Fort Ross State Historic Park: Loading Chute
In addition to underwater archaeological investigations of the nearby SS Pomona, Indiana University's is involved in land and underwater investigations of a lumber loading chute at Fort Ross State Historic Park. The lumber shipping activities at Fort Ross began in mid 19th century and lasted until early 20th century with changing owners and operators of the chute. Underwater Science investigations concentrate on reviewing historical records and documenting both land and underwater components of the loading chute area.
The wharf and loading chutes were built along the northern rim of the North Cove at Fort Ross. The original chute and later wharf was first constructed sometime in the 1867 and added to over time until 1896 when it was connected to the top of the bluff by rail. The wharf is located at the top of both pictures.
After a winter storm in December of 1898, the deep water loading chute was constructed at the middle rock outcrop, closer to the open sea. Due to a lumber boom in the early 1900s the chute was rebuilt in 1910. By 1921 the Calls sold the chute which was dismantled and moved north to Timber Cove. Today only scant archaeological indicators remain of the once vital landing that connected Fort Ross with the outside world.
Fort Ross Landing is part of the famous complex of small landings that dotted the rugged northern California coastline. Commonly known as Dogholes, due to their tight fit, these landings accommodated smaller, coastal trading vessels, such as schooners, that carried loads of lumber, stone, hides, produce, and passengers bound for the larger ports to the south.
In the late 19th century, Fort Ross was specifically known for its lumber, cordwood and tanbark. In 1877 alone, 86 vessels called at the cove carrying away 37,783 wooden posts, 1,548 cords of firewood and 1,619 cords of tanbark. The posts and firewood supplied the growing population of San Francisco while the tanbark and hides went to the tanneries around the Bay for the burgeoning leather industry.