State’s last logging dam survives the times - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

State’s last logging dam survives the times

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FIFIELD (WAOW) -

The forests of Price County look much different today than they did in the 1800's.  At that time loggers cleared acres of trees, supplying needed lumber to help build a growing country. 

But there is one major exception; an undeniable feature in the landscape identical to the way it looked 130 years ago.

Wisconsin's rivers once acted like lumber highways as logs cut from the vast wilderness were floated downstream.  But without logging dams to help organize and provide the force needed to move logs, the industry would have never been able to take off. 

Over one hundred of these vital dams were built in Wisconsin.  But only the Round Lake Logging Dam in Price County has survived the test of time, thanks to its neighbors. 

"We pounded every one of these 24-inch nails with sledge hammers and you know it was really fun, we really enjoyed it.  Everyone enjoyed it; this project was really a fun neighborhood thing" Jack Wierzba told Newsline 9. 

Wierzba helped organize the efforts to rebuild the dam in 1995.  After standing over one hundred years, several portions the dam required major need of assistance. 

Believed to have been constructed between 1878 and 1886, the wooden dam took many of those working on it by surprise.  Large portions of the structure were found in excellent condition, even after years of wear.

"Well the whole base of the dam as we took this thing apart and got down to the bottom, because of its lack of exposure to air, the bottom of that dam is just like brand new.  The workmanship is amazing, without power tools and everything back in the 1800s, it was just unbelievable" Wierzba said. 

Wierzba remarked when standing on the dam's overlook of Round Lake how pieces of it that were underwater smelled of new lumber when dried in the sun. 

"It was just amazing" he said smiling. 

Reconstruction of the dam involved dismantling every piece and then documenting and preserving all the original components.  Pieces too worn out to be reused were saved, while sections that remained in good shape were put back to work. 

Wierzba and the group of community members chose to rebuild the dam using the same techniques as its original construction.  Opting for sledge hammers and hard work over power tools and speed, the dam looks the same today as when it was fully operational.

"I think its pride, everybody that worked on this thing had.  It's just such a fantastic neighborhood project and when we finished it I think everyone looked at each other and said 'now what are we going to do?' It was so much fun" Wierzba said. 

Round Lake Logging Dam is located in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, 2.5 miles north on Forest Road 144 off Highway 70 in Price County.

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