Has Anyone Seen Willard?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

We hadn’t seen Willard- but now we have! Our intention was to drive to Willard, then on to Big Lava Flow north of town. We almost didn’t find Willard as the main highway actually bypasses town.

No signs indicate town is that-away, and data cell service is iffy. However the small street sign we passed was marked “Willard Road” so we turned around and headed up that-away. Curiosity got the best of me. This tiny community must have a big history. We saw evidence of water flumes. Hmmmm. Flumes and lumber go together……

Portion of Original Water Flume

Willard is located on an old Indian trail that closely followed the Little White Salmon River. The well worn trail had been used for hundreds of years as a route to the Big Huckleberry Mountain berry fields. Evidence of an Indian camp was found years later near Willard, when the land was being cleared for farming.

Around 1885 a fella by the name of Charles Myers, originally from Ohio, built a semblance of a road here and constructed a log cabin. I understand the cabin passed through a few hands until it became the Willard Place.

Over the years more folks arrived to homestead. The Fishers arrived as did the Oklahoma Boomers, a group of folks from Oklahoma. In the 1880’s Amos Buirgy, his brother Arbon and J.W. Hill built a water powered shingle mill. Oregon Lumber Company a established sawmill (Mill A) in the 1890’s and closed in 1907.

Steel flume replaced original wood Flume that crossed over roadway.

A flume was constructed from Willard to Hood,Washington by the Drano Flume and Lumber Company in 1923 and purchased by Broughton Lumber in 1927. Logs were brought to the Willard mill and rough sawn into boards (cants).

The cants were dropped into the flume for their nine mile long journey to the finishing mill in Underwood/Hood. Up in Willard two steam engines were used to haul logs from the woods to the mill at Willard. The nine miles of tracks did not have a permanent location as they were moved and re-laid as necessary. The Broughton Lumber Company closed in 1986 and the flume was dismantled.

OK, there’s got to be thousands of tiny communities with stories similar to Willard’s- humble beginnings, economic boom and then just fade away.

Fall color in Cedars County Park

We continue up the (wrong) road and come upon Big Cedars County Park. The mutzos need to stretch- into the park we go. Nobody, I mean NOBODY is home. The park is ours. We drive through the empty campground to the nice grassy day area and let the mutzos romp. Megan, our Lab finds the path to Little White Salmon River and takes a dunk.

Back on the correct, very rural road we drive for several miles through what feels like, looks like primordial forest.

I’m driving on the fairly narrow road with eyes peeled for a T Rex, Tarzan, or at the least a bear or an elk. We see none of those but within a few miles we come upon the Big Lava Bed- our destination for the day.

Beatiful Fall Color

The Big Lava Bed originated from a 500 foot deep crater in the northern center of the bed. It’s the youngest flow of the Indian Heaven volcanic field (https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/volcanoes/indian_heaven/) at 8200 years old.

The flow traveled eight miles from its source. Lodgepole pine, alder and pioneer plants, hardy species which are first to colonize barren environments, struggle, sparsely growing between and amid towers of rock piles, caves and strange lava formations. We are not into clamoring over the rough and tumble lava beds so we observe from roadside.

It always amazes us on how mother nature is always in flux. She creates new land mass via lava flows. Somehow enough soil is deposited through wind, erosion and water flow into depressions in solid rock to allow seeds to sprout and grow into plants and trees on otherwise barren land. Growth is sparse here in the Big Lava Bed, but it’s here. Sparse enough to be able to recognize growth on the bed and growth on ground more suitable for prolific growth.

Big Lava Bed- Very Rugged

Sometimes the human experience parallels that of Mother Nature. Willard was at one time humanless (barren lava), then Indians used the area as a camp, emigrants came and established homesteads which generated income by harvesting the forest (pioneer plants). Then lumber companies moved in with industrial technology to harvest the forest and move their product to market (trees). The raw material became sparse so the companies moved on, leaving behind not much more than what was found here before the company’s intrusion in the first place (primordial forest).

The other day I was talking with Ann, who is a hard working part time employee of the hatchery and mentioned that we had visited Willard. “My parents live in Willard”, she says. Well, talk about a small world!

Jil’s very proud of her photo taken at the hatchery. It looks like a painting, doesn’t it? Just beautiful!

One thought on “Has Anyone Seen Willard?”

  1. Thank you for posting the story of your visit and the nice photos. My wife’s father was born in Willard in 1930. His mother had Indian heritage. My wife and I hope to visit some day soon.


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