Environment, Prehistory & Archaeology of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Over the past decade, archaeological research in the Washington and Oregon Cascades has increased dramatically. A substantial amount of that research has taken place within the Southern Cascades Physiographic Province. The scope of this summary includes those watersheds that lie adjacent to Mount Rainier National Park. These watersheds were the home territory of Native peoples who travelled to the slopes of Mount Rainier during the historic period. Assuming that prehistoric people followed a similar land-use pattern, archaeological research from these drainages provides a context for understanding archaeological resources within Park boundaries.
Models recently developed to explain prehistoric settlement and subsistence in the Cascades foothills (Blukis Onat 1988; Mierendorf 1986) indicate that the mountain highlands were used extensively by people living in settlements well within the foothills, at least during the late prehistoric period. People living further downstream had access to different resources, such as those from saltwater estuaries, thus entailing a somewhat different economy and concomitant material culture. These differences provide some justification for restricting the discussion to what is essentially the central portion of the southern Washington Cascades region.
The following summary is organized geographically. It includes 1) White River drainage basin north of the Park, 2) Naches and Tieton drainages east of the Park, and 3) upper Cowlitz River watershed south and west of the Park. A fourth section is a consideration of regional site chronology. Archaeological data from drainages west of the Park, including the upper Puyallup and Nisqually watersheds, is very limited. Although numerous archaeological surveys have been conducted in this area, few prehistoric sites have been found. Two sites on the Nisqually/Cowlitz watershed divide (45LE277 and 45LE288) are discussed in the section describing research in the upper Cowlitz basin. Sites and places discussed in this account are shown on map Figure 3.4.
The earliest professional investigations centered on a series of prehistoric sites on the Enumclaw Plateau, in the White River drainage north of Mount Rainier National Park. Site survey, documentation, and test excavations were conducted by Green River Community College archaeology classes under the direction of Dr. Gerald Hedlund beginning in 1968 and continuing into the late 1970s (Hedlund 1973, 1976, 1983). Of the 19 sites documented in this foothills area, two sites on private farmland were selected for excavation. They include the Imhoff site (45PI44), excavated between 1968 and 1971, and the Jokumsen site (45KI5), excavated in 1972 and 1973.
Approximately 457 m2 of the Imhoff site were sampled, producing an artifact assemblage of 768 items. Hedlund and his students also collected surface artifacts at the nearby Schodde site (45PI45). Microcrystalline silica and silicified wood are the dominant lithic raw material types represented in the two collections. Hedlund initially (1978) believed these materials were largely from exotic sources, but later (1986) recognized their abundance in local stream gravels. Traditional/functional tool classes from the two sites include a variety of unifacial tools such as scrapers, blades, burins, and gravers, with "flake sidescrapers" being the most numerous. Utilized flakes, cores, and core tools, knives, and projectile points were also collected. The majority of the projectile points (47.5%) are small triangular types that Hedlund (1973:49) noted "indicate a similarity to those of the Cayuse phase," referring to the Plateau typology developed by Nelson (1969). The second most common type is of leaf-shaped form (34.5%).
Perhaps the most significant discovery at the Imhoff site was a number of features including an earth oven, five fire hearths, and a series of post holes. Radiocarbon dates of 440±70 B.P. and 690±85 B.P. were obtained from the features (Hedlund 1973:80). The post holes provided evidence of a structure. Hedlund concluded that the sites represent late prehistoric exploitation of the local prairie environment, and proposed that the prairies were anthropogenic, maintained by periodic burning to enhance the productivity of floral and faunal food resources.
At the nearby Jokumsen site (45KI5), Hedlund and his students encountered more evidence of structures, including a possible semi-subterranean pit house 10 x 6 m (Hedlund 1983). In another portion of the site, "Post alignments were found... that may have been used as a framework for a structure like a mat lodge or drying racks" (Hedlund 1976:87). Approximately 220 m2 were excavated, in some cases to over 2 m depth. Deposits containing the possible structural remains rested on a thick clay-rich Osceola mudflow deposit. Cultural material was also found below the mudflow, associated with radiocarbon dates of 4,980±60 B.P. from the surface of the pre-mudflow soil, and 5,750±110 and 5,730±90 B.P. lower in the profile. Hedlund suggests that the site may have been occupied at the time of the Osceola event.
Over 13,000 stone artifacts were recovered from the Jokumsen site (Hedlund 1976:85). Raw materials represented in the collection include such microcrystalline silica varieties as jasper, chalcedony, chert, and opal. Igneous materials such as andesite and basalt are also represented in large numbers, and dominate the pre-mudflow lithic assemblage. The artifacts from the early component include gravers, burins, end scrapers, triangular projectile points, a single drill and a single leaf-shaped projectile point. Possible bolas and sling stones are also reported in the early assemblage.
The composition of the later assemblage from the site is somewhat similar to that described for the Imhoff and Schodde sites, but also includes some microblades and microblade cores. Hedlund (1976:85) lists 222 leaf-shaped projectile points, 220 triangular-shaped forms and 53 lanceolate points in the post-mudflow deposits. A radiocarbon date of 1,125±70 B.P. is associated with this later component, which may actually represent several different periods of occupation. It appears that the later component of the Jokumsen site represents a winter village settlement (Hedlund 1983:118). The Imhoff and Schodde sites may also have functioned as such.
Of the other sites identified by Hedlund on the Enumclaw Plateau, several apparently functioned as temporary camps. At least one, Site 45KI13 on Newaukum Creek, may have served as a special-purpose fishing camp.
After investigations at the Jokumsen site, Hedlund and his students turned their attention to higher elevation sites located to the east of the Enumclaw Plateau, and within the Greenwater and upper Green River watersheds. Between 1974 and 1977, several lithic scatters were discovered on private and National Forest lands on or near the Cascade crest. Investigations were limited to field documentation of surface artifact material. The Twin Camp site (45KI35), located in a Forest Service campground, is the largest of the sites. It has been severely damaged by road construction, campground development and relic collecting. Hedlund (1978:18-19) observed two distinct activity areas of concentrated artifacts, including debitage and cores, utilized flakes, side scrapers, end scrapers, flake or blade knives, gravers, burins, and a few projectile points. Hunting, butchering, skinning and hide working, woodworking and bone working activities are inferred. Even so, Hedlund suggests that the site also functioned as a late summer berry-gathering camp, apparently because of its proximity to this resource.
Hedlund et al. (1978) summarize investigations of four highland lithic scatters, including the Twin Camp site, in an overview of the archaeology and prehistory of the Green River watershed, written under contract to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. In discussing the function of these sites, they argue that the sites "indicate a far more complex pattern of existence than casual use for berry-picking for a brief period in the late summer," instead, he said, "these sites reflect multiple types of economic use of the high Cascade region" (Hedlund et al. 1978:25). Among the first to champion the cause of Cascades archaeology, Hedlund charged that professional archaeologists had showed something akin to ethnocentric bias in perceiving the highlands as "marginal" areas of little interest. His conclusions included recommendations for more extensive surveys as well as the select testing and excavation of sites in differing ecological settings.
The first test excavations at a highland site in this area were conducted in 1979 by Glenn Hartmann (1980a). Two sites on Huckleberry Mountain, 45KI53 and 45K154, were involved in this investigation, completed prior to a proposed National Forest road construction project. Field work included systematic surface collection and the excavation of two 1 x 1 m test units at 45KI53 and eight at 45KI54. The former had been largely destroyed by previous land disturbing activities, while undisturbed cultural deposits were found at the latter. The predominance of thinning flakes at both sites suggested to Hartmann (1979) that tool maintenance rather than manufacture was a principal lithic activity.
Forest Service personnel have documented several additional lithic scatters and isolated artifacts on or near the Cascade crest north of Mount Rainier National Park. Most are located on or near the Pacific Crest Trail in saddles, on ridge crests, in association with meadows, and on the shorelines of lakes in the upper montane forests west of the crest (Hollenbeck 1987:63-66). At least two sites are located on presumed cross-Cascades travel routes used historically by Native peoples. Most of these sites were noted by paraprofessional Cultural Resource Technicians and have not been formally documented.
Data recovery excavations have been conducted at two of the highland sites on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. In 1986 and 1987 field investigations occurred at Naches Lithic Scatter (USFS #CRO5-07-31), situated at an elevation of 1,400 m (4,600 ft) on the Naches Pass Trail. Initial site testing by Hedlund (1986) established site eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Hedlund described artifact material recovered in the testing phase, and provided a preliminary assessment of probable lithic raw material sources represented in the assemblage. He also used tephrochronology in assessing the age of the site, suggesting that multiple intermittent occupations occurred, spanning at least the past 3,400 years, but perhaps as early as 6,500 to 4,500 years ago (Hedlund 1986:22).
Subsequent excavations at the Naches Lithic Scatter by BOAS, Inc. (Blukis Onat 1988) served as mitigative data recovery in advance of a proposed timber harvest. This study produced a radiocarbon date of 2,220±60 B.P. from a burned earth feature (Blukis Onat 1988:94). Tentative identifications of Mount St. Helens We and Wn set tephra and Mazama ash add little to the understanding of site chronology as they appear to be stratigraphically inverted, suggesting severe bioturbation. Lithic analysis took an unusual approach which quantified technological, functional, and distributional variables for the collection of 1,552 items. Very few formed tools or formed tool fragments were found, and a majority (61%) of the collection consists of flake fragments. Microblades were also recovered. The analysts, Hal Kennedy and Harry Oda, suggest that much of the flake breakage at this site was intentional, designed to create working edges of various shape. Edge wear was distinguished from unintentional damage, allowing the researchers to classify 25% of the lithic assemblage as flake tools. These "snapped flake tools" may have served "in the process of manufacture of other tools or materials of a more perishable nature," according to Blukis Onat (1988:101).
More recently, data recovery excavations were conducted at site 45KI435, located on Divide Ridge, a landform separating the Green and White River drainages 32 km north of Mount Rainier. The site is at an elevation of 1,365 m (4,500 ft), and is one of eight sites associated with the historic Divide Trail (Miss and Nelson 1995:51). The 1995 excavations were under the direction of Christian Miss and Margaret Nelson of Northwest Archaeological Associates, Inc., and were carried out in response to a proposed Forest Service land exchange. The excavations sampled 15.4 m3 of site matrix, and produced a collection of 7,650 lithic and 184 historic or modern artifacts (Miss and Nelson 1995:19).
Multiple occupation periods were evident at the site, with initial use dating between 6,850 and 4,320 B.P. (Miss and Nelson 1995:22). Radiocarbon dates of 3,830±70 B.P., 2,510±60 B.P., 1,690±80 B.P., and 880±70 B.P. provide a chronology of later use. The artifact assemblage from Site 45KI435 includes a high density of lithic debitage representing late stage bifacial tool manufacture. The diversity of tool types recovered is low, consisting of projectile points, unifacial tools (endscrapers and a graver), and bifaces. Most of the materials are varieties of cryptocrystalline silica, but a small amount of obsidian and petrified wood was also recovered. Geochemical analysis has demonstrated that most of the obsidian is from the Obsidian Cliffs parent source, originating in the central Cascades of Oregon.
Trenches interpreted as huckleberry processing features were identified at the site and dated to the period ca. 1,560 to 2,565 B.P. on the basis of radiocarbon samples (Miss and Nelson 1995:41-42). While such features are well documented along the crest of the Cascades in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Mack 1992), the trenches at 45KI435 represent the only archaeological examples north of Mt. Adams, and the earliest yet dated. Botanical samples were collected from the trenches and analyzed, but unfortunately lacked evidence of huckleberries leaving functional interpretation ambiguous.
In considering a context for prehistoric use of the Mule Spring site, Miss and Nelson (1995:46-49) identify a pattern of upland use encompassing the southern Washington Cascades. On the basis of resource distribution and ethnohistoric data, they argue that upland use was primarily oriented toward huckleberries and mountain goats. Contrary to Schalk's (1988) ideas cited in Chapter 2, they predict that archaeological evidence throughout this region will show increased and more specialized use of sites above 914 m (3,000 ft) after 5,000 B.P. Miss and Nelson see increased use of the mountains as a probable response to growing human populations and resulting resource use intensification. Ethnographic accounts, settlement patterns, and local topography are used in support of the argument that much of the prehistoric use of the Mount Rainier area was by groups from the Naches and upper Yakama River basins. They further speculate that the people who used the area became "middlemen", specialists in trans-Cascadian trade of mountain resources such as berries, and mountain goat wool, meat, and hides.
Early archaeological reconnaissance on the flanks of the Cascades east of the Park reflects personal research interests of David G. Rice, then an archaeology student at Washington State University. Rice's involvement with the University's survey of Mount Rainier National Park prompted initial reconnaissance efforts in 1963, oriented toward the understanding of cross-Cascades travel routes, particularly between the upper Cowlitz River and Tieton River drainages (Rice 1964a). Rice recognized that our knowledge of western Plateau prehistory would remain incomplete until efforts were made to understand the archaeology of adjacent mountain areas. Over the next few years, he contacted local people, examined collections, and recorded several sites. One of these, Wild Rose Rockshelter (45YK39), was the focus of test excavations within a few days after Rice completed fieldwork at Mount Rainier's Fryingpan Rockshelter.
The excavations at Wild Rose Rockshelter were limited to two test pits. Rice (1964b:16) does not give the size of Test Pit 2, noting that it was abandoned at 65 cm below surface due to extensive looting disturbance. Test Pit 1, however, was of sufficient size (2.25 by 1 m) and depth (2.4 m) to find undisturbed cultural deposits. Careful attention was given to site stratigraphy, and Rice (1964b:9) was able to assign most recovered material to individual depositional units. In addition to a lithic assemblage of 351 items, the excavators recovered 1,476 pieces of burned and unburned bone. Several bone tool fragments and pieces of worked bone were also recovered, and a number of hearth features encountered. Formed tools include five distinct styles of projectile points, side scrapers, end scrapers, utilized flakes, knives, pebble tools, a bone awl, an awl fragment, and a bone point fragment.
At the rockshelter Rice (1964b:20) recognized an assemblage change from predominate use of small triangular "Columbia Valley" corner-notched projectile points to greater use of small triangular side-notched points. Comparing the projectile points to a chronology developed for a site on the Yakama River, he suggested that the entire occupation sequence at Wild Rose Rockshelter was no older than about 650 B.P. Assemblage composition suggested processing of game animals, including hide cleaning and working activities. Rice (1964b:20) labels the site a "hunting station," and further suggests that the artifacts reflect gender-based division of labor with men engaged in hunting related tasks while women participated in domestic chores such as food preparation and clothing manufacture.
A thorough study of the faunal remains was not made at the time of Rice's study. He stated, however, that "Great quantities of split and burned deer bone" were prevalent, and further suggested the presence of elk and mountain sheep among the remains. Gustafson (1983:29) later re-analyzed the faunal collection, discovering that the majority of identifiable bone is mountain sheep, with lesser quantities of deer and mountain goat. None were identified as elk. The faunal analysis also provided an indication of site seasonality. Rice (1964b:8) assumed that the rockshelter was occupied during the winter after the fall fishing season. The age of death indicated for subadult deer in the collection implies instead that people used the site in the late summer or fall (Gustafson 1983:29-32).
Rice's reconnaissance efforts continued in the area through 1966. Five rockshelters were recorded in the canyon walls above the Tieton River and two lithic scatters recorded in the draw-down zone of Rimrock Lake, on the valley floor (Hollenbeck and Carter 1986; Rice 1969:2). Rice also encountered sites in the Naches River drainage. A predominance of small corner-notched projectile points, a "diagnostic feature of the Cayuse phase on the Plateau" (1969:15), was observed in the collections from Cascades sites examined by Rice. To him, this was an indication that mountain areas were more intensively used in the past 2,000 years as the ethnographic pattern of seasonal exploitation of various resources developed.
Most subsequent investigation in this area has been a result of National Forest cultural resource inventories, beginning in 1975 and primarily related to proposed land disturbing projects such as timber sales. As of 1986, 52 prehistoric sites were reported on the Naches Ranger District, Wenatchee National Forest, encompassing the upper reaches of the Naches and Tieton River drainages (Hollenbeck and Carter 1986:97). Most had been found by paraprofessional Cultural Resource Technicians. The following decade was characterized by more intensive site documentation efforts. Surveys included over 2,000 acres within the William O. Douglas Wilderness and Norse Peak Wilderness adjacent to Mount Rainier National Park. The surveys, conducted by District Archaeologists Matthew Zweifel and Connie Reid (Zweifel 1988a, 1988b), documented a number of lithic scatters between 960 and 1,850 m elevation. By 1996, the number of prehistoric sites on the Naches District had grown to 320. Recently, about 40 additional prehistoric sites were documented in Naches and Cle Elum Districts in association with a proposed land exchange (Burtchard and Miss 1998). The authors suggest that the high site count is consistent with more intensive prehistoric use of drier, more open eastern Cascaded habitats compared with wetter, more nearly closed canopy west Cascade forests.
Since Rice's investigations at Wild Rose Rockshelter, test excavations have been conducted at only three sites in the upper Naches and Tieton basins.  In 1978, Glenn Hartmann, representing Central Washington University, investigated the Kaner Ridge site (45KT364) under contract to the Wenatchee National Forest. The excavation sample is small, but it was sufficient to determine that the site was probably a single component seasonal camp dating to the "Cayuse Phase" of the Plateau cultural chronology (Hartmann 1980b). Lithic manufacturing, local hunting, and meat processing activities were inferred from the types of artifacts recovered.
While the Kaner Ridge site occupies a highland ridge saddle, the Indian Flat site (USFS #06-17-63), also tested by Hartmann (1979), is situated on a stream terrace near the Bumping River. Four 1 m by 2 m test units were excavated. Cultural deposits proved very shallow and the artifact inventory is small, making conclusive statements about site age and function somewhat difficult. Hartmann (1979) does, however, suggest that the site served as a small base camp, apparently basing this assessment on proximity to the river.
Fifteen years elapsed before any further excavations were conducted in the Naches and Tieton basins. In 1995 Christian Miss, representing Northwest Archaeological Associates, Inc., directed investigations at the Crow Creek site (USFS #06-17-08-68), located on the Little Naches River 40 km northeast of Mount Rainier (NWAA 1996). Site investigations were done under contract to the Wenatchee National Forest in conjunction with proposed campground developments. Four 1 x 1 m units and a large number of shovel probes were excavated, producing a sample volume of 14.97 m3. Recovered prehistoric artifacts (n=369) consist almost entirely of lithic debitage, but a few formed tools are also included in the sample. Lithic raw materials are primarily chert, jasper and opalized quartz. Geochemical analysis demonstrated that obsidian in the sample is from the Obsidian Cliffs, Oregon parent source. Multiple episodes of use as a seasonal camp are indicated by the use of different landforms at the site. A radiocarbon date of 870±60 B.P. provides an age estimate for one of the later occupations (NWAA 1996).
A significant development in the archaeology of the area appeared with the completion in 1980 of a cultural resource overview of the Naches River basin by Morris Uebelacker, then a graduate student at the University of Oregon (Uebelacker 1980). This study, prepared under contract to the Wenatchee National Forest, was the first attempt to synthesize existing knowledge of past land-use in the basin. The study's orientation toward landforms and ecology is unique for the region. In the overview, Uebelacker provides a preliminary assessment of archaeological site distribution with respect to landscape features (1980:157-164). This was eventually developed, in the form of a doctoral dissertation (Uebelacker 1986), as a model that he hoped would serve as a research design for future investigations. Uebelacker was also concerned with the adaptive strategies reflected in the archaeological record. Data derived from research in the Plateau were applied to the Naches basin and a developmental model used to create archaeological expectations. Prior to the present project, Uebelacker's research was the most comprehensive study of prehistoric land-use patterns developed for the Cascade Mountains near Mount Rainier. It is of particular importance because it includes the eastern margin of the Park.
A more recent synthesis of archaeological site data from the Naches and adjacent Cle Elum Ranger Districts, Wenatchee National Forest, by Matthew Zweifel and Connie Reid was published in 1991. Zweifel and Reid (1991) outline the evidence for long-term use of the Cascade uplands, use that was more intense than was previously realized. They suggest that the large diversity of site types indicates that a great variety of resources were utilized, including many not available at lower elevations. In the absence of local, excavated sites, they have relied on Plateau projectile point typologies to estimate the ages of sites, which they place in four major time periods (Zweifel and Reid 1991:11). In terms of site types, the most common are small lithic scatters. Rock alignments, talus depressions, and cairns were also found in mountain areas. Some of the rock alignments are interpreted as hunting blinds. Talus depressions are explained as probable food storage pits, and cairns are thought to possibly represent religious activity. Rock art occurs beyond the forest edge, at the eastern limits of National Forest lands. The largest sites described by Zweifel and Reid are situated at the margins of large mountain lakes. They interpret the sites as base camps occupied by sizable groups of people, and note that "Diversity of artifacts and features at these mountain lakes indicates diversity of activities, including plant processing, hunting and processing of game, and possibly the drying of salmon." (Zweifel and Reid 1991:11).
The first archaeological reconnaissance in the upper Cowlitz River watershed south and west of the Park was conducted by David G. Rice between 1963 and 1966. He described several sites in the valley of the Cowlitz River, among them Kitchen Rock rockshelter, and campsites at the mouth of the Muddy Fork and at La Wis Wis (Rice 1964a). Several private artifact collections from the area were also examined by Rice.
One of the collections is from the Packwood Mill Site (45LE271) near Hall Creek, a tributary of the Cowlitz River. Rice (1969) reported that this small, single component site contained abundant evidence for a hunting/fishing economy. Approximately 300 projectile points were found. A small number are corner-notched forms similar to examples known from excavated Plateau sites. In addition, there are a few triangular and leaf-shaped points. The majority are corner-notched arrow points, with basal morphology that led Rice to call them "Packwood tapered stemmed points." Rice notes that 43 of the 46 points of this type were manufactured from local red jasper. Three specimens are obsidian. Other artifacts in the collection include "calcined bone fishing barbs, some end scrapers, and pieces of ground realgar." Associated materials include a number of calcined fish vertebrae and a large quantity of split calcined mammal bone (Rice 1969:13-14).
Rice also examined a private collection from the Siler site (45LE215), located south of Randle. He characterizes this as a single component site, and reports that "About thirty projectile points were recovered, including small triangular corner-notched forms... corner-notched/corner-removed forms... stemmed forms with barbed shoulders... leaf-shaped forms and triangular forms." (Rice 1969:14). Rice believed the small corner-notched points were diagnostic of the Cayuse phase on the Plateau. He felt that Cayuse elements diffused west across the Cascades during the last 2,000 years, becoming superimposed on an older tradition characterized by stemmed/shouldered and leaf-shaped points (Rice 1969:15).
Dancey (1968) conducted investigations at 11 sites in Mossyrock Reservoir (Riffe Lake), south of Morton, prior to inundation. The sites were situated on terraces of the Cowlitz River. All had been disturbed as a result of timber harvest activity. On the basis of artifact typology, Dancey concluded that most of the sites represented "Olcott Phase" occupation and probably dated to before 4,000 B.P. (Dancey 1968). A few sites appeared to include more recent prehistoric occupation. The sites investigated by Dancey included assemblages with high frequencies of "non-cryptocrystalline" lithic raw materials.
Since 1980, most archaeology in the Cascade Range south of the Park has been a product of USDA Forest Service cultural resource management activities. In addition to survey, a substantial number of excavations have been conducted. Large-scale data recovery projects were undertaken at Judd Peak Rockshelters (45LE222) and Layser Cave (45LE223), in the upper Cowlitz watershed, in 1986 and 1987. Test excavations have been conducted at 23 prehistoric sites on Forest Service lands within the watershed. The more significant results are summarized here, beginning with sites nearest to Mount Rainier National Park.
Three of the tested sites are within the Packwood District, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, close to the southern boundary of the Park. The Carlton Bridge site (45LE283) is near the Ohanapecosh entrance, 0.8 km from the Park boundary. Situated at an elevation of 658 m (2,160 ft), the site is associated with the historic Cowlitz-Yakama Trail, a principal trans-Cascadian travel route (Liddle 1988:8). Discovery of the site resulted from timber harvest disturbance in 1986. Subsequent sampling included excavation of three 1 x 1 m test units. Systematic shovel probe sampling was also used to determine site area as 8,500 m2 on the basis of subsurface lithic artifact distribution. In her assessment of site significance, Janet Liddle (1988:29) suggests a site age range of ca. 1,400 to 500 B.P. using tephrochronology and projectile point typology. Cultural deposits lie immediately beneath a layer of Mount St. Helens set Wn tephra. The small lithic assemblage (n=137) includes two small, triangular side-notched arrow points. Lithic artifact density is low (10/m3 to 125/m3) in the areas sampled. Site function remains problematic given the small sample size, but short-term summer use by people traversing the Cascades is suggested by the location and generalized tool types.
Also associated with the Cowlitz-Yakama Trail is the Ohanapecosh site (45LE220), located on the river of the same name 4 km south of the Park boundary, at an elevation of 454 m (1,490 ft). The archaeological site corresponds to the ethnographic fishing site of awxanapayk-ash (Hajda et al. 1995:34). The Park Service has adopted this name for the Ohanapecosh Ranger Station and campground near the southeast entrance to the Park. The site was tested in 1984 and 1985, and has produced radiocarbon dates of 3,640±100 B.P., 920±60 B.P., and 500±80 B.P. (McClure 1989). In 1996, a later component of the site was dated to 360±50 B.P. As in the case of the Carlton Bridge site, Mount St. Helens set Wn tephra was an important horizon marker. Burned and calcined bone recovered in association with charcoal dated to 500 B.P. included salmonid vertebrae. The lithic assemblage (n=622) includes debitage, unifacial tools and several projectile points. Obsidian from the site was sourced to the Elk Pass quarry, located near the crest of the Cascades in the Goat Rocks Wilderness (McClure 1989). Site dimensions have yet to be determined.
More recently, test excavations were conducted at Ohana Rockshelter (USFS #14103001), a site found in May 1996 on a ridge near the Cowlitz River 5 km south of the Park. A 50 x 50 cm test unit was excavated to establish the presence of cultural material in the rockshelter. Lithic debitage and two projectile points were recovered in the small sample, as were burned and unburned mammal and fish bone. The fragmentary mammal bone has not been analyzed, but fish vertebrae examined by Virginia Butler at Portland State University were identified as Oncorhynchus sp., probably representing coho or chinook salmon. An AMS radiocarbon sample from the test unit produced a date of 750±60 B.P.
One of the largest archaeological samples from the upper Cowlitz area is from the Beech Creek site (45LE415), occupying a small knoll at the edge of the Cowlitz River valley 14 km south of Mount Rainier National Park. The site was inadvertently discovered in 1990 following backhoe trenching for a new septic system at the Packwood Ranger Station. Archaeological fieldwork included recovery of 16,315 lithic artifacts from 31.9 m3 of backhoe trench sediments (McClure 1992:23). Volumetric sampling of backhoe trench sediments indicate lithic artifact densities ranging from 10 per m3 to 772 per m3 across the site (McClure 1992:44-48). Limited controlled excavation provided supplemental information on the vertical distribution of cultural material. Augering was used to determine site boundaries and establish its size at 7,800 m2.
Lithic raw materials in the Beech Creek assemblage are dominated by andesite, dacite, and argillite, all probably acquired near the site. Jasper, chalcedony, chert, and obsidian are present in smaller quantities. Geochemical analysis of obsidian identified six distinct sources among the artifacts sampled (McClure 1992:51), with most specimens matched to the Elk Pass source. Technological attributes of the assemblage indicate all stages of lithic reduction. Formed tools include bifacial blanks, preforms, projectile points, unifacial tools, and cobble choppers. Leaf-shaped and lanceolate points are the most common forms. No radiocarbon dates were obtained. Results of hydration analysis, identification of tephra, stratigraphic studies, and projectile point typology suggest that prehistoric use may have spanned the period from ca. 6,000 to 2,000 B.P. (McClure 1992:81). The low 329 m (1,080 ft) elevation, valley edge location, proximity to permanent flowing water, and diverse artifact assemblage are factors indicating residential function, possibly as a settlement or field base camp.
Other sites investigated in the Packwood District include the Elk Pass obsidian quarry (45LE286), Packwood Lake (45LE285), and Johnson Butte (45LE417) sites. The Elk Pass quarry is a geochemical parent source of obsidian, the material occurring as nodules within a rhyolite talus slope in an alpine setting near the crest of the Cascades (McClure 1989). Several lithic reduction loci with high densities of surface debitage were identified near the talus source of the material. A single test unit in one of these concentrations indicates debitage densities of nearly 10,000 artifacts per m3 within site deposits. A radiocarbon date of 6,250±110 was obtained from charcoal at 55 cm depth (McClure 1989:63). Subsequent research has identified obsidian from this source in assemblages from seven prehistoric sites, all within the upper Cowlitz watershed. The geographic range of distribution is limited to a 52 km distance from the source, and a dramatic fall-off pattern of frequency is apparent from east to west across this distance (McClure 1992:52). Curiously, this source is not represented among the samples of obsidian from prehistoric sites east of the Cascade crest that have been subjected to geochemical sourcing.
The highest frequency of obsidian recovered outside the quarry is at the Packwood Lake site (45LE285), located 11 km west of the Elk Pass source, on the shoreline of a mountain lake. Obsidian makes up 14% of the lithic debitage recovered in 1987 excavations at the site. Archaeological investigations were a result of planned trail bridge replacement within the boundaries of the site. Six test units were excavated. Reporting to date includes an initial test report (McClure 1987) and a detailed study of lithic technology (Markos 1990)initially produced as a Master's thesis for Washington State University. A summary journal article by Markos has also been published. Markos' analysis was based on a sample of 4,631 artifacts recovered from 10.3 m3 of excavated site matrix.
The time period of use for the Packwood Lake site is estimated by bracketing dates of 1,100 B.P. for underlying landslide debris and 470 B.P. for the Mount St. Helens Wn tephra capping the cultural deposit (Markos 1990:28). Analysis of the lithic assemblage indicates reduction of andesite/basalt and microcrystalline varieties of quartz for flake tools, bifacial blanks, and bifacial preforms. Evidence for final stages of tool manufacture and hunting tool kit maintenance was conspicuously absent. Markos (1990:83) uses the technological data to argue against function as a hunting camp, suggesting that it served as a non-specialized "multi-resource acquisition site."
In contrast, the assemblage from the Johnson Butte site (45LE417), 14 km south of Packwood Lake, reflects a site function oriented primarily toward the maintenance of hunting equipment. The site is located near the western boundary of the Goat Rocks Wilderness, at an elevation of 1,088 m (3,570 ft). It was discovered following road construction and scarification in a Forest Service timber sale on the Packwood District. 1991 test excavations, designed to assess damage to the site, were conducted by Lithic Analysts, Inc., under the direction of Dr. J. Jeffrey Flenniken. The excavations sampled 8.18 m3 of site deposits and produced a lithic artifact assemblage that includes 1,016 pieces of debitage and seven formed artifacts (Flenniken et al. 1992:38). Artifact distribution and stratigraphic analysis indicate a single component occupation post-dating the deposition of Mount St. Helens set Pm tephra about 2,450 B.P. Obsidian from the Glass Mountain, Glass Buttes, and Whitewater Spring, Oregon source locations was recovered in the sample (Flenniken et al. 1992:51). The absence of Elk Pass obsidian is noteworthy, perhaps suggesting that the Packwood Glacier was a barrier to southern movement along the Cascade Crest within the Goat Rocks area.
Further west, in the Cowlitz River valley near Randle, large-scale excavations were conducted at the Judd Peak Rockshelters (45LE222) on Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The two large rockshelters are located on a low mountain ridge at an elevation of 427 m (1,400 ft). The site is 26 km south of Mount Rainier National Park. Initial testing was conducted in 1982, followed by data recovery excavations at the north rockshelter in 1986 under the direction of Richard McClure and 1986-1987 work at the south rockshelters under direction of Dr. Richard Daugherty. The earliest radiocarbon dates from the site are 5,970±120 and 5,930±100 B.P., associated with a stratum which overlies a presumably older cultural deposit. These early strata are capped by a primary airfall deposit of Mount St. Helens set Yn tephra. Occupation of both rockshelters was contemporaneous, and both appear to contain multiple late prehistoric occupations. Twelve radiocarbon dates span the period from ca. 1,360 to 260 B.P., and suggest a use hiatus sometime after deposition of Yn tephra approximately 3,500 years ago.
The formed tool assemblages recovered from early occupations at the site are described as typical "late Cascade subphase" assemblages (Daugherty et al. 1987b:223). Lewarch and Benson (1991) equate the projectile point types from these assemblages with Large Stemmed, Cascade, Mahkin Shouldered, and Cold Springs varieties described for the Plateau. Microblades, microblade cores, and a variety of flake tools were also recovered. Daugherty et al. (1987b) report that artifact types associated with early use of the site, including shouldered points, lanceolate points, and microblades, also occur in late prehistoric deposits where they are associated with arrow points. Lanceolate or leaf-shaped points, variously known as "Cascade" or "Olcott" points, have been assumed to indicate early Holocene occupation. Dancey (1968), in his earlier study of Mossyrock Reservoir sites, interpreted the presence of these points as evidence of a pre-4,000 B.P. culture in the upper Cowlitz basin. Using the Judd Peak sample, Daugherty et al. (1987b:234) argued that lanceolate points remained in use through the late prehistoric period. This assertion is disputed by Lewarch and Benson (1991:33) in an independent review of the excavation data.
Daugherty et al. (1987b) further assert that lanceolate points common in southwest Washington assemblages functioned as armament for hand-held killing lances, used to dispatch wounded animals. They use the presence of these points as evidence for a prehistoric hunting strategy in which, through drives or by other means, multiple kills of deer or elk were made in the same hunting event (Daugherty et al. 1987b:228). The rockshelters are described as hunting camps. Both rockshelters produced bone fragments consistent with game animal butchery and meal preparation. The faunal remains are predominately from deer (Odocoileus sp.), but also include significant numbers of rabbit (cf. Lepus americanus) bones. Beaver (Castor canadensis), muskrat, elk, bighorn sheep, and grouse (Dendragopus obscurus) are also represented in the large faunal assemblage. Over 1,200 salmonid bones were recovered.
Bone bipoints and unipoints, an awl, an antler wedge fragment and a needle were also recovered in the excavation sample. In the north rockshelter, bone flakes, flaked bone, bone fragments with patterned breakage, and shaved antler were identified, primarily in association with late prehistoric occupations. A technological and functional analysis of this collection was the subject of a Washington State University Master's thesis by Stacy Clark (1993). Clark's study provides a detailed description of the faunal assemblage from the north rockshelter and a useful classification scheme for this unique collection of bone and antler tool-making debitage.
Richard Daugherty and associates also conducted data recovery excavations at Layser Cave (45LE223), 6.4 km southeast of the Judd Peak site in the Cispus River valley. The Cispus is a principal tributary of the upper Cowlitz River. Results of excavations indicate use of the cave began approximately 7,000 years ago and ended by 4,000 B.P. (Daugherty et al. 1987a). Radiocarbon dates of 6,650±120 B.P. and 6,645±120 B.P. are the earliest for the area. The lithic artifact assemblage includes ovate, shouldered, lanceolate, and large side-notched projectile point forms, microblades and cores, a variety of specialized unifacial tools, and cobble tools. Most of the stone tools appear to be made from locally-available chalcedony, jasper, chert and igneous stone. The presence of marine shell (Olivella sp.) beads and non-local obsidian provides some indication of trade links.
The site produced a large and well-preserved assemblage of faunal remains. Deer (Odocoileus sp.) predominate, but bone from snowshoe hare (Lepus cf. americanus), mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa), grouse (Dendragapus and Bonasa), and salmonids indicate other species of probable economic importance. Archaeobotanical samples from Layser Cave hearth sediments analyzed by Stenholm (1989, 1990) produced a significant amount of oak (Quercus sp.) charcoal. Presumably used as fuelwood, the sample suggests more xeric conditions at the time of cave occupation.  A charred Vaccinium fruit from one of the botanical samples indicates collection of huckleberries by cave occupants.
Besides Layser Cave, seven other archaeological sites in the Cispus River area have been subjected to small-scale testing by Forest Service archaeologists since 1984. Four of the sites, including: Hummingbird Rockshelter (45LE400); Stump's Rockshelter (45LE401); the Em site (45SA205); and the Robber Bend site (45SA115), a lithic scatter heavily disturbed by road construction, produced minimal data. Test excavations at site 45LE451 on the Cispus River terrace produced a distinctive assemblage of red jasper artifact material probably representing a single lithic production event (McClure 1985). The Yuyutla site (45LE413), located in a National Forest campground 12 km south of Randle, was also the subject of archaeological investigations. Test excavations produced a lithic assemblage (n=1,215) from cultural deposits dated to 920±50 B.P. from a fire hearth encountered at over a meter below the ground surface (Lancefield-Steeves and Liddle 1992:21, 24).
The most extensive archaeological sampling has occurred at the Camp Creek site (45LE263), located adjacent to the Cispus River not far from Layser Cave. Preliminary data generated from the 1985 testing of the rockshelter at the site have been reported by Markos (1986) and Tevebaugh (1986) in conference papers. Additional investigations were conducted in 1996, and analysis of field data is in progress at this writing. Occupations within the rockshelter date between ca. 1,500 B.P. and 500 B.P. Earlier and later components were identified outside the rockshelter, where cultural deposits extend for over 100 m across a terrace landform. The excavation in 1985 of three 1 m x 1 m test units within the rockshelter produced a sample totaling 1 m3 volume that includes debitage (n=892) and tools (n=79), including arrow points, unifacial tools, utilized flakes, and bone points. A total of 7,432 bone fragments were recovered from this small sample, and identifiable specimens include skeletal elements from deer, elk, beaver, mountain beaver, and salmonids. Over half of the collection is burned or calcined. Debitage material types in the rockshelter sample include a high percentage of chalcedony and jasper, with lesser amounts of chert, basalt, and opal. Fire-cracked rock was relatively abundant in the sampled deposit.
Test excavations at nearby Squatter's Knob Rockshelter (45LE259) were conducted in 1984 and 1985, with additional fieldwork in 1988 prompted by illegal digging. Two test units produced 185 lithic artifacts, including debitage, and 285 faunal elements, from 2.05 m3 of fill. Additional material was recovered from looter backdirt. Three distinct cultural components were identified as a result of the testing. Component 1 is dated from a radiocarbon sample to 980±120 B.P.; Component 2 includes material above Mount St. Helens Wn tephra, deposited 470 B.P.; Component 3 includes cultural material above a probable deposit of Mount St. Helens set T tephra. Identified taxa in the faunal assemblage include deer, beaver, rabbit, salmon or steelhead, and suggest opportunistic hunting of local fauna. The rockshelter appears to have served as a transient field camp.
Outside of National Forest lands, two large-scale excavation projects have been conducted at sites in the upper Cowlitz River basin. Plans to build a third hydroelectric dam on the Cowlitz River prompted nearly a decade of intermittent research at Cowlitz Falls, near the mouth of the Cispus River. Fugro Northwest, Inc. surveyed the proposed dam site and reservoir, recording six prehistoric sites, including Koapk or Cowlitz Falls South site (45LE209) (Fugro Northwest, Inc. 1980). Initial test excavation of the site defined at least three cultural components in deposits that reached 7 ft deep and suggested that occupation may date from as early as 4,000 B.P. to historic times (Ertec Northwest, Inc. 1981). Test excavations also included the Cowlitz Falls North site (45LE211).
Further testing at the Koapk site early in 1988 focused on the previously untested west portion of the site and resulted in refinement of site chronology. In addition to the previously identified early component, dated on the basis of position beneath Mount St. Helens set Yn tephra, two different spatial components were assigned to the period between 2,000 and 1,000 B.P., and a fourth to the period from 500 to 200 B.P. (Stilson and Thompson 1988:6-19). More recent excavations at the site have included extensive trenching and stratigraphic study. At least six distinct cultural components are now recognized at Koapk (Ellis et al. 1991). Radiocarbon dates for the sub-pumice component span the period ca. 4,300-3,900 B.P. Later occupations span the period from ca. 1,600 B.P. to the early 19th century, when upper Cowlitz or Taidnapam people used the area.
At the Champion Bridge site (45LE225), 4.8 km west of Cowlitz Falls, excavations were undertaken in 1990 in conjunction with proposed recreation developments on Tacoma Public Utilities lands. Excavations under the direction of Gary Wessen sampled 27 m3 of site area and recovered a sample of 5,202 artifacts (Wessen 1991). A variety of lithic tool categories are represented, and a surprisingly large number of bone tools were also recovered. Hearth features and a pit feature were also encountered. Early use of the site was dated to 4,200±80 and 4,660±50 B.P. (Wessen 1991:3-20), but the majority of the recovered material represents use during the past 1,500 years. Wessen interprets the site as a spring to early fall occupation oriented toward hunting and fishing.
Several prehistoric sites have been identified on National Forest lands which occupy the watershed divide between the Cowlitz River and Nisqually River drainage basins. Test excavations have been conducted at two of these sites, located between 34 and 38 km southwest of Mount Rainier National Park. Both sites occupy ridge saddles at elevations over 1,000 m (3,280 ft) near the headwaters of the Little Nisqually River. Site 45LE277, the Isabell Saddle site, was tested in 1986 and 1987 by National Forest personnel. Five 1 x 1 m units produced a sample of lithic debitage (n=1,322) and tools (n=46), including projectile points, blanks, preforms, cores, unifacial tools, and utilized flakes (McClure 1988:27, 29). A radiocarbon date of 2,240±60 was obtained from charcoal within the principal cultural stratum. Two test units were excavated at Site 45LE288, the Ware Divide site, in 1986, producing a small sample of lithic material from two components (Liddle and Markos 1987). Both of these sites were possible camps along mountain travel routes.
Since 1993, archaeological investigations in the upper Cowlitz area have been limited mainly to cultural resource surveys. A survey of the trail system in Tatoosh Wilderness, adjacent to the southern boundary of Mount Rainier National Park, was completed by Janet Liddle in 1995. Several isolated artifacts and a lithic scatter were identified within 8 km of the Park boundary, on the crest of the Tatoosh Range. Liddle also completed a partial trail survey of the Goat Rocks Wilderness in 1995, identifying several prehistoric sites in a variety of environmental settings.
It should be emphasized that, to date there has been no comprehensive synthesis of the prehistory of the southern Washington Cascades. This report moves in that direction by drawing together site information of particular relevance to Mount Rainier National Park. The subsistence and settlement intensification model offered in Chapter 5 is perhaps the most thorough attempt made to date to order general Holocene land-use patterns for the Park and wider region.
While still limited, a growing body of chronometric data for the southern Washington Cascades is gradually becoming available. Table 3.4 lists current radiocarbon dates (uncalibrated) for archeological sites in the region. Figure 3.5 illustrates the temporal range of these dates to one standard deviation. Though building their inferences on a more limited data set, Dennis Lewarch and James Benson (1991) were the first to develop a preliminary outline of what they believed to be land-use trends in the region's archeological record. They describe an initial period of colonization, characterized by low-density, limited activity settlements taking place between ca. 7,000 to 6,000 B.P.  Lewarch and Benson also suggest existence of a possible settlement hiatus ranging from circa 3,900 to 1,840 B.P. (1991:33). While caution must be exercised, radiocarbon data compiled for the southern Washington Cascades can be interpreted as indicating an early phase of Cascades settlement and use followed by an abrupt terminus around 3,500 B.P., much as Lewarch and Benson argue. The gap in the radiocarbon ages and hence possible land-use hiatus, however, does not appear to last as long as suggested.
Table 3.4 Radiocarbon Dated Archaeological Sites in the Southern Washington Cascades
In support of their proposed cultural hiatus, Lewarch and Benson (1991:33) suggest that the intensity of vulcanism in the region may have disrupted human use during the Middle Holocene. The onset of the Smith Creek eruptive phase of Mount St. Helens, which produced the largest tephra eruptions in the history of the volcano, is dated between 3,900 and 3,400 B.P. They suggest that environmental degradation resulting from Smith Creek phase eruptions may have been the initial cause of human abandonment, lasting for nearly 2,000 years in some areas (Lewarch and Benson 1991:34). 
In reevaluating potential casual mechanisms which may underlie the possible hiatus, Kenneth Reid (1993:E.9) suggests that we consider the cooling effects of neoglaciation, documented between 3,700 and 2,000 B.P. A temporal correlation between glaciation records and vulcanism was noted by Loren Davis, in his recent assessment of vulcanism and culture change in southern Washington (Davis 1995:182). Davis acknowledges that direct effects of the Mount St. Helens eruptions were more extensive proximal to the volcano, but hypothesizes that more lasting and widespread indirect effects may have resulted from atmospheric loading of sulfuric aerosols during eruptive events (1995:178-179). 
Considering the possible significance of past volcanic eruptions in the region, and the utility of various tephra deposits as horizon markers, the eruptive history of Mount St. Helens was used as a framework for a cultural sequence in the upper Cowlitz River basin (McClure 1992:7). The sequence includes initial human occupation during the Swift Creek Interval, a dormant period beginning circa 9,000 B.P. which followed the end of the Swift Creek eruptions. The interval ends abruptly with the Smith Creek eruptions described above, the eruptive phase coinciding with the beginning of the apparent hiatus in dated occupations. Two other eruptive periods (Pine Creek and Kalama) occur during the hiatus, and may contribute to the length of the abandonment, if genuine. Resettlement begins in what is termed the Castle Creek Interval (McClure 1992:13) at the end of the Castle Creek eruptive period approximately 1,600 years ago. The sequence is broken again with the Kalama eruptive period in A.D. 1478 (470 B.P.) and subsequent dormant interval (McClure 1992:15).
No other attempts have been made to order the cultural chronology of the region. As the previous summary indicates, many archaeologists have chosen to employ terminology developed for phase chronologies of the Columbia Plateau; assuming that these chronologies were also valid in the mountains to the west. We see this in David Rice's early observations of Cayuse phase traits in the upper Cowlitz basin, and again more recently in descriptions of artifact assemblages from the Koapk site, at Cowlitz Falls, and Mule Spring, in the White River watershed. J. Scott King, in concluding his analysis of the Koapk projectile point assemblage, suggests that "Future research in the western Cascades should focus on developing a region-wide rigorous typology to facilitate intersite and interregional comparisons of projectile points, thus improving knowledge of the distribution of and relationships between prehistoric populations in the Northwest" (Ellis et al. 1991:149). Such an effort can do nothing but improve our understanding of the manner in which the southern Washington Cascades are used by populations potentially emanating from various lowland regions both east and west of the mountains.
The foregoing outlines of extant archaeology in Mount Rainier National Park (through 1990) and in immediately surrounding watersheds underscore the rich and varied nature of the archeological record in the southern Washington Cascades. Not only are prehistoric archeological remains common in a variety of montane settings, variation in the character and density of remains suggests substantial functional variation among them. Furthermore, radiocarbon data summarized in Table 3.4 and shown on Figure 3.5 suggest a long Holocene use range; dating to perhaps as early as circa. 8,500 B.P. and certainly well established by about 6,700 years ago.
Our problem now turns away from such issues as whether Cascade landscapes were used extensively during the prehistoric pastclearly they wereand toward such issues as clarification of the manner in which montane environments were exploited in the past, how land-use patterns may have changed through time, and the nature of the archaeological signature left by these processes at Mount Rainier. The following chapter describes procedures and results of the present project's attempts to clarify and impose order on the archaeological record of the Park. Subsequent chapters deal with intersite functional variation within the Mount Rainier sample, site-distribution patterns within the Park and long-term settlement and subsistence patterns affecting the Park and the greater region.
Last Updated: Monday, 18-Oct-2004 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division
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