Cache Creek Fire Site Monitoring

Posted in Conservation
Cache Creek Fire Site Monitoring

The Vale District, Baker Resource Area of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) retained Plateau Archaeological Investigations to complete cultural resource site monitoring of BLM administered land near Rogersburg in Asotin County, Washington.  This area was subject to the Cache Creek Fire which consumed more than 56,000 acres of land in Asotin County and Wallowa County (located in Oregon) in August of 2012.

Plateau assessed the effects of the Cache Creek Fire and subsequent exposure on eight previously recorded sites within the Snake River Historic District.  Six of the sites were originally recorded in 1969, and the site forms and subsequent report did not include photographs or site maps.  Two sites were recorded in 2001, at which time site form updates were completed for the six sites recorded in 1969 with varying documentation levels.  The differing degrees of documentation lent difficulty in determining the effects of the Cache Creek Fire on the eight sites.

The Cache Creek Fire pushed through the area in August 2012, and Plateau visited the sites in April 2013, less than a year after the fire and during a time of vegetation renewal.  During the 2013 visit, archaeologists noted burnt tufts of cheatgrass, cactus, sumac, and hackberry trees in some degree at each site.  Loss of vegetation will expedite wind and water erosion, most evident at two sites with slumping cutbanks.  Regeneration of vegetation obscures artifact condition and distribution, this being the case for six sites.  Artifacts and features observed at six of the eight sites showed signs of fire damage.  Additionally, fluctuations in the Snake River water levels may be undercutting sites and/or redepositing artifacts.

Plateau recommended monitoring of two sites on a three year cycle based on erosional impacts (i.e., slumping cutbank), and on a five year cycle for the remaining six sites.  Regeneration of vegetation has helped to stabilize the sites post-fire, and no further stabilization is recommended.  Additional site visits may be required as a result of regional fire activity.

Location: Asotin County, Washington