PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The current from Cedar Creek supplies the strength for the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, a Clark County staple in Woodland since 1876.

For more than 4 decades, Fred Schulz has been one of the volunteers who helps keep the legacy going. The fascination he has for the Cedar Creek Grist Mill is why he know all about how it works.

“When I found out the folks were restoring this mill, I thought I’d like to be part of it. And the idea of using water power to make, to turn a shaft, to make electricity and things like that (was) something I had always tried to do since I was a little boy, too,” Schulz said. “And so here, I got my chance.”

So how does it work?

Fred Schulz is a volunteer at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill in Woodland, Washington, April 2022 (KOIN)

“We take water out of our intake and it comes down to our flume. We have screens in there to protect the fish from getting tangled up in our water turbine, and then we put the water back in the river,” he said.

In the beginning, the Cedar Creek Grist Mill was a place for farmers to bring their grain. Over the decades it went through different names, owners, closures and reopenings. It’s not a business anymore. An old place like this could easily be left in the dust.

That’s exactly what happened for several decades.

Then about 40 years ago, volunteers — like Schulz — with the Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill worked to preserve it.

“We’ve just installed a water wheel governor back here that is designed to keep the speed of the turbine constant during load fluctuations,” he said.

It still takes a lot of work to preserve the mill. Sometimes, he said, “logs get carried underneath the mill and high water. We have to keep that cleaned out.”

The upkeep ranges from fixing a leaky roof to sweeping the floor. Schulz said they “grease and oil the machinery from time to time,”

Volunteers generally volunteer because they like a specific organization. For Fred Schulz, he and the others love this place and respect its history.

“People started with nothing and how they took this all in stride, the hard work, the uncertainty, the accidents, the deprivation didn’t bother ’em,” he said. “They just kept on pushing forward.”

Visitors get a fascinating and fun experience, including the chance to see a machine grinding corn for cornmeal. Schulz hopes it sparks some inspiration.

“You see little kids come through here and they wonder just how all this works. You wonder if maybe you’ve got some young mechanical engineers coming up when you show ’em this,” he said.

The Cedar Creek Grist Mill is only open for tours from 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays. More volunteers are needed for them to open on Sundays. They also look forward to bringing back events, like their annual cider press with fresh apples, in late October.