FORKS — Machines toss trees, clipping the ends and shaving off the branches as if they were toothpicks.
It is just one of the sites groups are shown on the thrice weekly Forks Logging and Mill Tours.
Forks is rooted in the timber industry, and the tours were begun about 15 years ago to show logging industry stewardship of the land.
“We sometimes compare it to farming corn, only the time between paychecks is longer,” said Howard Yanish, one of the volunteer tour guides.
The free tours take groups of up to 12 people to a logging site, a mill and through forests that have been replanted.
The tours leave every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9 a.m. from the Forks Visitor Center, 1411 S. Forks Ave., and will continue through August.
At the mill, the tours explore how the towering logs are turned into 4-by-4-inch or 4-by-6-inch boards.
The tours also show ways in which the timber industry has changed over the years.
Computers now run nearly everything at the mill, Yanish said.
“There will be a man, and he’ll sit in the kiosk and determine when to tell the computer to flip the log or what to do, but almost everything is done by computer on the cutting now,” he said.
Both the Allen Logging Co., mill south of Forks and the Portac, Inc. mill in Beaver have opened their doors to the tours to allow visitors to watch logs be transformed into building-ready materials.
Groups also visit a logging site where machines cut the trees, whether for thinning purposes or clear cutting areas.
Along the way to the sites, the groups can take in the views of the luscious forests and views of the areas around Forks.
Since annual rainfall in Forks can be more than 130 inches, the twisting roads to the logging sites can be muddy.
Don’t fret if the vehicle gets stuck on the side of the road.
“Loggers will always pull you out,” Yanish said.
“They are a good group of people.”
The tours are free, but reservations are required.
Phone 360-374-2531, 800-443-6757 or e-mail [email protected].
Forks Visitor Center office manager Mike Gurling said the earlier people call the better.
“We are getting to the point that we are having to turn people away if they call the day before or at the last minute,” he said.
THE FORKS LOGGING and Mill Tours are every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The three-hour tour begins at 9 a.m. from the Forks Visitor Center, 1411 S. Forks Ave..
The free tours will continue through August, but space is filling up.
To make a reservation, phone 360-374-2531, 800-443-6757 or e-mail [email protected].