Bloedel Donovan Lumber Mills
Bloedel Donovan's presence in Clallam County started in February 1921 when they bought out Clallam Lumber
Company. Although the contract for the purchase by Bloedel had been mailed from Seattle, the big 1921 windstorm hit
the area while the contract was en route to Chicago, Clallam's headquarters. As a result, the contract was declared
invalid and a new one was written up and signed after a new price was negotiated in a meeting of the two companies'
officials in Chicago for $500,000 less than the original price. The need for this purchase arose when Bloedel Donovan
began running low on timber to keep its mills going in Whatcom and Skykomish counties. Shortly after buying out
Clallam Lumber, Bloedel Donovan bought out Ruddock-McCarthy giving them timber near the town of Forks. In
October of 1923, Bloedel Donovan bought out Goodyear Lumber Company, thus giving themselves a log dump and
booming grounds in Clallam Bay at the town of Sekiu with which to make rafts and tow the logs to their mills.
Immediately, Bloedel Donovan began construction of the Clallam Bay Southern to run from the log dump at Sekiu,
through Clallam Bay, and into the Sol Duc River valley. They did at the time have the chance to, and did pursue, the
purchase of the old Spruce Production Division railroad from Port Angeles, but the asking price was too high. The
surveying and construction of the Clallam Bay Southern Railroad was put into the hands of Charles C. Donovan, who
coincidently was not related to neither J. J. Donovan nor J. N. Donovan of Bloedel Donovan, but was a local person.
The company of Stewart & Welch were brought in to build the railroad and work began. Working for Stewart & Welch
was one Joe Meeley, who would also go on to become logging superintendent for Rayonier. Following completion of
the Clallam Bay Southern, C. C. Donovan became the general superintendent for the Clallam operations. He had such
a knack for knowing where to build the rails that his death in 1944 was one of the decisions that led to Bloedel
Donovan's liquidation of their assets in Clallam County in early 1945.
Donovan's death might not have been such a blow, had it not also been that there was a huge labor shortage due to
the second World War. Also figuring into Bloedel Donovan's decision to pull out of Clallam County was the creation of
the Olympic National Park in 1938. The creation of the national park took 530,000 acres from the Olympic National
Forest and added it to the 318,000 acres of the original Olympic National Monument, thus reducing the amount of
available timber to less than half of what it was when Bloedel Donovan first moved into Clallam County. The Park's
creation at the time was also very opposed to by local communities, who although favored the original monument, were
afraid of an economic downturn due to the loss of timber. As a result of this decision, work that had been done for
Bloedel Donovan in planning, surveying, and right-of-way procurement of an extension south of Forks and across the
Bogachiel and Hoh rivers was abandoned. The final factor in Bloedel Donovan's decision to liquidate their Clallam
holdings was that as they cut deeper and deeper into the forests, they began running lower on Douglas-fir and running
into more hemlock, which then was a much less valuable wood.
The hemlock suited Rayonier Incorporated who had pulp mills at Port Angeles, Hoquiam, and Shelton. Jack Donovan
urged Bloedel Donovan to start talks with Rayonier to sell everything in their Clallam holdings, including camps,
railroads, docks, equipment, and machinery to them. In February, 1945 Rayonier took an option to buy the Clallam
holdings of Bloedel Donovan until they could check on the materials and timber that they were purchasing. After
looking at the figures of all of Bloedel Donovan's holdings, Rayonier exercised their option and bought out Bloedel
Donovan, thus ending almost a quarter of a century on the Olympic Peninsula. During their time on the Olympic
Peninsula, Bloedel Donovan operated the Sappho, Hoko, Beaver, and Calawah Camps, logged several thousands of
acres of timber, including federal forest timber, constructed over a hundred miles of rail lines, and were known to
operate more than 9 sides at once to get the logs for their mills.
Today, there is hardly anything left, except for some rails here and there, and other stuff if you know what you're
looking for. The grades themselves can be really easy, or really hard to follow in the 65+ years on the Olympic
Peninsula. Unfortunately, the Great Forks Fire in 1951 and other forest fires have destroyed most of the trestles, and
firefighting efforts with dozers destroyed most of the grades and anything else left over. Following the buyout by
Rayonier, Rayonier opted to haul their logs through Tyee and up the Hoko into Sekiu instead of using the Clallam Bay
Southern. As a result, the line was soon abandoned. This is the main reason I'm not doing Bloedel Donovan with
Clallam River Drainage:
The Callam River drainage was the last area that was logged by Goodyear. It was in the middle of logging this drainage
that Bloedel Donovan took over and continued logging it.
Looking at the whole of probably the last logging camp along the Clallam River. The red
lines in the second picture depict where the grades were. This camp was near the end of
the P-2000 RD. (8/22/07)
Beaver Creek Drainage:
Bear Creek Drainage:
Sol Duc River Drainage:
This Rail was found lying on the north shore of the Sol Duc River. It was a whole rail, not a
piece, that probably fell off when the trestle was being removed by Rayonier. This rail joiner
was also found nearby.
Strangely enough, the only evidence of the trestle that used to cross the Sol
Duc River is the piling stubs on an gravel bar near the south shore of the river.
This is the throughcut of one of the branches that formed a wye with what is now Mary Clark Road.
This is looking south down the mainline from the FS-2902.2 RD. The grade is to the left of the mound.
Just beyond this point the grade split with the east fork going through Shutz Pass to Calawah Camp, and
the right fork becoming what is now the FS-2902 and all of the grades in that vicinity.
This throughcut is the only thing that I have found so far on the grades that run along the B-2130 RD.
This old log with cable wrapped around it was laying next to the grade. It wasn't in a position to be a spar,
but did look like it broke some cable when they tried to move it and just left it there instead. (6/18/07)
These tie striations on this spur below the B-2130 Road show that it has not been converted into a road.
This through cut is just before the grade turns back onto the B-2130 Road. (6/18/07)
These bands and old style choker bell were found to the side of the B-2130 Road just after the grade
returned to the road. (6/18/07)
From Beaver Camp, the intersection of the A Road(FS-29) and HWY 101, Bloedel Donovan ran a line east out of camp
to a horseshoe bend in the Calawah River about a half of a mile away. Here the grade split with one leg following the
Calawah River upstream on the north bank for about another 1-2 miles. The other leg made a long near 180 degree
turn, crossed the old highway, crossed the Calawah River about a mile downstream, and continued on for another mile.
Although outside of Forks at the time, the sewage treatment plant currently sits on part of the old grade. Both sides of
the grade from the river were used as roads until the new HWY 101 was built, ending vehicle usage on the north side
of the river. The south side is mostly a quad trail now, with awesome through cuts and a tall fill. There's even an old
auto sitting in the brush off of it. My hope is to return with a metal detector to see if I can find any spikes or such, and
even snorkel the river. For all of this hubbub, there is an old saying in Forks that the railroad never crossed the
Calawah (at Forks), which is why I'm putting this little blurb in here. However, this grade comes off of the other leg only,
is narrow only for one track, is ballasted, has through cuts and fills, has pilings, is shown in an old B/W photo, and as a
friend said, "Why would there need to be 2 vehicle crossings of the Calawah River at the same time?" So, if anyone
knows any particulars about this grade, which looks like a railroad grade, please let me know.
These two views show two different through cuts between HWY 101 and the River, just west
of the highway. (10/1/08)
Looking at the approximate crossing of the river. A friend of mine gave me a xeroxed copy of a photo of
the Calawah trestle to compare. It was difficult with the brush, but it did look like it. That is a piling in the
water in the center of the photo, and happens to be the tallest one left. (10/1/08)
I don't know if this is a piling or just a hunk of wood, but it was found on the north side of the river.
Here is a closeup of the piling in the middle of the river. (10/1/08)
These are two piling stubs that are located on the south side of the river. (10/1/08)