|Former School, now a church|
|Birkenfeld store - 2012|
|Birkenfeld store - Older photo|
Birkenfeld was named for Anton Birkenfeld, a native of Germany who settled in the Nehalem Valley in 1886. The community was founded in about 1910. It is platted and sports a speed limit sign, a historic school and a number of houses. It is located along the Nehalem River in Columbia County not far from the Clatsop County line. Descendants of the founder still live in the community.
Loggers have long inhabited Birkenfeld, and the log visible on the VanNatta Logging Page was harvested up Deep Creek near Birkenfeld. This 8 foot diameter residual old growth was one of several cut there in the 1980's as a part of a salvage logging operation. It was the only one that was sound. The others were all dangerously hollow. If you had wondered how wood can survive out in the weather without rotting, the answer is simple. It doesn't, even in a tree. The growing vital part of a fir tree is the sap wood which is the outer portion of the tree just under the bark. The sap appears to defend the wood against decay, but the heart wood is more vulnerable. As the trees grow older, they also grow more slowly, and the ratio of sapwood to heartwood becomes less favorable. Any injury to the tree which allows moisture to get to the heartwood permits the internal decay process to begin. The tree then rots from the inside out, and in extreme cases may be nothing but a shell with bark on it. Ultimately the tree will collapse sometimes without visible warning and to the great danger of all who are around. In the days of cable logging when it was necessary to rig trees as spar poles to support the cables, the high climbers would thump the tree every step of the way up and listen for the echo to see if the tree would 'ring hollow', as a spar pole with conk or a rotten spot was a disaster sure to happen.
As bedraggled as it appears the Birkenfeld store is still critical infrastructure. It is as of 2012 the only surviving retail outlet along the entire highway from Vernonia to Astoria. In years past Pittsburg, Mist and Jewell all has some retail outlets but they are all gone.