Idiotville is a ghost settlement that is located in Oregon’s Tillamook State Forest. The residents of the logging camp were mainly people who were tasked with the duty of carrying out salvage operations in the area due to the occasional forest fires which damaged forests in Oregon between 1933 and 1951.
The Tillamook Burn
Tillamook Burn, as the fires came to be known, destroyed vast areas of forest cover and lumber worth nearly $442 million. The fires started as a result of discarded cigarettes and sparks from steel cables. Lumber workers at Idiotville and a nearby camp set up the settlements as their base of operations to salvage wood after the fires. The town was situated deep in the forest, and it took several days of travel to get to the site. Lumber workers were sent through the burnt fields often emerging from the forest covered in ash and with little to show for their efforts.
Over time the settlement started to be referred to as Idiotville as a result of the residents in the surrounding areas who believed that only a fool would go to such a remote area for such a pointless work. Of the four fires that spanned 1933 to 1952, it is not clear which of them the lumber workers were tackling. However, the 1933 forest fire is presumed to be the most likely event that warranted the salvage operation in the area as it coincided with the Great Depression. The harsh conditions during the Great Depression would have made it easier to obtain workers willing to undertake the frustrating task.
The first of the Tillamook Burn fires started at the Gales Creek Canyon in August, 1933. The fire burned an estimated 350,000 acres of forest at an alarming rate before seasonal rains extinguished it in September that year. The trees consumed by the fire left behind massive snags that got drier and more flammable each summer. A salvage operation led by property owners was then carried out to mitigate the risk of a new fire. However, the process was unsuccessful, and three fires soon followed in 1939, 1945, and 1951.
Recognition of the Lumber Settlement
The name Idiotville stuck and later appeared on maps long after the camp’s operations had ceased and the structures disappeared. A stream that is close-by was named Idiot Creek after the settlement. The town was most likely included in historical records such as maps due to its novelty value. Today no buildings remain on the site. The area that is currently covered by forests reveals a road known as the Idiot Creek loop and was most likely a logging road. Idiotville remains a favorite hiker’s destination. The Idiot Creek section is among the newest additions to the Wilson River track. It runs from the Elk Creek and up above the hill to the Idiot Creek Loop Road. A visit to the area offers a needed escape from the strenuous hustles of modern life and a refreshing outdoor experience.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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