Company sawmill in Willard, Washington, to the remanufacturing plant at Hood, Washington, near Stevenson. 

It took 55 minutes to travel the flume’s 11 miles.

“The Broughton lumber flume was one of the longest-running and longest lasting flumes in the United States,” said Robert Peterson with the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center. “It worked really well for many years.”

Built in 1913 and updated in 1923, the Broughton flume ran until the company ceased operations in 1986. The flume took its water from the Little White Salmon River and helped employ hundreds of people at Broughton Lumber, one of the largest companies in the Gorge at the time.

More about the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center

“To think that this had thousands of men and families supported by this part of the logging industry here is huge,” Peterson said. 

A historical photo of a section of the Broughton Lumber flume along the Columbia River Gorge. (Courtesy photo) 

In 1967, a Disney film called Charlie the Lonesome Cougar, showed the big cat riding a log on the flume. That same year, a huge TV star, Lassie, took to the flume for an episode called Ride the Mountain.

Today, not much of the flume remains. A steel section welcomes people to tiny Willard, Washington, home of Broughton’s Upper Sawmill.

Deep in the woods, a battered section of the flume is all but hidden from view.

For Peterson, the flume represents this region’s history.

“There is a little logging here but not anything like it was,” he said. “Even back in the 40s and 50s especially.”

The Broughton Lumber flume was a symbol of when timber was king.

Until recently, the flume was visible from SR-14 and I-84 but time and the elements have taken those views.

A remaining part of the Broughton Lumber flume is almost hidden from view. (KOIN) 

You can see a section of the flume close-up, at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson.

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