Wisconsin's Logging History Through Lake Superior's Sunken Logs

See some insights from a UW-Platteville student’s research...


A piece of Wisconsin logging history has come to light from an exhibit prepared by a UW-Platteville student’s study of logs sunk in Lake Superior early in Wisconsin’s logging

History. The exhibit was displayed at “Research in the Rotunda”, an exhibition by the Universities of Wisconsin of student research projects in the State Capitol on March 6.

Elizabeth Winkler, a senior from Platteville, discovered that pieces of historic logs that had sunk in the lake during the 18th and 19th centuries are available to researchers via the Wisconsin Historical Society. A 1991 state law required that pieces of logs recovered from the lake-bearing company logging marks be supplied to the historical society.

The pieces tend to be end slabs where their rings reveal much history including tree growth over the years, which helps to establish climate and weather patterns.

Elizabeth explained that her research presentation entitled “Submerged Treasure: Dendroprovenancing Lake Superior Sunken Timbers' ' combines dendrology (the scientific study of trees) with provenance (the place of origin). She said that she is attempting to establish where 15 samples of sunken trees were harvested. Her samples were mostly from hemlock and oak trees.

The logs were recovered from Chequamegon Bay near Ashland, Wisconsin. Cold water temperatures and limited oxygen conditions in the lake water have tended to preserve the logs.

Logs sunk while being transported on the lake or river water.

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