Timber floating history


Timber floating is the transport of timber on waterways. From the beginning of the 1800s to the 1960s, timber floating was the dominating means of timber transportation from inland forests to the saw and pulp mills on the coast. On the Vindel River large-scale timber floating operations started around 1850 and the river, together with Ume River, became a public floatway in 1889. At the end of the 19th century the increasing forest industry resulted in more logging, which in turn led to more intensive work to facilitate the floating of timber. The network of floatways expanded; the channels were straightened out with stone piers and more effective booms along the rapids. Large numbers of stone piers were built in the main channel of the rivers to straighten the timber and avoid log jams, which were both expensive and dangerous to remove. In the tributaries splash dams for timber floating, flumes and stone piers were built. Boulders and wood were cleared from the smaller tributaries. This work was particularly intense in 1900-1950 when larger timber volumes and higher labor costs intensified the demands on timber floating.

Bulldozer clearing the waterway

Bulldozer clearing the waterway

Timber floating incorporated new technologies as they became available. In the 1920s and 1930s, motor driven cranes were introduced in different timber floating activities. During the same period motor driven boats were used to tow the timber over lakes. More stone piers were built and the tributaries were more effectively cleared, particularly during the 1950s when bulldozers were introduced into the work. Further, in the tributaries more splash dams were built and the old ones were improved. At this point the total length of the floatways in the Vindel River (river plus tributaries) was nearly 1600 km but the timber floating operation had started to slow down. Timber floating began to phase out in the beginning of the 1960s. Trucks began to take over as the main means of transporting logs along the river. The last year of timber floating in the Vindel River was 1976.

You can read more about the timber floating in the Vindel River here:

Törnlund and Östlund 2002

Törnlund 2006. SEHR

Törnlund 2006b

Törnlund and Östlund 2006 Journal of Transport History

Törnlund 2010