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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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This axe-like head mounted on a handle was used to mark logs for different companies before the raft was assembled. Later logs could be pulled from the raft by this identification. Photo courtesy-National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.

LOG RAFTS. Picturesque method of transporting timber to mills along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. Logs, cut during the winter months in northern forests, were branded with the owner's sign and stacked along the riverbanks to await the spring thaw. Once in the river, the logs were assembled into rafts and guided by men using "sweeps."

Logs were floated to sawmills.
The first rafts arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1840 with an estimated eight hundred thousand feet of lumber. Late in the 1800s, as many as seven hundred rafts, headed for other mills, passed Dubuque annually while untold more ended up at Dubuque.

Raft boats were later used to push the rafts to the mills. Using a crew of eighteen, a raft boat could guide a raft containing as much as three million feet of lumber, an amount roughly equal to seven trains of fifty cars each.

The largest log raft on the Mississippi was formed at Lynxville in 1896. It was 270 feet wide and 1,550 feet long. It contained 2.25 million board feet of lumber. (1)



1. Wisconsin Historical Markers. Online: http://wisconsinhistoricalmarkers.blogspot.com/2013/07/marker-149-rafting-on-mississippi.html