The hunt for wigwam burners

For some reason, I really like wigwam burners. Maybe because they are a reminder of my childhood growing up in rural Oregon. Maybe because I see them as a symbol of our history which is quickly disappearing from our landscapes. Maybe because I just like the “hunt” of finding them. I won’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking at photos of them on Flickr and then scouring Google Maps looking for hints that the wigwams are still there. Frankly, I don’t want to know myself.

Wigwam burners in OregonI’ve read numerous times on the Internet that there are 50 remaining wigwam burners in Oregon. I’m skeptical of that number. No one has yet cited their source or the date that it was estimated. I know when the Smith River Wigwam Burner in Drain was placed in the Oregon Historic Sites Database in 1982, it was said to be one of seven remaining wigwam burners in Douglas County (besides the one in Drain, also wigwam burners in the towns of Tiller, Oakland, Yoncalla, Riddle, and two in the Dillard area). So far, I have only be able to verify that three of them still exist (Drain, Oakland, and Yoncalla).

I’ve created a Google Map for my own use which I thought I would share with you. It shows with blue pins the wigwam burners that I’ve seen with my own eyes. In red pins you’ll find those that I haven’t seen myself, but which clearly show on Google Maps. In yellow pins are those which might be there, but aren’t showing clearly on Google Maps — they might be lost in trees or perhaps the shapes that are showing just aren’t definite enough. This map will be updated as I slowly find new wigwam burners throughout the state.


View Wigwam Burners in a larger map

If you know of existing Oregon wigwam burners please let me know in the comments below. The more detailed you can be the better. I’ve heard about many wigwam burners in various towns (Harlan, for example) but even with the smaller towns I have trouble locating them on Google Maps without more information, especially if they are no longer part of an established lumber mill.

These are the wigwam burners I’ve written posts about so far (updated March 2015):

Umpqua River Boardwalk: Reedsport
Blue Mountain Park

Comments

  1. Janet Best says:

    I didn’t know there were so few left. I too am fascinated with wigwam burners. I think its the name. I
    really miss seeing them. Please let us know if you find more.

  2. I spent most of my youth down wind from one of those things. It was at the Emory Harris mill on Quaglia Rd (on the west side). Several times, the big field between the burner and our house caught on fire and the fire department came out. I see from Google Maps that there’s still something going on at the old mill site, but it’s hard to tell what it is–looks rather junky too.

    • I know that the smoke and the fires were a huge problem with the burners. But I do like to see our remaining ones.

      • I didn’t intend to put them down. They provided employment for lots and lots of families, including my own. In that era, I doubt many would complain to the point of shutting them down–I wouldn’t have. Somewhere, I believe I have a small painting of an old mill, and it includes a burner; I think I bought it during a visit to CG.

        • Well the burners did put out a lot of smoke and create a lot of fires. I’m glad people finally figured out to put that “waste” to other uses instead of burning it. But I do like the burners now, and coming from timber country myself, I appreciate what the timber economy did for me and my community when I was growing up.

  3. I’ve seen some left in Eastern OR… now you have me racking my brain… Where oh where… Was it SE???… Burns area???…. Hmmm…
    And I have a question, after reading the BEST post… LOL… What was in the water? It obviously contained wig-wam-itus or something, I got it too… I previously thought is was from going inside the wigwam to see the fire, when I was a pre-schooler… and yes, it was really cool 🙂 or I should say hot…
    And a did you know?… The sawdust was air fed into a hot box toward the top of the burner to make steam and power to operate some of the small mills… kind of a 50’s-60’s self-sustaining thing…
    Long Live the Wig-Wam’s!

    • There was a really great burner in Seneca (between Burns and John Day). I should look on Google Maps and see if it is still there.

      Neat you got to go in one as a youngster. I got to go in the one in Sweet Home last summer. I was thrilled. Of course, there hadn’t been a fire in it for decades. LOL.

      • Ah-ha! You are good… Think it was around John Day 🙂
        Lakeview is still nagging at me too…. road trip excuse!!!

        • There are none in Lakeview .. .but just south of there a few miles just across the California just west of the highway near Goose Lake is a very nice one … or at least it was there the last time I was through there …

          • It’s still there, I came across it by accident in September when I was going out to the history sign that is right there.

          • Thanks for stopping by Rick. I’m still trying to find this one on google maps. It seems like it should be pretty easy to see but it is eluding me.
            Colette

          • Diane Putnam says:

            Hmmm, now you’ve got me curious. I’ll take a look on GE, too. Better yet, maybe I’ll get over there sometime to take a look.

  4. I’ve never heard of them before!

  5. I like them too. I won’t embarrass myself and say why…

  6. Wikipedia has a page for them with some links. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigwam_burner

    • Interesting info. I know wigwam burners were phased out in Oregon in the 1970s, but this article suggests they are still in use elsewhere, or at least their use isn’t prohibited elsewhere.

      • In Chile, they are a lot of burners in the extreme south. Of course it looks like Oregon circa 1960’s there… Log trucks buzzing everywhere. But the 1970’s style indian casinos in the middle of my 1960’s flash back while walking around in Punta Arenas was almost as weird as the german style chalets and german language, mixed with Spanish and English. Wish I’d taken pictures 🙁

        • Ooopsie was just informed, it was Monte Video, there were no tree’s by the time we got to Punta Areana’s.. had to agree, it was near Torres del Paine, a forest park you’d never know wasn’t in Oregon, except the roads and lack of roads.

  7. Curt Deatherage says:

    HI, glad to see your passion for these old burners. I’ve been searching and photographing them for 14 years, next week I’ll compile a list of those that I think are still standing in Oregon with GPS coordinates. I’m guessing there are at least 50 remaining in our state. My project was inspired when the old burner that stood next to my business was damaged by a tornado in December of 1999 and removed in January of 2000. I’ve located and photographed nearly 250 of them, in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. This past Memorial Day weekend I photographed 4 new ones in NE Washington. I’ve really enjoyed the project, it’s given me reasons to go places I’d never been to before. I had a book printed that documents the history of this vanishing icon of the past. Many of my photos are posted on flickr, I’m sure you’ve seen them before.

    Curt

    • Hi Curt,
      Thanks for stopping by! I am very familiar with your photos on flickr and I’ve heard of your book but haven’t had the chance to read it yet. If you are willing to share your list, I’d love share it here. Wigwam burners are pretty popular on MySouthLane. 🙂

      For people who are interested, there is a whole Flickr group devoted to wigwam burners, many of Curt’s photos are in there: https://www.flickr.com/groups/wigwam-teepee/

  8. susie smith says:

    Hi Curt,
    Where can I buy a copy of your book of the history of these old burners?
    Thanks!

  9. linda kern says:

    I went to the Boy Scout Lodge in Philomath today and there is a grand burner there! I couldn’t get your map up so not sure if you have included it or not. I was so excited to see one that I about jumped out of my car to run up and give it a hug! When I was a child we used to drive home from a weekend of hunting and fishing on Sunday evenings into the night. A lot of times my two brothers and I lay in the back seat to sleep on the drive home but I remember looking out of the rear window and seeing the burners in action against the night sky – glowing and sparks a flying! Truly amazing. Keep up the good work documenting true treasures in Oregon. LK

    • Hi Linda, I’ve heard of two wigwam burners in Philomath but haven’t had the chance yet to get up, seek them out, and take photos. Maybe this winter — wigwam hunting seems to happen more for us in the winter months. 🙂 Glad to know that the one by the Boy Scout Lodge is a good one!

      I love your memory of them as a kid coming home at night. I love it when people share those kinds of details here on the blog. It makes our history come alive.
      Colette

  10. I loved those old burners! During the 60s and 70s, I recall them as being the warm glow of the night, on long rural roads around the Puget Sound area. There was a curfew in those days, and few people were out during the night, other than the typical night-workers here and there. While others were sleeping, or watching TV, me and a couple of friends walked some of the roads that passed by at least a half-dozen of those softly-glowing burners, which were about the only light, in some areas. scarcely any traffic in those days, and hardly a car or truck during the night. Magical nights – oh, to be young and turn back time! I am amazed, and somewhat sad, that few folks I know from back then, even recall seeing them, as they drove past them every day.

  11. I found the latitude and longitude of the burner near Willow Ranch, Ca, just across the border south of Lakeview … 41.904 -120.3544

    • Thanks Curt! I found it. Can’t believe I couldn’t see it earlier!
      I also found the one in Prairie City on Google maps, I’ll look for that this summer when I’m out there.

      • some years there were two on Dixie Creek Road at Prairie City, one was a homemade one covered with corrugated roofing … I’ll see if I can find the particulars …

    • Diane Putnam says:

      Oh, thanks for the coordinates, Curt! I’ve enjoyed your Flickr photos and the burners group there, too.

  12. I have some photos of one that is in Merlin or

    • Hi Mike. I saw your great photos in the Oregon Photograhers facebook page. If you’d like to share them here on this blog, please send me an email (colette@mysouthlane.com) and we can probably make it happen!

  13. mizzsassyfrass says:

    The one in Sandy, Oregon is still here, I live in Sandy and see it every time I pass the mill.

    • Thanks. I heard there was one in Sandy! Nice to know it is still standing.

      • Curt Deatherage says:

        the one in the town of Sandy is a Phelps Brothers unit, at Olaf Oja lumber company facility, there’s another one a mile or two east of there, on the north side of the highway under some trees. There was once a veneer plant there called Firwood Veneer. It had been very overgrown, about a year ago I was through there and looked like some of the brush and trees had been cleared away, hope that doesn’t mean the area is going to be developed and the burner removed …

        • mizzsassyfrass says:

          Curt, would that one be up around Firwood Road? I’m not real familiar with this area yet.

          • Curt Deatherage says:

            it’s about 50 feet from highway 26 on the north … I’ll look tonight and send the GPS coordinates .. there used to be another just west of this one, again on the north side of highway 26, down a driveway that had a sign that said Sandy Shake … a shake mill … but when I saw it years ago it was about to fall down, doubt if it’s still standing … I’ll look on google earth tonight

  14. Diane Putnam says:

    Hi, there! I know you’re concentrating on Oregon, but have you seen the ones (2) in Dorris, CA? The logging industry was very connected in N. CA and S. OR, it seems natural to include them. My dad logged both sides of the border in the 50s and 60s.

    Diane, Klamath Falls

  15. There are the remains of wigwam burner near my house between Toledo and Siletz.

  16. I like wigwam burners too. There is a wigwam burner located above Lakeside, Oregon, north of North Bend, Oregon off of highway 101. This was once the site of a small sawmill owned by Benson Logging company (not Simon Benson). The land was purchased more than 40 years ago, after the sawmill and wigwam saw their last days, and is owned by a timber company who planted the trees that now surround the wigwam. It is surrounded by trees and not visible from any road. I’m going to try to find out more of its history and have pictures of it.
    Ann

  17. There’s one in Halfway, Oregon. Coords are 44.861661, -117.091955. It’s on the east side of the highway as you come down off the grade and head toward town.

  18. This is a picture of the burner near Swiss Home. It’s only a few miles up the river from the burner in Mapelton and is only a few feet off the road.

  19. Curt Deatherage says:

    next Saturday afternoon, November 14th, a short documentary film on wigwam burners is being shown as part of a film festival. the specifics of it are included in the following link .
    http://jaycritchley.com/tag/fireflies-in-the-night/

  20. I believe there is one located at Sandy Shake( 20235 SE Veneer Ln, Sandy, OR 97055) just east of Sandy, OR. On google maps it appears you can see what looks like the top of it.

  21. The one in Seneca is located at 44.141466°, -118.978049°. It’s visible from the highway, to the east, down N Bridge Rd..

  22. Sorry, the one in Seneca is to the west of the highway, not the east! The coords are right, but apparently not my sense of direction!

  23. jim betschart says:

    I found one while deer hunting this past October. It is on the west fork of trail creek off of highway 227. You can see it on google earth. Jim

    • Diane M Putnam says:

      Oh, hi, Jim! Got your comment on H.E. and here you are again. I’m still going to find that one! Thanks for spreading the word. Thanks for the extra clue.

    • Linda Aubrey says:

      Jim, Where is highway 227 located at. Thanks

      • Jim Betschart says:

        Highway 227 goes from the small as in tiny town of Trail , Oregon to Canyonville, Oregon. The west fork of Trail creek is between 4 and 8 miles from the town of Trail and it turns left as you’re heading towards Canyonville. Jim

  24. Linda Aubre says:

    There is one in Veneta, Lane Co. Off of Perkins Road And Oak Island Dr. off of Territorial Hwy, West of Eugene. @ 44º20”18.29” N 123º20.55.36” W It is in an open field and you can see it from the park on Oak Island Dr.

  25. I’ve been to the one out tiller 😁 hard to find

  26. Linda Aubrey says:

    Yesterday I went photographing and found the one at Cottage Grove. Funny as many times as I have been by it I never saw it. Got pictures and was surprised by it. It seems to be made entirely of brick with either a cement or stucco finish and no opening at the bottom for cleaning. I walked all the way around it so I know. The top is also missing. Then on to Yoncalla to see about the one there. There is one on the Duncan Lumber Mill property and it is easy to see from the road. Because the Lumber Mill is active I was unable to get close. Asked if there was a time I could get closer and am waiting for a phone call from the Owner. So we shall see. Still more to look for out there.

    • Hi Linda, Thanks for reminding me about the one in Yoncalla. It is so close, yet I have yet to get down there to see it. A short road trip might be in order.
      Colette

  27. Curt Deatherage says:

    HI, I’m happy to see how many of you have an interest in these old wigwam burners. In case any of you are interested, I am going to do a presentation at the CG Historical Society on April 15th at 10 a..m. in one of the rooms in the same building that houses the C.G. Library. It’s free of charge and I’ll try to have a few of my books, Lumber Icons, there for sale. This presentation is contingent on my continued recovery from lung cancer that was diagnosed last summer. Treatment is going well so I’m optimistic. In case things take a turn the other direction, Collette may get to pinch-hit for me … Hope to see some of you there …

    • Hi Curt! Thanks for letting us know about your presentation in Cottage Grove. I’ve got it on my calendar and hope to be there. Last time you presented I was out of town. I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis, but glad you are recovering well.
      Colette

  28. My husband and I are delighted and very excited to be in the process of purchasing a classic wigwam burner on 17 acres. I wonder if anyone has ever attempted to convert one of these beauties into a residence?

  29. I just found you here, great stuff. I used to travel mill site to mill site working. As the mills all closed I thought a lot about writing and documenting about them, but never did. I always get out and walk around abandoned mill sites, and have fond memories of the wigwam/teepee burner.
    There is one on hwy 20 somewhere, I forget where, off the north side of the road, between mill city and Idhana, I know that is a stretch of distance but I can’t remember exactly where it is.
    I worked out of Bend, and ran a trap line that went down to K-falls, over to Lakeview, up thru Burns, sometimes a detour thru Paisley, then up through Seneca, Canyon City, La Gande, Elgin, Baker, then back through John Day, Prineville, Madras, Warm Springs and back home to Bend.
    Occasional trips led me over Santiam and down into the Willamette, and as far down as Yreka.
    Seeing all the pictures here are great, Thank you all

  30. Linda Aubrey says:

    The hunt is on. I found one in Sweet Home off Hwy 20 and North 18th. Looks like someone drove a truck thru it but it is still standing a going strong. Yesterday I found one in Jasper, OR. Have been pass that site over 100 times and yesterday just happen to be looking at the right angle and saw it. Got pictures on the way back thru.

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