Some of the inhabitants of Tortuguero remember when the first sawmill was opened in the 1940s. It transformed the village-quadrupling the population, improving transport, establishing a school, and allowing the visits of one or another doctor. During its operation, the logging companies provided safe wages to the peasants who had previously struggled to support themselves. However, none of the logging companies in Tortuguero went well and when each one of them went bankrupt, it left the village overpopulated face to face with an agonizing economic situation.
The "Atlantic Trading Company" was the first of the companies that built a saw mill. He employed 250 workers cutting wood from male cedar, golden fruit, laurel, bitter cedar and kative. The "Deslo Lumbre Company" followed and suffered many complications and changes of owners.
The sawmills were located where the landing is today. When the mills worked, the trunks of the forest floated to that point, and there they sawed them to make boards, which they then transported by sea to Limón to market them in Costa Rica and abroad.
Nowadays, near the center of the town, there is an oxidized machinery left by the disappeared wood companies. They also keep the channels that they built and that nowadays are part of the Tortuguero National Park and that thousands of people visit every year to see the abundant nature.
To the present
With the cessation of work of the last sawmill in 1972, most of the workers disappeared, and the population was left with old well-off families, and some recently arrived residents. The people returned to the old way of life-farming, hunting and fishing.
A change that facilitated later the progress, was the construction of channels to connect the natural waterways between Limón, Tortuguero and Barra Colorado. The trip by sea was risky because of the inconstant climate of the region, and because of the dangers present in the Tortuguero estuary. The interior route went through a system of lagoons and waterways and avoided the dangers of sea travel.
In 1972, a public telephone was installed and in 1979, the government established boat transportation twice a week to Tortuguero. The first generator started working in 1982.
Today tourism is the main industry of the town. Tourism is increasing and since it has facilitated the construction of several hotels in the surroundings, access to the region and also the Tortuguero National Park was created in 1972. In the town many of the families rent cabins and offer meals in restaurants. There are more than 100 local guides to assist visitors in area tours.