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Big Letourneau moves big bunches of stems in the Warrenton yard.

Logging Large

A look at one of the largest operations in the Astoria area — Nygaard Logging and Warrenton Fiber Company

By Kurt Glaeseman  

The Lewis and Clark Chronicles record Fort Clatsop, near what is now Astoria, Ore., as a gloomy, dreary, water-logged spot where tempers flared, boredom and melancholy prevailed, and patience grew thin. But where patience grew thin, the forest around them grew in profuse abundance — magnificent stands of firs, spruce, hemlock, cedar, alder, maple, and cherry. This locale was destined to become a rich chapter in the history of logging in the Pacific Northwest.

Getting Started in the 50’s
Today, one of the area’s biggest logging companies is headquartered in Warrenton, just minutes from Astoria and the site of old Fort Clatsop. Martin Nygaard, patriarch of Nygaard Logging and Warrenton Fiber Company, grew up here and put himself through college working on log booms en route to the mills or saltwater transport. In 1951, he graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Logging Engineering and returned to Warrenton. In 1958, Nygaard bought his first timber sale, near Westport. He started with a D7 Caterpillar and a rented log loader. By 1963, he had purchased the loader plus three log trucks and was working a crew of five men.                                   

In 1972, Nygaard sold his company to Dant & Russell, but ten years later, in a weakened economy, that company was forced to sell. Nygaard bought back his own equipment and a bunch of other miscellaneous pieces that were thrown in. He had a Madil yarder, various loaders, several D6 Cats, several more log trucks…and he was again heavy into logging. “I was nervous about starting over, but I just went forward and kept working,” reflects Nygaard.

Martin Nygaard, patriarch of Nygaard Logging and Warrenton Fiber Company

Family Takes Company into 21st Century
Sons, Dave and John, and daughter, Mardi, took over departmental responsibilities, and the family operation grew and prospered. John remembers going to the woods and playing at choker-setting as a young teenager. Now John is in charge of logging, Dave is in charge of the office and equipment negotiations, and Mardi runs the weigh shack. The Nygaards are Cat people — currently 52 pieces of Cat equipment including little bobcats, three graders, four or five D8s, a bunch of D6s, five backhoes, 16 log loaders, nine shovels, and more.                 

“We’re committed to Cat,” says Nygaard, “and we talk to Pete Wood daily. He’s awfully good to us, and he gets us what we want.” Wood is a Cat salesman for Halton Tractor in Portland.

Offering Customers Turn-Key Solutions
In addition to some pasture and ranchland, the Nygaards own 2500 acres of timberland, and they also do a lot of custom logging. Their six tower sides and three shovel sides are scattered over northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington.                                   

“We offer a turn-key operation,” says John Nygaard. “We work for private owners and sawmills. We bid timber sales, road building, trucking, everything.” The log trucks, lowboys, and dump trucks are primarily Kenworth, but since the operation often needs 35 to 40 trucks a day, their fleet is augmented by independent truckers with a variety of makes and models.

Diversifying with Chips & Roads
In Warrenton, a big Moorbark fourknife chipper can take a pre-split 30- inch log and reduce it quickly to salable chips, which will exit the plant by barge. Four grades of chips are produced: brown chips from Doug fir, white chips from hemlock, white chips from hemlock and spruce combined, and hardwood chips from alder, maple, and cherry. Martin had originally seen chipping as a logical extension of cleaning up the woods after logging, but now the move is to leave slash as a nutrient base for the land. Even so, the chipper remains busy, requiring 55 loads of logs a day for the two shifts.                                   

The Cat 325D (run by Dan Schneiter) is put through its moves at the landing.

As far as timber cutting goes, Nygaard offers clearcut or thinning, or pretty much whatever a client wants. In addition to logging, they build an average of 20 to 25 miles of logging roads a year and rehab about that many. They have a rock pit that employs a five-man crew to run the three-stage crusher, move product, and deliver it by dump truck. But logging is pretty much the Number One Nygaard business.

In the Woods
A typical side might be a clearcut on Weyerhaeuser land within 20 miles of Warrenton. The crew of four includes three operators and one man on the ground. John Anderson, a long-term employee, runs the 330 Cat shovel loader. He was one of Nygaard’s first log-loading operators. Bobby Westfall processes and sorts on the long-boom Cat 322 delimber, and Brett Hunt, John Nygaard’s brother-in-law, handles the Cat 325D log loader. He will soon take over a full-time dispatch job, so Dan Schneiter will take his place.                                   

Brett Hunt speaks glowingly of the 325D: “It’s a good rig, the Cadillac of shovels, appropriately sized for everything. It has good power, good stability, and a new cab. We can easily do 20 loads a day.” Brett has an enviable track record with Cats in his last nine years—a series of 320s and an older 325. “The smaller 320 did the job and was fine for thinning and as a landing loader, but the 325 makes life easier—a longer boom, more power, faster work.”                 

The mixed species sort at this logging side requires good operator and trucker coordination. John Nygaard appreciates Westfall’s attention to the Weyerhaeuser sorts: big fir, little fir saw logs, little hemlock, pulp, alder pulp, alder saw logs. The operation runs smoothly. “I’d always been a high lead logger,” says John. “I was reluctant to go to a delimber — I didn’t want the mess on the landing. But now I like the setup so well we have six of them.”

A Large Family Nygaard Logging and Warrenton Fiber is now one of the biggest employers of Clatsop County, surpassed only by Weyerhaeuser and the County itself. The 120 Nygaard employees are intensely loyal; they see themselves as part of an extended family.                 

Martin knows that his company has gone through some ups and downs, but he’s always looked after his “family.”

Chips leave by barge.

There is a long list of employees who have been with the company for 25 years or more. For example, Clark Larson started in 1964, building roads with a D8. Sons and daughters of employees know that Nygaard money might buy their 4-H project animals — lambs, pigs, steers — and a big barbecue is apt to follow.                                   

The Nygaards are pillars of the logging community. The next generation is looking to keep alive Martin’s commitment to the timber industry.