The wanigan was the kitchen for the drive crew's moving camp. Each morning the wanigan floated through the logs and rapids to establish a new camp. In the evening the crew would tie it to a tree and cook supper; then the white water men and river rats would file through to pick up their meal.
Logs tend to get stuck on each other, on the banks, and on rocks as they float down the river. It's the job of the rivermen to keep them moving. But sometimes a jam sticks. As the day continues, more and more logs get trapped behind it.
Once in awhile, a jam brings the entire log drive to a halt for a season. In 1894 it took 6 months to clear a six-mile-long jam at Taylors Falls. With no logs coming through, sawmills have nothing to cut, mill hands have no jobs, and the people of mill towns suffer.