Ryderwood, Washington

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Updated December 13, 2005.

The following is part of an independent writing project I did during my senior year as an English major at University of Washington.  -- Shelley Voie, copyright 1991

"World's Largest Logging Camp"

Imagine a place where everyone worked toward the same end, a place where no businesses competed, a place where no one lacked a job during the toughest financial times. You might think this place sounds like a communist country, or maybe even a hippie commune.

Although neither Marxists nor flower children ever lived in Ryderwood, Washington, U.S.A., at one time the town did fit this description. Built from the ground up in 1923 by Long-Bell Lumber Company, Ryderwood once held claim to the title of "world's largest logging camp," due to its other distinction of being one of the few logging camps designed for entire families rather than only single men. But it's said that all good things must come to an end . . . so, just as Eastern bloc regimes have crumbled and Utopian communes have died out, in 1953 Long-Bell up and sold its experimental town of Ryderwood. The communal nature of Ryderwood-past, however, survives yet in the people who lived there and pulls hundreds of them to the town reunion every August.

You can still find Ryderwood on the map and, for that matter, at the end of a remote two-lane road in southwestern Washington, right where it's always been. One thing you won't find, though, is a single logging family. That's because Long-Bell sold Ryderwood to Senior Estates Inc., which had in mind its own type of experimental town--"a pensioners' paradise." Ryderwood's nearly four decades of existence as a retirement community now overshadows, in duration, its days as a family logging camp, and new construction there indicates a slowly expanding community. The town's serene setting attracts retirees from all over the nation who meet the minimum age requirement of fifty-five.

The locals of Ryderwood-present like the serenity so much that they force once-again active logging trucks in the area to bypass their town. Not entirely averse to the town's logging heritage, however, the senior citizens welcome and join the loggers and their families who return each year. Gathering around Ryderwood's town park in their RVs, some arriving up to a week before the day of the picnic, former residents begin their reminiscing and catching up. Many would meet the minimum age requirement of home buyers in Ryderwood today, and these are the children of the original townspeople.

Go West, Young Man!