Like many of the communities founded along the Wisconsin River, the place where Wausau would eventually emerge was first settled because of the good waterpower provided by the falls here. In 1838, George Stevens led the first expedition of Europeans up the Wisconsin River with the goal of establishing a sawmill that would allow for the harvest of the Great Pinery. The first buildings Stevens put up were on the islands along the rapids, then known as Big Bull Falls. By 1839, the first basic sawmill was up and running at Big Bull Falls, starting a half century of lucrative lumbering. Over the next few years, an annual pattern emerged. Pine trees cut upriver by lumberjacks during the winter would be stacked along the riverbanks until the spring thaw. Logs were then floated along the waterways swelled by the thaw down to the sawmills at Big Bull Falls (and a few other sawmills set up along the river). The volume of trees that arrived at Wausau was far too much for the sawmills to handle right away. The logs were held in calm-water areas, sometimes aided by small boom dams. Logs were pulled from the water and stacked onto the riverbanks and islands. When the mills were ready, they would be pushed back into the water and maneuvered over to the sawmills to be cut up for market. After the building of the railroads in the 1870s and 1880s, the sawmills along the Wisconsin River increasingly brought in pine and, later, hardwoods by train instead of floating them down the river. The change allowed the harvest of lumber far from streams large enough to float rafts of logs. Sawmills at Big Bull Falls also underwent changes over the years. New mills were built, existing mills changed hands (and names), and occasionally a mill was destroyed by fire. The Wisconsin River continues to run through Wausau, even if it no longer powers the sawmills that built the community. While the sawmills are gone and you no longer see great tangles of pine logs flowing down the Wisconsin River, the legacy of the lumber industry remains central to the history of Wausau.