Early industries in the Florence area were built on the natural resources that the Siuslaw River Valley had to offer. The rivers were filled with swarming salmon and the forests held acres of old growth timber. Those abundant natural resources led to the early economy being built upon sawmills and canneries along the Siuslaw River.
Fishing & Canneries
Fishing on the Siuslaw River has been a way of life for thousands of years. The Duncan Cannery was the first in the Florence area and opened in 1877 near the current location of the Coast Guard Station. Operations of the Duncan Cannery and Sawmill only lasted a few years due to the constant battle with shifting sand off the dunes.
Many other canneries followed and the demand on the fishing industry heightened. Fishing boats worked to meet the demands of the canneries through the use of set nets, drift nets, and fish traps. Once the fish were sold to the canneries, employees would assemble the cans, clean and cut the fish, and process the varieties of canned or barreled fish.
New regulations were introduced in the late 1890s that prohibited fish traps in order to protect the dwindling supply of fish. As efforts to increase fish populations were unsuccessful, the booming canneries and fish processing industry dwindled.
Timber & Sawmills
The Siuslaw River Valley, like many areas along the Oregon coast, had forests rich in timber. Logging became a prominent industry in the Florence area, utilizing the Siuslaw River as a mode of transportation. Logs from the forests in the Siuslaw River Valley were too large for cabin construction and needed to be cut down into boards to use.
Timber was cut near side channels that would carry the logs to the Siuslaw River and then down to sawmills that were rapidly being built in the area. As settlers began to populate the Florence area, sawmills worked to keep up with the lumber demand. The logging industry was a large employer in the Florence area and provided a prosperous economy. Lumber was shipped on schooners to California for distribution around the country.
During and after World War II, timber prices increased rapidly and harvesting accelerated. With the increased production, much of the viable timberland was harvested by the late 1950s and the logging industry declined.
Siuslaw National Forest
In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed Executive Order Number 860 creating the Siuslaw National Forest. While the logging industry was booming in the early 20th Century, the federal government was taking steps to conserve the natural timber resources across the country. Initially, the Siuslaw National Forest consisted of over 900,000 acres, but currently covers 630,000 acres from Tillamook to Coos Counties.
Work crews were tasked with fire management; developing trails, roads, and facilities; managing pasture and grazing permits; stabilizing the dunes; and protecting the Siuslaw National Forest from timber thieves.