Caddo Mounds State Historic Site

Posted by Ryan Spates in S&S Project Gallery on Nov. 7, 2011 - 4:37 pm

S&S Trail Services had the opportunity to work at a significant Texas Historic Commission property in northeast Texas in the early Fall. The manager of Caddo Mounds Historic site near Alto was a woman named Jennifer, who had worked with us several years ago when she was an intern at Purtis Creek State Park.

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The property includes several burial mounds and other places of interest that were inhabited by the Caddo Indians approximately 1200 years ago. There is already a crushed granite trail in place that is ADA accessible and about 7/10 of a mile long, and Jennifer wanted to extend the trail into another area of the property to allow visitors to see the mounds from a different angle. Also, this different section of the property was located next to the old Camino Real trail, which was a historic travel way for Native Americans and later Spanish settlers in the state. Jennifer wanted to include some new interpretive signage in this area next to the new granite trail we were hired to build, and we were interested in extending a natural surface trail back into the wooded section of the property to provide visitors with a more scenic path through the area.

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Due to the sensitive nature of the cultural and historical artifacts in the area, an archeologist was called in to consult on the project with us to do a site assessment and keep track of any artifacts that we might unearth during the trail construction process. Christopher Goodmaster was an informative and helpful partner on this project. He was pleased to see that we were using a smooth, not a toothed bucket on our dozer, as that makes his job much easier to do. He also explained to us what he was looking for, and described the process for locating and documenting artifacts.

In return we described and explained our trail building process to him, and the different hand signals we needed him to use to communicate with us over the sound of the running equipment. The majority of our work was conducted in an open field that had been farmed for soybeans over the past 50+ years and had been plowed and dug up countless times since the Indians had lived in that area. Therefore we assumed that the appearance of any artifacts would be infrequent and/or not terribly interesting in a historical sense. However that assumption was proved to be incorrect when nearly every bucket full of dirt we scraped up contained anywhere from one to several small pottery shards, or a piece of glass, or even most of an arrowhead made out of petrified wood. (That was really cool!)

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Christopher reassured us that the things we were finding, while interesting to us, were not of a significant enough nature to require stopping the project or relocating the alignment of the trail from that which we had originally chosen. He was comfortable with the precision and slow speed with which we were operating the equipment, and was confident that we were working cautiously enough to allow him to do his job thoroughly while we were doing ours. Therefore at no point did we ever dig too deep or disturb an artifact that would cause any damage to the historical record of the area.

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Because of Christopher’s involvement it did take us longer to do the initial excavation for the trail bed than is typically the case. However we were completely satisfied with that situation, as we knew that we were working in such a sensitive area and his assistance kept us from doing any damage to a resource that is so important to the history of Texas. And now that the trail is extended, there is an opportunity for more people to view the area, especially folks who might be mobility impaired. So in spite of a few glitches, like the crushed granite that was supplied to us being of a lower quality, overall it was a very interesting and informative project, and we hope to continue the new working relationship we’ve developed with the Texas Historic Commission.

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