A Brief History of Old-Growth Forests

 Much of the timber that Aqua Timber recovers can be traced back to their beginnings almost a thousand years ago. These timbers began life as tiny seedlings long before humans altered our planet with machinery, high-speed travel and massive population growth.

To put things in perspective these trees took shape as William of Normandy conquered England and Genghis Khan was invading China. They grew larger still as the bubonic plague decimated Europe and Columbus reached the New World.

To say their centuries-long lifespan coincided with many of recorded history’s most significant events would be a huge understatement. So important is the period in which this special hardwood grew that 90% of the major developments that shaped our current geo-political situation and societal structure originated between the time that the first tiny roots of these incredible specimens took hold to when they were finally harvested by hand in the mid to late 19th century.

This extended period of growth in the presence of less sunlight (due to canopy cover) created trees that cannot be duplicated today. These “first growth” trees grew much slower in diameter than our trees of today which resulted in much tighter, finer growth rings and therefore a finer grain. It also means that old-growth timber contains more ‘wood’ and less ‘glue’ holding it together. This increased density is synchronous with increased strength and durability.

Early Logging - The Engine Behind Canada's Growth

Long before the automotive and high tech industry fueled our economy logging played a major role in the economic growth of Canada and to some extent the United States. The logging industry was instrumental in our expansion westward as thousands of Canadians rode the 19th century logging boom from the shores of Nova Scotia up the Saint Lawrence River and through the Great Lakes to the west coast of Canada.

Few people realize the significance of the role that the lumber industry played in the development of Canada’s economy and the country as a whole. We seldom recognize and appreciate the massive scale of the Canadian lumber industry and the great lengths to which logging companies went to develop the communities and transportation systems that fed these burgeoning towns.

Community Development

Have you ever wondered why the town you live in exists today?

If you live in Ontario and specifically anywhere near Georgian Bay or Lake Huron chances are that your community was initially developed to either directly support the lumber industry or to service the many secondary industries that the lumber industry fostered. These towns grew as the industry prospered bringing with them the many essential services that we see in our towns today.

Hard Manual Labour

The mill workers played a vital role in their company’s prosperity. Many toiled away with axes and bow saws felling enormous pine, spruce, elm, hemlock and oak trees. These men remained in the bushes where they lived in small camps for weeks or months at a time.

Others spent their days operating the huge boilers needed to power the mills or guiding the horse-drawn sleds as they moved lumber from the bush to the sawmill. Some would hand square lumber to specification or feed it through the sawmill in order to achieve the desired results. The finished product would then be loaded into ships waiting to take the lumber to market which was often as far away as England or other parts of Europe.

The fact that these sawmills were able to achieve the operational efficiencies required to produce hundreds of millions or in some cases billions of board-feet of lumber economically is quite impressive when you consider that there weren't any transport trucks or road infrastructure to conveniently transport these large quantities of wood from the mill to the end user.


Before modern-day transportation systems were developed logging companies used the most efficient avenue available to them at the time which turned out to be the area’s waterways. Rivers, bays, lakes and even rapids were used as a means to move millions of fallen trees from the massive old-growth forest’s to the mill and ultimately on to the end user. The feat of transporting timber from the forest to the sawmill and on to the end consumer was remarkable and a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance.

In order to move the timber down the crowded rivers and along the rocky shoreline logging companies employed log rollers who guided the logs down the river. Their job also included breaking up any log-jams that occurred when logs would bunch up at narrow points in the river or when they got caught on something along the water’s edge. Their tool was a simple hook-pole that leveraged their strength against that of the rushing water and thousands of pounds of wet wood.

In some cases trips taking as long as three weeks were undertaken by the brave or foolish log surfers who would band large quantities of lumber into a giant raft and then ride the contraption downstream. These rafts were fashioned with all of the amenities of their day including a small outbuilding and cooking and bathroom facilities. They even used these rafts to shoot the rapids in the Saint Lawrence River (before the lock system in the river today) – and without the safety gear or assistance available to those who do the same thing today in small kayaks and rubber rafts!

Once the logs were processed and made ready for shipment, large sailing schooners would be filled with these squared timber and sent overseas to the European markets where the product commanded a premium. In later years the shipping Companies began using steam-powered ships as they became more reliable and efficient.

Shipping timber via waterways began to decline with the arrival of the railroad system which was quicker, more reliable and efficient. With the expansion of this revolutionary transportation system came our settlers making their way westward to new frontiers. The railroad brought with it ever-increasing prosperity for Canadians as well as the logging industry that it serviced.

Without continued water transportation the number of logs lost during shipping has all but ended. As the logging industry in the Great Lakes region of Canada has slowed to a trickle from it’s once seemingly endless peak the rarity and value of the old-growth hardwood found under the water today makes it feasible for Aqua Timber to undertake the log salvage and recovery operations we’ve pursued over the past few years.

The Current Supply of Submerged Lumber 

Based on historical records, photographs and surveys we estimate that there are thousands of submerged logs waiting to be discovered in the Great Lakes region. We are currently undertaking a broad exploration program to identify potential sources of these sunken treasures and anticipate locating sufficient supplies to enable us to continue our operations for many years to come.



Benefits of Aqua Timber Inc. Submerged Lumber

  • Historically significant- Our wood can be up to 1,000 years old.
  • High-quality- Our finished products are unmatched in beauty, character and quality.
  • Environmentally-friendly- Our process is a viable alternative to trees that are now being cut down. Removal of the timbers using environmentally-friendly recovery techniques actually cleans up the lakes and rivers.
  • Alternative sizing & composition- Our wood is “cut to order” making it available in almost any size or dimension. Its unique composition and appearance cannot be reproduced today.