#lookback: Tie Hack Boats and Booms

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

The tie hacks of the Wind River Valley used a multitude of tools to finish their job of guiding ties to the treatment plant and train yards in Riverton. Driving tens of thousands of hewn ties down 80 miles worth of rocky riverbanks made for tough work, but it got done. Some of the tools employed on the tie drives include pike poles, spiked boots to grip wet wood, boats, and even dynamite.

Individuals with woodworking skills made tie boats out of lodge pole pines—the same trees the railroad ties came from—at headquarters up in the forests. According to Oscar “Duke” Huntley, who worked at the sawmills on the South Fork of the Dunoir, his father Warren Huntley made the first tie boat in this area at the Warm Springs Creek Camp. Only six or seven of these boats existed near Dubois during the tie hack days.

Men used tie boats during drives to go ahead of the ties to block or “crib” off side channels that might divert the ties from the main river. These channels included irrigation ditches that could be blocked or damaged by the hordes of logs cascading down the river current. The lead or “cribbing” crews generally consisted of six or seven men.

Tie boats were only used on the Wind River between the Red Rocks and Riverton. Above this point, the Wind River was too rocky to accommodate them. The rocky banks caused all sorts of problems for the tie hacks, including causing mile-long tie jams.

Tie jams occurred when logs were caught on protruding rocks or tree roots overhanding the riverbanks. If not fixed quickly, one caught tie could quickly become two, three, four caught ties until suddenly hundreds of logs were jammed together and backed over a mile up the river. The tie boats carried crews, which usually included a powder monkey, to the site of tie jams. Powder monkeys—men with the gift of working with explosives—would totter around the log jams, analyze the packed logs, and figure out just where to place a charge of dynamite that would loosen a hopeless tie jam in the river.

Tie boats and powder monkeys are just pieces of the greater tie hack legends that permeate the Wind River Valley.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

October 26, 6:30pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Downtown Walking Tour”

Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek Series

October 26 & 27, 6:00-9:00pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Halloween Night at the Museum”

Children’s Exploration Series

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum work extremely hard to provide programs, care for the facilities, create exhibits and care for the thousands of artifacts and archival documents in the collections of the museums. In order to consistently accomplish these objectives the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

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