New Moon At The Log Slide Overlook

Nick Tsichlis
Graduate Student, School for Environment and Sustainability

Medium

Digital composite photography

Abstract 

The scenic beauty of the Log Slide Overlook in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore belies two hundred years of violent abuses that this landscape has absorbed.  European settlers built a railroad here with one goal: to cut down every tree.  Indigenous peoples were expelled from the land.  White and red pine logs float, a wooden slide was built at this site to send them flying into Lake Superior.  Sometimes on hot days the logs would catch fire from the friction as they slid down the slide.   The noise generated by the sawmill and the coal powered machinery would have been deafening.  

They did this nonstop until every tree of value had been removed, at which point the train tracks were ripped up and the landscape was abandoned. The residents of a small town, Grand Marais, were left in isolation for decades following the loss of the train, as there were no roads to other towns. 

This is a composite image comprised of 12 photographs of the Log Slide Overlook in Pictured Rocks National Seashore from August 13, 2021. I used my bicycle to ride from a campsite several miles away and arrived at 3:00AM.  I set my tripod up and recorded multiple, overlapping images. On my computer I edited them slightly them in Adobe Lightroom and imported them into PTGui, an image blending software.  I exported the combined image as an Adobe Photoshop (.psd) file.  I cropped it in Photoshop and exported the final image.

I would like this work to get people thinking about the way we memorialize our accomplishments. This log slide overlook is an extremely scenic location that is frequently swarmed with visitors.  There’s a large wooden wheel on display along with tools and other artifacts of the time.  It’s easy to interpret this place as a peaceful location where European settlers used primitive tools to make simple items.  It was, however, a loud, dirty, and chaotic place.  During this period the timber extraction industry was fueled by an insatiable appetite for wood in growing cities and the greed of capitalistic barons of the day.  This site would have been dense with the soot from coal-burning engines and the constant sound of logs crashing at the bottom of the slide would have been deafening.  This overlook is as much a permanent scar on the landscape as it is a historical site to have a picnic.  These people virtually eliminated an entire ecosystem, and today it’s a vacation spot.  As a society we need to absorb these realities and recognize that we can heal even the most disturbed landscapes if we design land management objectives with ecological principles in mind.