The River of Rafts

The River of Rafts (HMZM0)

Location: Reads Landing, MN 55968 Wabasha County
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Country: United States of America
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N 44° 24.607', W 92° 6.451'

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— Great River Road Minnesota —

This was once one of the busiest stretches on the Upper Mississippi River. Between 1830 and 1915, lumber companies in western Wisconsin floated millions of pine logs and pieces of cut lumber down the Chippewa River, which enters the Mississippi opposite this point. Once in the larger river, the logs and lumber were assembled into huge rafts and floated downstream to mills in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. Some rafts contained up to 10 million board feet of lumber - enough to build 500 houses. The largest raft ever recorded, in 1869, covered 1.2 hectares (3 acres).

Cribs and Strings
Assembling a raft was hard, dangerous work. Crews began by fastening logs or lumber into a wood frame called a crib. A typical crib measured about 5 by 10 meters (16 by 32 feet). A dozen or more cribs were linked end to end to form a string; several strings were then lashed together to form the raft.

Men and Steamboats
Until the 1860s, the rafts relied solely on manpower. Each string required two oarsmen, one at the bow and the other at the stern; thus a raft of ten strings employed a crew of twenty, all under the direction of a pilot. Later, steamboats were used to push the rafts from behind, often with a smaller boat at the front to steer.

Work and Play
On some rafts, crews built a shanty for the cook and makeshift shelters for themselves; on others, they slept in tents. They worked hard, played hard, and got plenty of fresh air in the bargain.

Illustrations by Bill Cannon

[reverse side]
Eagles Aloft
This is a prime area for viewing bald eagles. They are drawn here all winter long by open water and an abundant supply of fish. Eagles build their nests near the water in the water in the tops of tall trees.

Majestic Birds
Bald eagles are easily identified, even in flight, by their white heads and tails. A mature bald eagle can have a wingspan of 200 centimeters (80 inches). Minnesota has the third largest bald eagle population in the United States.

Illustrations by Vera Wong
"Pearched Eagles" Courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
1988, State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources
HM NumberHMZM0
Year Placed1988
Placed ByMinnesota Department of Natural Resource Great River Road marker program
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Friday, October 10th, 2014 at 4:44pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15T E 571059 N 4917812
Decimal Degrees44.41011667, -92.10751667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 44° 24.607', W 92° 6.451'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds44° 24' 36.42" N, 92° 6' 27.06" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)651
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 200 Hince Dr, Reads Landing MN 55968, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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