Home > Uncategorized > One of the first environmental problems on White Lake – logging

One of the first environmental problems on White Lake – logging

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While many of us are familiar with the environmental damage to White Lake caused by the chemical manufacturing era, there was another era that caused considerable damage to White River, the land it encompassed (the watershed) and White Lake.  This was the logging era, 1837 — 1900.

At the height of this era, 16 sawmills ringed White Lake.  Logging drastically changed the White River and White Lake.  Bark and debris sloughed off logs onto the river bottom, causing sedimentation.  Straight channels dug in the coastal marshes to create the log boom area created further problems by decreasing the capacity of the wetlands to reduce nutrient loads, absorb floods, and filter water quality.

See below for a historic photo of the original mouth of the White River, from about 1860 (provided by local history author Dan Yakes).  You can see where the timber has been logged off, as well as the huge number of logs traveling down the river to be shipped across the Great Lakes for a multitude of uses.

To find out more about our logging era, read “Logging the White, The White Lake Lumber Industry, 1837 — 1900” by Yakes, and Steven S. Demos, M.D.  Questions? Your thoughts?

The Mouth of White Lake, ca 1860

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lee (Lundell) Dickinson
    February 1, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    As a child, I was constantly in the water of White Lake. My nickname was “The Fish”! We lived about 4 miles down the lake from The Tannery, directly across the lake from Dupont, and kitty-corner from Hooker. My 4 siblings and I all enjoyed the lake and lived in our swimsuits in the summer. I do not remember any of the horrible odor in our neighborhood, but we always were aware of the odor as we drove into town and neared The Tannery. Often, we would go to town by way of the “low road” (Lake Street) and hold our noses as we passed The Tannery. My two sisters & I all had breast cancer at age 49, and there was no family history of such. Many men and women in our immediate neighborhood and all along the lake have also had bouts with cancer. Could it be from the pollution we were unaware of while we were growing up? Hooker Chemical came to the lake in the 1950’s and shortly thereafter Dupont. Perhaps the dastardly three were responsible for the pollution and resulting illnesses those of us on the lake contracted. I still enjoy living on the lake and I enjoy the better quality of water and air that the lake now has because of the absence of the three former industries. I am thankful for the battles fought of the Svensson family and of Winton Dahlstrom that led to a better quality of life for those of us who continue to live on the lake.

    • February 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Good afternoon, Lee!

      I appreciate your comments! Sounds like you were indeed “The Fish!”

      I know people have had concerns about the effect on their health from pollution in and around White Lake. It is very difficult to make direct connections without knowing the pathways of exposure — how people might have been exposed to any hazardous contaminants – by air, drinking water, or by direct contact. Unfortunately, that information was not collected during the times when there were air and water discharges, so it is virtually impossible to evaluate. I agree it is positive that there is now a better quality of life for lakefront and other area residents. And I am glad that you are well and still live on White Lake!

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