Putting Michigan’s Lumbering Past into Perspective: WOW!

It will never be known exactly how much lumber was cut from Michigan’s forest during the hey day of Michigan’s logging era. Government surveyor’s estimated Michigan’s pine forest contained 150 billion board feet of lumber. However, the lumber historian, George Hotchkiss, estimated that by 1897 more than 160 billion board feet of pine had already been cut, and another six billion was still standing, mostly in the Upper Peninsula.

One hundred sixty-one billion board feet of pine and fifty billion board feet of cedar, hemlock, and hardwoods are the generally excepted quantities of lumber cut between 1840 and 1900. During this sixty-year period, Michigan sawmills milled roughly one billion logs.  Let us try to put this in to a perspective we can understand.

If one board foot equals one square foot, one inch thick, then 211 billion board feet = 211 billion square feet, 1" thick = 7,568.5 square miles, 1" thick:

·    We could cover the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island with a 1" thick floor and still have over 13 billion board feet left over,
·    Or, we could cover Lake Ontario with a 1" thick floor and have 6.2 billion board feet left over.

If we stacked all the lumber into a pile 6 feet wide by 6 feet tall, we could:
·    circle the Earth 3 ¾ times, or
·    reach over 1/3 of the way to the moon.

A 3 foot by 3 foot stack would circle the Earth 14.86 times and reach to the moon and return half way to Earth.

If we stacked all the lumber in a pile 2 ½ football fields by 2 ½ football fields (750’ x 750’), the stack would be 2,231 feet taller than Mt. Everest.

Two hundred eleven billion board feet would build 334 solid wood Sears Towers.

As of 1996, the entire U.S. Interstate system could be covered with 9 inches of lumber (7" of pine and 2" of the rest), 6 lanes wide.

Over 9.5 million 1600 square foot 3-bed room homes could be built with all the lumber cut from Michigan.

A log is 16 feet long, if you put all the logs end to end; they would circle the Earth over 121 times, or, they would circle Jupiter over 10 ¾ times.

An x" diameter log (measured at the small end) would equal how many board feet:
8" log = 16 bd ft      16" log = 144 bd ft      28" log = 576 bd ft      36" log = 1024 bd ft      44" log = 1600 bd ft

This web page was created by Jon Archer, a GEO 333 student.

This material has been compiled for educational use only, and may not be reproduced without permission.  One copy may be printed for personal use.  Please contact Randall Schaetzl (soils@msu.edu) for more information or permissions.