Bannack State Park 2013 Flood Clean Up: Utility Monitoring

A flash flood on July 17, 2013, swept through Bannack, Montana, a National Historic Landmark. Bannack, the first territorial capital, was established in 1862 following gold strikes nearby on Grasshopper Creek. The town was occupied through the middle of the 20th century and became a Montana State Park in 1954. Since that time, remnants of the town have been maintained in a state of arrested decay and managed as a state park which seeks to interpret the late 19th century mining town experience to visitors.

The flood event impacted archaeological deposits and buildings in Bannack, flooding interiors, destabilizing foundations, washing away structural elements, moving artifacts, and exposing archaeological deposits. The impacts resulted in the temporary closure of the park to the public. The flash flood damaged the existing utilities in the park and monitoring was required during their replacement.

As part of the restoration, Western Cultural contracted to assist the monitoring requirements of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The projected plan was to dig a small trench down the middle of the road and to each main structure in order to reinstall the telephone lines. Later, the installation of underground power lines using heavy equipment was added to the project. This project addition required the use of heavy equipment to excavate larger and longer trenches, into more archaeologically sensitive locations.

Personnel from Western Cultural were on site at to monitor needed restoration work and advise restoration crews on actions that would help protect historic artifacts, and sites. As significant artifacts or concentrations were uncovered, the monitor was to note these locations with a GPS unit and collect, bag and label artifacts for entry into FWP’s Past Perfect database. If concentrations of artifacts or significant artifacts were uncovered, the monitor was to stop construction and investigate the cultural materials in a controlled, archaeologically appropriate, but expedient manor.

An estimated 721 linear feet of newly installed trenches were created over the course of this project. A mixture of hand digging and heavy equipment was used to recycle sediments before and after utility line installation. Archaeological monitoring focused on areas thought to contain undisturbed cultural deposits, based on past archaeological investigation, and institutional memory of past utility installation, and occurred intermittently in areas of known disturbance. A total of 654 artifacts were recovered during this project, which were processed in the field and described in brief in the final report.


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