Splash Dams

Around the turn of the last century, tie hacks
and loggers cut trees high in Wyoming’s mountains. Splash dams were often used to help deliver
trees to sawmills in communities below. Loggers stacked rough cut ties along the creek
bank during the winter cutting season. Once sufficient timber was collected, the
water being stored behind the dam was released in a massive surge. It was a brave tie hack who got to pull the
gate. At this splash dam in the Bighorn Mountains,
logs would reportedly travel downstream at nearly 80 miles per hour. It is difficult to imagine the noise and shear
force of such a manmade flash flood. The goal of this structure was to get the
logs to a tie flume for more controlled delivery to a sawmill in Dayton, Wyoming. The use of splash dams obviously had a significant
impact on both the health of the stream and loggers, so as transportation infrastructure
improved splash dams disappeared from the mountains. Although splash dams were a dangerous and
destructive way to get timber to market, one must admire the ingenuity of early tree cutters. For the University of Wyoming Extension, I’m
Milton Geiger, Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.

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