A Short History of Gustafson Logging

By Clay Gustafson

Gustafson Logging began as a company in 1974. My father, Duane Gustafson, was previously employed as the logging superintendent for Wulger and Warila logging company. He had known Dave Wulger and ‘Spud’ Warila since childhood, hunting and fishing with them through high school. After a term of duty with the army during the occupation of Japan following WW II, Duane hired on to help ‘Spud’ with a salvage logging job he had acquired in the Buck Mountain/Cook Creek area of the Tillamook burn. They logged the standing snags that had been left by the fire. As time passed, they took on other jobs in the north coast area, until in 1972 when ‘Spud’ and Dave decided to agree to disagree and dissolved the company. This left Duane looking for work and finding short term jobs as a timber faller, and then a rock truck driver.

In 1974, Dave Wullger had heard that Longview Fibre was looking for a contractor to do ‘cat’ logging on its land holdings in Clatsop County. Duane inquired and landed a contract to log in the God’s Valley area near the North Fork of the Nehalem River. He found a used Allis-Chalmers HD 6, complete with drum and fairlead, bought a chainsaw, salvaged some old cable from W&W leftovers to make drum lines, bought assorted rigging, and started logging with the ‘help’ of Wade, Mark, and myself. That first summer was both productive and challenging with the usual tests of patience brought on by breakdowns of the HD 6, and working with a totally green crew, excluding Mark who had some rigging experience with W&W several years before.

That winter, Mark left to take a job with International Paper, fulfilling his plans to use his forest engineering degree from Oregon State University. I left to begin my college years as a freshman at OSU, and Wade continued as a sophomore at Astoria high school, working on the weekends when possible. Duane carried on with the help of his wife, Dona. An injury caused Duane to lose some time that winter when he suffered an accident which broke his sternum and a couple ribs. Luckily Dona was there that day to help drag him to his truck and drive to the hospital, only after Duane insisted on using the cat to clear the road of the tree that injured him. Such incredible stubbornness and fortitude was dad’s trademark. 

The following years found Wade and me helping during school vacations and summer break. Mark eventually moved back to Astoria after five years in Canada, where he was working for McMillan-Bloedel on Vancouver Island. The company, to this point, was a sole-ownership by Duane. In 1982, it was decided that incorporating would serve as a better means to operate, so shares were allotted to Duane, Mark, Wade, and me according to years of service to the company. Then, in 1985, the corporation redistributed the shares equally amongst the four of us. The company grew due to a steady amount of work from Longview Fibre. Slowly equipment was replaced and updated or occasionally added to meet the needs of an expanding workload. Our operations covered not only clear cutting, but also thinning, logging special order poles or piling, or even cutting cedar shake bolts. Two especially memorable experiences were our involvement in the logging of the Beneke ‘big-stuff’ in the early eighties and Long-Fibre’s subsequent development of the tree-length logging and hauling program to its own processing yard near Clatskanie, Oregon. 

As the years passed, we turned to cable logging with a yarder to supplement our ground skidding operations. An American crane that was modified by Jim Carlson (a close friend of Duane’s from the W&W days) was purchased in 1984. It was eventually replaced with a Hawk yarder in 1986. This was then replaced by the first of three Madill 172 fixed-spar yarders, two of which are in operation today.

The company began working primarily as a logging contractor for Longview Fibre. Our operations were located in Clatsop and Columbia counties, but occasionally we had to find work elsewhere to keep busy and pay the bills. This found us working in places such as the Ochoco Mountains northeast of Prineville where we were cutting right-of-way for roads to be constructed by Harry Claterbos Company in the Ochoco National Forest. When the market slowed in 1987, we decided that the three weeks on followed by three weeks off schedule proposed by Longview Fibre did not sit well with us. We were told that a logging company in Carson, Washington was looking for someone who could take over a twelve million foot logging contract located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest north of White Salmon, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge. We met with Dan Krone Logging of Carson and agreed to take on the project over the course of two summers with 2.5 million feet of the sale being done by his company. Houses were found to rent in The Dalles, Oregon for the owners and crew. We worked during the week and made the four hour commute back home each weekend from March through September. The following summer was also slow due to market conditions but this time we rented houses in and around Stevenson, Washington on the west end of the gorge. This shortened our bi-weekly commute to three hours.

Other contracts that we have taken have put us near the communities of Forest Grove, Oregon and Philomath, Oregon. The latter requiring us to rent apartments in Corvallis, Oregon. More recently, we took on some work for the Rockford Corporation which is involved in the construction and laying of natural gas pipelines in the western U.S. They needed a company that could log the right-of-way for specific pipeline projects in and around the Mist gas fields in Columbia County, Oregon. It was an interesting experience to say the least. The amount of ground that was logged to expand existing right-of-way and create new was not measured in acres, but in miles. Another request by Rockford in 2006 brought us to Washington State near Tacoma on the Fort Lewis Army Base.

Currently, Gustafson Logging Co. is a corporation with Mark, and son Chad as the only shareholders. Dona passed away August of 1999, and Duane August of 2006. Their unselfish and tireless efforts to make this company a success in the logging industry can never be overstated. We miss them immensely.

The pictures you see on this page represent only a part of the hundreds of notable experiences that we have lived as a part of our history.