The first pioneer settlers arrived in what is now
But drop off in the
The people attending a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers information exchange meeting in Ladonia January 21 heard a veteran archeologist say that evidence of the earliest settlers in the river valley north of Ladonia shows them arriving between 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.
Amazingly enough, archeologist S. Alan Skinner, Ph.D, believes the one thing that first attracted people to the
"It is my belief they came here for the purpose of harvesting bois d'arc wood to use and trade," Dr. Skinner surmises.
Skinner's timetable has these early residents arriving 2,000 years before Caddo Indians. It is interesting to note that his scenario would indicate that the unique properties of the remarkable bois d'arc tree were understood and appreciated thousands of years before weapon technology produced the first bows and arrows. This durable wood was a favorite for tomahawk handles and war clubs, a medicinal tea was made from the root and the yellow outer layer of the root and yellow inner bark produced a yellow dye. From the rough outer bark came fibers for rope as well as tannin used to process leather.
Evidence unearthed by the Corps points to a much more dynamic river that flowed year round. At one prehistoric encampment along the river dated between 1,920 and 4,250 years old, tens of thousands of freshwater clams had been harvested.
The purpose of the meeting January 21 was to educate the public about the role the Corps has been performing, and will continue to do, concerning a careful evaluation of the prehistoric, historic and paleontology resources likely to be affected by the construction of Lake Ralph Hall.
The Corps is actively soliciting information from the public in regard to prehistoric, historic and paleontology resources that should be considered during this decision-making process.
"Our role is to objectively evaluate this project," remarked Jennifer Walker of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief Permits Section. "We are interested in getting a full spectrum of public comments."
After thoroughly studying the proposal by Upper Trinity Regional Water District to build Lake Ralph Hall north of Ladonia on the
An example of an historic site certain to be affected by the proposed lake would be the abandoned railroad watering stop known as Bagby that was used by the Gulf,
In an effort to improve water flow during heavy runoff and curtail erosion, a 20-foot wide, 10-foot deep river channel was dug in the 1930s. No doubt water flow drastically improved, but erosion accelerated, eventually collapsing the railroad bridge. That 20-foot wide channel is now well over 200-feet wide in places.
While everyone may not be familiar with the history of Bagby, it is common knowledge this area is a treasure trove of prehistoric artifacts that range from spear points that date back over 10,000 years to arrowheads that first came on the scene 1,200 years ago.
But, surprisingly enough, the Corps found far more prehistoric campsites when they surveyed for
So far, with 17% of the area studied, about 20 archeological sites have been recorded where Lake Ralph Hall may one day be located.
"We think more needs to be looked at...no question," Skinner stated.
He expects more finds, possibly even significant sites, between now and the preconstruction examination. However, because of the way soil has slowly filled the valley, many of the oldest campsites are now buried 10 feet or even deeper below the surface. Some will be lost forever if the proposed lake is built, but Skinner indicated the Corps is willing to use a track hoe to excavate high-priority sites.
And all the Corps representatives seemed to be satisfied with the cooperation they have been receiving from Upper Trinity Regional Water District.
"They [UTRWD] have been very helpful and very supportive," remarked Corps archeologist Skipper Scott. "We're very appreciative of that."
Actually, the layers of soil that secreted away fascinating artifacts are also the reason this area supplies a steady stream of interesting finds by both amateurs and professionals.
As the river bank and sides of the valley's many feeder creeks erode, archeology is at first exposed and then eventually tumbles down in the river channel.
While a 10,000-year-old spear point is a remarkable find, compare that to a mammoth molar from the Pliocene epoch from around 4.8 million years ago until the last glacial retreat 20,000 years ago. Still, all of that is like last week on the calendar compared to some of the finds that were brought to the Corps meeting January 21. One amateur fossil hunter came in with a fossilized fish found in a tributary to
SMU Paleontologist Mike Polcyn told how present-day continents took shape during the Cretaceous Period 145 million to 65 million years ago. High latitude warming meant there were no ice caps. Marine reptiles such as mosasaurs flourished, in part due to a dramatic rise in water temperature. Elevated sea levels created a shallow sea that covered much of the middle of
The Glen Rose Formation was along the shoreline of this sea and some of the finest preserved dinosaur footprints anywhere in the world attract thousands of visitors each year to
In Alamaba, the Eutaw Formation regularly produces dinosaur, mosasaur and pterosaur remains.
To our north, vertebrate fossils from the Blanco Formation in
Situated in the middle of these significant formations is the
As someone who has walked these creeks and the
But he also feels there are two sides to this issue.
"You have a trade-off," Polcyn said as he contemplated how a lake would alter this popular site for arrowhead hunters and fossil collectors. "Flash floods, while exposing paleontology, tend to scatter evidence. Slower erosion should mean more complete material to study."
Do you feel strongly about this proposed lake? Do you know of resources, whether they are historical, archeological or paleontological in nature, that are likely to be affected by a lake on the
This is the time to make your feelings known. After the Corps releases an Environmental Impact Study, another 60-day comment period will follow. Then a formal Public Hearing will be conducted. A final Environmental Impact Study will be released, typically followed by another 60-day comment period.
To report resources you are aware of that could be affected by Lake Ralph Hall or to be placed on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mailing list regarding this project, email firstname.lastname@example.org