The 1880's was a decade of tremendous logging and lumber production in west Michigan. The demand for lumber from Chicago was insatiable, especially after ‘The Great Fire'. In the spring, logs cut all winter in the Grand River watershed were moved to the river and then via the Grand River to lumber Mills in Spring Lake, Grand Haven, Ferrysburg; cut into lumber and shipped.

‘Booms' were pens created along the river where logs from many different logging companies could be stopped, stored temporarily and sorted by using pilings and gates. Once in a boom area, ‘river men' sorted logs by the owner markings on each log. From there, logs were fastened together with rope or chain looped through rafting pins driven into the wood, and then floated to the appropriate mill.

In July of 1883 the number of logs on the river represented hundreds of millions of board feet of lumber. Heavy rain fall and resulting high water created a tremendous log jam in this area of the river. Up river, surging logs took out bridges in Grand Rapids - and moved with such tremendous force that they threatened the booms and logs in this area.

If immediate measures were not taken, logs from upstream would destroy the booms in this area -- and all the logs would wash into Lake Michigan. Logging and lumber represented such a large part of the economy in those days - the financial results would have been devastating-resulting in closed mills, bankruptcies and lost jobs.

Quick thinking, tireless work and exceptional bravery by local river men such as Captain John Walsh, kept the log jam from becoming a disaster. Working around the clock for, ignoring the swift moving waters and deadly logs, they drove pilings and shored up existing booms. Their heroic efforts saved the day.

One of the solutions was to ease water pressure against the booms by digging a ditch 35 ft wide and one third of a mile long, to divert water from the Grand River to Robinson Bayou and on to Stearns Bayou, around the jam, and back to the river. This was completed in just 2 days.

Remnants of the ditch are in this area although the connection to the river no longer exists. The location of the log jam was just down river around the next bend.

Sources: Ronald Kuiper , David Siebold