Log drivning on Klarälven

Log drivning on the river Klarälven ceased in 1991, but Vildmark i Värmland take the tradition further. Today you are able to experience the old float way, Klarälven, from you own raft which you build from logs on a ropes.

 

 

The major forested areas were usually inland, whilst industries and of course shipping ports were on the coast. The watercourses were appropriate transport routes, and we know that timber for ships’ masts was driven in the lower stretches of the river Klarälven as early as in the 17th century. Large scale log driving goes hand in hand with the development of sawmills and pulp mills in the 19th century. Wood – first timber and from about 1870 also pulpwood – was driven on rivers and across lakes. To start with, many owners’ wood was mixed. To organise handling, in around 1830 an association was formed called the “Gentlemen timber handlers on the River Clara and watercourses flowing into it”. This organisation gave rise to the formation of Klarälvens Flottningsförening (KFF) [Klarälven Log Driving Association] in 1893. In the heyday in the 1950s, over 1,800 people were employed in log driving on Klarälven, led by the legendary log driving manager Bo Lundén, active 1952–1980. The record year 1957 saw the driving of an amount of wood equivalent to the cargo of 26,700 timber trucks with trailers. KFF was the country’s last active log driving association. 1991 definitively saw the end of all log driving in Sweden.

Trysilälven – Klarälven

In Värmland, the rivers Trysilälven and Klarälven made up the biggest log-driving route, with a total length of over 400 km. Log driving across the Swedish-Norwegian border was regulated by ordinance back in 1766. From 1959 to 1991 log driving was also administrated on the Norwegian side by KFF. During the final years, by and large all the logs came from Engerdalen in the Trysil area. Klarälven is a relatively easy river for log driving – it has a small drop in height, with few rapids and falls on the Swedish side. In 1962 Höljes Power Station made log driving easier, partly through Höljessjön, a lake which came to be a holding site for the logs from Norway. KFF had rights to a certain amount of “driving water”, which the power company released to guarantee sufficient water in the river so the logs could float easily. At the final clear-up in the autumn the team sought out all the wood which had got stuck on land. Everything had to be cleared up by the time the season was over.

At the sorting site there were just "Ekshäringer"

Log driving in Scandinavia was often organised as loose driving, i.e. single logs flowing loose with the current down to a sorting site, where they were collected. In Forshaga municipality there were two sorting sites, one in Löved and the other, larger one by Lake Lusten. At the sorting site the various owners’ logs was sorted out, likewise the different selections. The wood was marked with the owners’ marks at the end of the log, using marking axes. Later on, colour marking was also used. All logs with the same mark were separated off and put together to form long bundles which were then towed by boat to the industries. At the sorting site people from different parts of Värmland gathered to work during the summer season. The Lusten sorting site had accommodation barracks and employed kitchen staff who prepared meals at least three times a day. Regardless of where they came from, they were all called "Ekshäringer" [people of Ekshärad]. 

Spring comes with Lusten!

From the sorting sites at Lusten and Löved, the logs were towed in long rafts to the industries in Forshaga and by Lake Vänern. A towed log batch could be around 550 m long and contain around 10,000 logs. The towing boats were named after their home harbour by Lake Lusten, and were numbered in the order they were bought. It was a much longed-for and popular sign of spring when the green and white Lusten boats began pulling their long rafts on Klarälven and through central Karlstad. In the 1930s a girl wrote in a school essay: “Now spring has come, and with it the ‘Lust boats’”! During the last ten years of log driving, all wood was owned by Stora Skog, and thus neither sorting sites nor towing boats were needed any longer. The Lusten sorting site was closed in 1982, and the Lusten boats stopped travelling the river. All logs were floated loose all the way from Norway to the Skoghall works in Karlstad, the only remaining pulp mill. Nowadays, all wood is conveyed by road or rail. 

The last log has floated past . . .

Autumn 1991 saw the end of an era, and a team of professionals ceased to exist. Log-driving on the river Trysilälven/Klarälven was discontinued when Stora Skog decided to transport all logs by road and rail. Klarälven ceased to be a general log-driving route on 27 November 1997 by government decree. Thus the rights to drive logs on the country’s last log?driving route ceased. KFF [Klarälven Log-Driving Association].was dissolved at the Annual General Meeting at Hedegårds Pensionat in Ekshärad on 27 March 1998. 

. . . but the memories remain!

The old sorting site in Löved, where KFF also had its workshop, is the site of Dyvelstens Flottningsmuseum [Dyvelsten Log-Driving Museum]. People who used to work in the workshop now work there. An exhibition describes the log-driving era on Klarälven, and along the jetty there are several working boats, including Lusten 8, which has a surface-ignition engine. There is also a café and an old log drivers’ cabin which has been moved there. The museum is open daily in the summer. There is also material on log driving at the Värmland Museum in Karlstad, where you can go onboard Lusten 2, which forms part of an exhibition. And the company Vildmarks i Värmland continues the tradition by offering log-raft trips on Klarälven. 

International log-driving festivals

Most European countries used to practise log driving. It has been discontinued everywhere, but in many countries associations work to keep the memories and traditions alive. People from different countries meet at the international log-driving festivals. In 1993 Republiken Klarälvdal’n [Klarälven Valley Republic] organised the 6th festival. Over 300 guests from eight European countries came to Branäs, and for three days participated in log-driving activities on Klarälven. Republiken Klarälvdal’n has since been represented at the festivals in Germany in 1994 and France in 1995. The 1997 festival was held in Norway, but was opened at Dyvelstens Flottningsmuseum and continued to Edebäck, where the participants were able to see a log driving boat at work.