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Oregon Trails: Logging Museum Experience

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CHILOQUIN, Ore. – Almost every county, and many communities in Oregon have a museum of some kind, dedicated to preserving and displaying local history, but there are not too many in Oregon that are outdoor museums.

One of the few is right here in our area, north of Klamath Falls near Chiloquin. Logging has been big business in Oregon for nearly 150 years. At Collier State Park, visitors can get a good idea of what it took to harvest the timber needed to build our homes, ship our goods and provided living wage jobs for generations of Oregonians.

“In 1945, brother Andrew and ‘Cap’ Collier donated the 146 acres of the primary portion of the state park to the State of Oregon as a memorial to their parents. They were all about and interested and motivated by preserving the history and the legacy of the logging industry, specifically east of the Cascade mountains. That is the primary focus of the Collier outdoor exhibit museum,” explained State Parks Interpretive Coordinator, Paul Patton.

Gathered there at the park are hundreds of the tools of the trade, from the earliest horse and ox drawn logging wagons and big wheels, to steam and gas and diesel-powered equipment. Over the years the exhibits have been grouped and organized to focus on different periods of development in the industry, including historic photos and tools.

The park is laid out with many of the exhibits grouped according to the age of development in the timber industry, which includes a cluster of old log buildings harvested from the woods of central Oregon to show what a logging camp looked like; that’s still being developed.

A large new building simulate a lumber camp dining hall, and smells of fresh sawed lumber. It will house a number of displays, including a kitchen. Most impressive to many people are the big timber wheels, widely used in the eastern Oregon pine forests to lift the end of the logs off the ground so they could be dragged by horse or oxen to the mill or a railroad. They were later replaced by steel wheels, and instead of muscle power, horsepower from the steam traction engines or later, crawler tractors like the Holt, Best or Caterpillar. Steam donkey engines that could drag themselves through the woods allowed faster harvest of ever larger timber.

A display board quotes author John L. Williams, who said, “The donkey that finally ousted the oxen from the skid roads of the West was not a beast, but a small steam engine.”

Other steam engines displayed pulled loads of logs or lumber across ground, and log wagons; some with steel wheels, others with huge wood spokes, and yet others made from slices of logs attest to the difficult job those early timber men faced. Most of the equipment, whether it’s early bulldozers or mack bulldog trucks, are as-is. Not much restoration, just some preservation, including a tugboat that pushed and pulled rafts of logs up and down Klamath Lake.

The Collier State Park Logging Museum, near Chiloquin, north of Klamath Falls on Highway 97, is a unique treasure in Southern Oregon. Probably nowhere else will you get a pretty good idea of what the logging and timber industry has gone through in the last century or more. Collier State Park Logging Museum is on the west side of Highway 97, just a few miles north of Chiloquin, and about 30 miles north of Klamath Falls. Admission is free, and winter hours are from 8 a.m. To 4 p.m.