Remnant of Historical Fort “Discovered” By Dredging

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In 2009 dredging began in the Upper Hudson River to remove sediments with PCBs. Read more.

On August 14, a dredge operator working along the southeastern side of Roger’s Island, near the site of a colonial-era fort (built in the 1750s) that is the namesake of the Town of Fort Edward, unfortunately dislodged two timbers associated with the ancient fort’s purpose as a supply depot. Sadly, next to nothing is left of this important historical structure within the archaeological site that contains its artifacts, so the incident greatly alarmed local residents, historians, and archeologists.

Prior to the project’s start, archeologists extensively studied the river bank in the entire 40-mile project area, and they did a river bottom survey. However, because of the PCB contamination, they were not allowed to disrupt the river bottom. In their investigation of the six-mile dredge area (where the project is taking place this year), the archaeologists found and documented more than 10 underwater vessels, the timber thought to be part of the fort, and several other artifacts.

image of Because the timber was thought to be the only remaining remnant of the fort extending into the river, dredge operators were instructed to avoid it, as well as a section of the river where the timber rested. However, unbeknownst to everyone, another timber was buried in the sediment underneath the exposed timber, and this timber extended past the exclusion zone and into the area approved for dredging by EPA. This second timber was 21 feet long. When the dredge operator came in contact with the buried timber and pulled it upward, it caused the other (exposed) timber to come free from the riverbank.

image of decaying logA flurry of archeological activity has been focused on the timbers and riverbank. Although experts need to determine the extent of contamination of the timbers, this incident now provides an excellent opportunity to carry out a detailed archaeological investigation of both the land area of the fort site, as well as the in-river areas adjacent to the site. The work will focus on defining the context and function of the timbers in question, as well as adding to the understanding of the activities carried out at the fort by controlled excavation and subsequent analysis of recovered artifacts. Of particular interest to the officials in the Town of Fort Edward is the opportunity for the public to observe the excavations.

About the author: Kristen Skopeck is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She is an 11-year Air Force veteran and was stationed in California, Ohio, Texas, Portugal, and New York. After working for the USDA for three years, Kristen joined EPA in 2007 and moved to Glens Falls, NY to be a member of the Hudson River PCB dredging project team. She likes to spend her time reading, writing, watching movies, walking, and meeting new people.