Bluefish Dam Project

Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2010-009)

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) is proposing to replace the old Bluefish dam, which was built in 1944, with a new dam about 400m downstream on the Yellowknife River. This project is approximately 26 km north of Yellowknife, at the north end of Prosperous Lake. From early historic times at least, use of the lower section of Yellowknife River for both travel and fishing was documented.

From August 29 to September 1, a team consisting of Gabriella Prager, Carol Rushworth (of Points West) and David Dahl from Yellowknife conducted archaeological assessments of the new dam site and associated facilities. Archaeological ground traverses consisted of an almost full circuit of the upper levels of the inundation area, extending from the existing dam site to the lower pool, as well as the present shoreline. We also walked the proposed access roads, dam and spillway areas. We conducted subsurface testing in several locales judged to exhibit good archaeological potential. We completed a helicopter overflight of a possible revised winter road route to the NTPC Bluefish hydro complex. Inspections of ground exposures and subsurface testing were conducted near the western end of that route.

We found several hearths, all comparatively recent, along the Bluefish Lake shore and one on the Yellowknife River. Locations of these features were noted and they were photographed, but none appear old enough to be considered archaeological sites (that is, greater than 50 years). One of these recent camps included a tripod, and a nearby birch tree had a bark strip removed. No older archaeological remains were found.

We observed considerable past ground disturbance created by large machines, not only near the old dam but also in several areas along the Yellowknife River. Due to the combination of the previous and ongoing ground disturbing activities around the dam site and hydro facility since 1944 and periodic high water levels, it is concluded that there is a low probability for undisturbed archaeological remains within the currently proposed project area. Therefore, it is considered unlikely that the development of this dam will encounter conflicts with archaeological resources.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)