Saturday, November 12, 2011

Corduroy Road Update

One of my long-term goals in working our 45 acres is to create access to most all areas of our property. We are fortunate to have some amazing and diverse habitats on our land. We have the headwaters of a fairly major stream. You can trace many of the drainage plains and see the formation of rivulets of water that combine into wet areas, then into actual flowing bodies of water. We have upland pine forest and swamp. We have several vernal pools. We have rocky ridges and huge boulders and the beginnings of a hard maple stand that would make an excellent sugar bush in about 5 years.

Our property was harvested several times in the last 25 years by an absentee landlord (a recipe for disaster in my book). There are areas with huge ruts from large skidder tires. There isn't anyplace they didn't go. I'm constantly finding empty 1 qt. oil cans, soda bottles and broken pieces of 3/4 inch steel cable.

If I was creating access roads from scratch, I would have avoided some of the wet and swampy areas that had obviously been traversed before. I decided to use these previously established routes for a few reasons. One, I didn't have to clear trees and roots. Two, the damage had already been done. Three, it gave me a chance to do some repair work. How many of these areas are there? Only about three. The worst of these "roads" turned into mush the few times I tried to first access it. Between the wet and the clay and the soil, it became a perfect mud pie road with muck over a foot deep. I first tried to remove all of the mud-like material, down to the clay, but it got no better.

I was clearing some young balsam fir when I thought of corduroy roads. The fir were nice and straight and would be easy to clean up and lay down tightly next to one another. Fir gets punky and rots fairly quickly if it gets damp. I read somewhere that the secret is keeping it wet. There's a big difference between damp and wet.

Five years ago, I began my corduroy road experiment. I had no intentions of continuing the road if it rotted after the first year or two which, I fully expected, it would. Read my first "Corduroy Road" Post HERE. After two years, the first ten feet remained intact and solid. So, with interest, I've added to the corduroy every year.

The poles I cut are about 12 feet long and the base of the pole must be at least 4-6" in diameter. I cut them green, don't allow them to dry much at all, and place them in the road bed. I alternate skinny with thick and place them as close to each other as I can. If I have a corner, I use 6' poles on the wide corner-side of the road only and alternate these with the long poles. Once the poles are in place, I gently run over them with the front tires of the tractor to squish them into the soft ground. I make sure I run over the poles, covering the whole road, moving from one side to the other.

Then I bring down some gravel and shovel it onto the poles, raking it into the spaces between the poles. Larger rocks from the gravel are removed and used elsewhere.








 I then run over the road again with the front tractor tires going from side to side. I then add another thin layer of gravel, run over the road again and that's about it. I've been meaning to add more gravel but I don't use the road that frequently and I haven't had to worry about too much wear and tear.





Each year, when I clear more. I add to the road as the trees become available. If I don't have enough, I'll leave them standing until I have enough to do another 20 feet, then harvest them and add to the road.

2 comments:

Morin said...

This was pretty informative. We are doing something similar in spring. Our driveway will be a temporary corduroy road to allow us access into our yard. We figure we will see how long it holds up! It's a pretty swampy area so we aren't sure how it will go. We had loggers come in and clear 2 acres for our yard, and they were so picky on which trees were "useful" to them. So we might as well put the rest to good use!

Jeff Cleaveland said...

Update: This particular stretch of corduroy road is now well over 100 feet long and has been holding up remarkably well. The last stretch was completed two years ago. It's been about 5 years since beginning this road and I'm impressed that it has lasted!