The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Flumes of Tulare County

So, last week and the week before, I was performing survey on a hydroelectric project in Kern and Tulare Counties. We were required to look for archaeological sites within 15-meters (or 50 feet for the metric-phobic out there) of the waterways (flumes, canals, tunnels, etc.) and within 10-meters (or 32 feet for those of you still not in the 20th, let alone 21st, century) of all access roads and trails. This is pretty standard for a hydroelectric project. We found very little, which is good for our client, if a bit anti-climactic for us.

We were primarily working in canyons, so to say that we were surveying access trails means that we spent a large amount of time clinging to rocks and trying not to fall off of narrow trails. It also means that, where flumes were present, we had to walk along on top of the flumes, as the slopes on either side of the flumes were usually too steep to hold archaeological sites* or allow us to walk without constant danger of rolling down a steep, rocky slope. This means that we often were on wooden walkways over aluminum pipes standing somewhere between 50 and 100 feet above a rocky creekbed. When we were in those types of places, we were usually clinging to the wire "hand rails" and not really in the mood to take pictures, so the photos below were taken when we were in more gentle terrain.

Early in the project, we actually were pretty cavalier about walking on the flumes. Then, towards the end of the first day, we found ourselves in a place where a fire had taken out some of the supports and the flumes had collapsed. After that, we were all a bit more nervous when walking on them. In truth, it was perfectly safe, and we knew that, but that didn't stop us from being freaked out.

So, here y'go - a few photos from my most recent time in the field (photos by Chris Rohe):

It really pisses me off that taggers will put their mark even in a place like this.

Chris poses in front of the flume system

A view across the Tule River valley from the project area

A segment of the flume system

Me, walking on top of the flume

It looks like I'm proudly surveying the land before me, I'm actually taking a break after crossing a rather scary drainage.

* One nice thing about steep topography is that it severely limits the types of sites that one might find. Rock art, cache caves, and a few specific types of historic sites are found in this terrain. But large vilage sites, historic homesteads, and other site types that tend to take a large amount of time to record tend to be located in flat, livable places. So, while it's sometiems scary, survey in steep areas is usually fast.


me said...

Reminds me of my favorite hiking trail in Juneau--the Perseverance Trail--an old trail formerly used by gold miners in the late 19th/early 20th century--which is accessible via a number of routes, including a flume owned by Alaska Electric Light & Power.

Anthroslug said...

Very cool. I'll have to see if I can find some photos. Does the trail have a name?