Nov. 16, 1975: Television crews and reporters converge on the Kennebec River to record the last major log drive in the contiguous 48 U.S. states.

The Maine Legislature passed a law in 1971 banning log drives after Oct. 1, 1976, but in 1975 the practice already is dying out for economic reasons, given that it is cheaper to transport logs by truck.

The Legislature acted partly in response to pressure from a protest group headed by University of Maine graduate student Howard Trotzky. He began a campaign in 1970 to get logs out of the Kennebec River by filing suit against the Kennebec Log Driving Co., Hudson Pulp and Paper of Augusta, Kennebec Pulp and Paper of Madison, Scott Paper, and Central Maine Power Co. He sought a court order that the log drives be controlled to enable people to use the waterways for recreational purposes.

Ttrotzky acknowledged later that his real motivation was ecological.

“The Kennebec water was and still is a suspension of fibers and bark from top to bottom,” he tells Down East magazine in a story it published in 1976. “You can sit out there in a canoe and look down and see it. In Wyman Lake, the bark that falls off the logs gets deposited on the bottom and covered up by sand. When the bark decays under there, it sends up bubbles of gas. The water is slimy, and there isn’t enough oxygen in it for the fish.”

The final log drive of any kind takes place in the spring of 1976, when a small cluster of logs moves downstream from the Moosehead Lake region to the Scott Paper Co. mill in Winslow.

Kimberly-Clark acquires Scott paper in 1995. In November 1997, it notifies its 260 workers in Winslow that it will close the mill within two months because of excess capacity.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.