Southern Forest Heritage Museum Driving Tour

Driving Tour

The Museum complex is large, about 60 acres worth to explore, and visitors seldom have time to view all the exhibits. A driving tour has been developed to provide enough information about each stop to help you select those in which you have the most interest in to stop and investigate. The tour begins at the entrance of the museum complex, the Commissary, where you pay your admissions and are given the brochure with the driving tour information.

You can download a PDF of the guide (print or save) if you wish to have a plan to tour, or to see what we offer at the Southern Forest Heritage Museum & Reserch Center, before visiting.


Stop 1. Naval Stores (turpentining) exhibit and old Post Office

Naval Stores Exhibit - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumNaval Stores Exhibit Southern Forest Heritage Museum

Beginning in the 1600s and continuing for over 400 years, naval stores or turpentining operations became a driving force for the young nation’s economy. Chipping or hacking longleaf pines was used to produce resin, called gum. From gum, products like tar, pitch, turpentine, and rosin were used to maintain the sea worthiness of sailing vessels. In Louisiana, these products were obtained largely from chipping and later from distilling the pine stumps remaining after harvest of the virgin pines.

An exhibit is being developed in the newly obtained building on the left.

At this stop, too, is the Post Office building from 1912, that served the town of Long Leaf for over 40 years. A visit to its interior provides a look at the functioning of such an early facility.

Post Office Southern Forest Heritage MuseumLumber Mill Post Office Southern Forest Heritage MuseumPost Office Southern Forest Heritage Museum

Stop 2. Caroline Dormon, Camp Claiborne Museum (WWII) , Henry Hardtner Office, and the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum

Caroline Dormon Exhibit Southern Forest Heritage MuseumCaroline Dormon Southern Forest Heritage MuseumSouthern Forest Heritage Museum Driving Tour

At this stop, you can visit four significant exhibits. The Caroline Dormon exhibit tells of the remarkable contributions she made to the development of forestry education during the early 20th century. Dormon was the first woman elected into the Society of American Foresters. Later, her efforts in hybridization of irises and her writing of important books on native plants led her to being recognized as one of the eight leading naturalists in the nation.

Camp Claiborne Exhibit - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumCamp Claiborne Exhibit - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumCamp Claiborne Southern Forest Heritage Museum

On the right, this building house the Camp Claiborne Museum (WWII) and the Henry Hardtner exhibit. Nearby Camp Claiborne was established in 1940 and closed in 1947. It was a major U.S. Army training center. Housing 50,000 troops, it was one of the largest camps in the nation. It was here that the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were created. The museum details the remarkable history of the units as well as the Claiborne-Polk Military Railroad and the Corp of Engineers-Engineer Unit Training Center. 

Henry Hardtner Exhibit Southern Forest Heritage MuseumHenry Hardtner Exhibit Southern Forest Heritage MuseumHenry Hardtner - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

In this building, too, is the Henry Hardtner exhibit. The building itself was his office and carriage house in Alexandria, LA. Hardtner, President of the Urania Lumber Company at Urania, became the advocate for the possible reforestation of the pine forests decimated by the massive lumbering of the early 20th century. It was his leadership, along with others, that led to the development of reforestation technology that restored the South’s forests. Because of his efforts, he became recognized as the “father of southern forestry.”

Stop 3. The Dawning of Sustainable Forestry. (Currently located in the Hardtner Office)

Sustainable Forestry - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumSustainable Forestry Exhibit - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumFuture Home Sustainable Forestry - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

In the early 20th century, just a few lumbermen, researchers, and interested individuals accepted the challenge of beginning reforestation efforts. This is a markable history, and their influence on development of forestry in the South became the guiding forces that helped in the economic development of the South. A document published by the Forest Service, Southern Research Station captures this remarkable history. A log cabin built by Civilian Conservation Corps crew in 1935 will be moved to the Museum to house this exhibit.

Stop 4. The Planer Mill

Planer Mill Southern Forest Heritage MuseumPlaner Mill Edging - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumWood Chipper Planer Mill - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

The purpose of the planer mill was to produce finished lumber and millwork out of rough dry lumber. The mill, built in 1910, is one of the oldest buildings on the site. The building is large and built of very heavy timbers providing strength in case of fire. By using large timbers, the building would not collapse unless the fire burned for a long time. Specialized products including delicate moldings, beaded sheathing, and tongue-and-grove flooring were milled here. The building is now used frequently as a wedding venue.

Stop 5. The Planer Mill Power Plant

Planer Mill Southern Forest Heritage MuseumPower Plant Planer Mill - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

Adjacent to the planer mill is its power plant. The facility hosted three boilers that burned wood waste from the planter mill to generate steam that powered the giant engine. Steam from the boilers was piped to a large Corliss steam engine that powered a 120-foot shaft that extended under the planer mill. All equipment was powered by belts extending up from that shaft. The engine powered a 12-foot diameter flywheel with a 4-foot race.

Stop 6. Rehaul Skidder, Locomotive #400, and Engine House

Rehaul Skidder- Southern Forest Heritage MuseumRehaul Skidder- Southern Forest Heritage Museum

This stop begins the history of railroad logging equipment. At the left is the rare Clyde Rehaul Skidder—a massive piece of equipment. This piece of equipment pulled harvested logs to the rail track for loading on log cars. From attached booms, four cables pulled logs from nearly 1,000 feet and then the cables returned to the area of cut logs—hence the name rehaul. It could at one setting on the track pull logs from a 40-acre area. The logs would be loaded on rail cars by a steam-powered loader. This is the only steam-powered skidder known to now exist. It was so powerful that little standing vegetation remained after its operation.

Locomotive 400 Southern Forest Heritage MuseumEngine House Southern Forest Heritage MuseumRoundhouse - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

Locomotive #400 was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Company and was used to pull log trains. It made its last run in 1954 and has been parked here since then—not protected from the weather. Such locomotives could pull up to 20 loaded log cars. It was converted from burning wood to oil and both water and oil for its operation were carried in its tender (behind the engine).

The engine house, locally called the roundhouse, is where locomotives were maintained and repaired. There is an inspection pit for access underneath engines. Men filled the tenders with fuel oil and water here and kept the engines warm overnight. Equipment now in the engine house consists of rail motor cars and the M-4 passenger car. Typically, these rail passenger cars were called “doodlebugs.”

Stop 7. McGiffert Log Loader, Machine Shop, and Locomotive #106

McGiffert Loader Southern Forest Heritage MuseumLog Loader - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

On the track in front of the Machine Shop is one of two McGiffert loaders owned by the Museum. This one has been under restoration by two volunteers for several years. The loader moved along the track to where the Clyde Skidder had gathered logs. Once at a setting, the loader lifted its wheels up under the cab/deck floor. When the wheels were raised, the shoe at the bottom of the legs would rest on the ends of the ties outside the rails. With the wheels raised, the loader could pull empty log cars though the opening to be loaded.

Machine Shop - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumMachine Shop Welder - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

The machine shop is where the sawmill depended on all repairs and modifications of machinery to take place. In it was the forge, wheel press, lathes, and other equipment needed to maintain the mill and its equipment. The machine shop was powered by an overhead belt and line-shaft drive system. In the 1950s, the steam-powered engine was replaced with an electric motor. This type of drive system has survived in only a few industries. In the machine shop is locomotive #202. It was parked outside for many decades and has rusted badly. There are plans to restore it soon. The #202 has a distinctive cabbage-head stack, an indication that it was a wood burner that was used to pull log trains.

Engine 106 Restoration Southern Forest Heritage MuseumEngine 106 Southern Forest Heritage MuseumEngine 106 - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

Locomotive #106 is parked in the car knocker shop—a building designed as a repair facility for log cars. The engine was parked under cover and is the best maintained of the three owned by the Museum and was used on the Crowell Lumber Company’s Red River and Gulf Railroad. An extension effort led by volunteers is underway to restore the engine to its original appearance. Parked behind the engine is a log car. Of hundreds in use at the sawmill, it is the only one remaining. Others rotted away or were burned.

Stop 8. The Sawmill

Historic Saw - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumSouthern Forest Heritage Museum SawmillSouthern Forest Heritage Museum Green Chain Lumber

The sawmill is the oldest complete sawmill in the South, and perhaps in the entire country. The building was constructed in 1910, remodeled in 1917 and 1936, and renovated in the mid-1950s. In it is all the standard operating equipment needed to convert logs into lumber. It is here where workers were trained to operate the latest in mill industrial equipment. Lumber came out to the green chain where is was sorted by grade and size and then moved to the dry kiln or stored in the open. From there, it was moved to the planer mill for conversion into marketable lumber

Lumber Town Church - Southern Forest Heritage MuseumLumber Town Church - Southern Forest Heritage Museum

It was lumbering that brought workers into sawmill towns such as Long Leaf. Their families were provided education in schools, medical care, access to churches for worship, and a Commissary where food stuff and supplies were available. Lumbering in thousands of towns like Long Leaf was responsible for the economic recovery of the South following the Civil War. Workers, both black and white, come into sawmill towns where they received training that moved them into the industrial age. Life in these towns helped shape the society and culture of the South.

Leaving the sawmill, visitors can observe the sawmills powerhouse, well site for water for the mill and town, and much of the equipment use in logging and milling. The tour ends back at the Commissary. Several surviving churches from this era can be found just beyond the museum complex.