Mackenzie Valley Highway – Norman Wells to Canyon Creek

Gabriella Prager (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2015-004)

In September 2015, archaeologists from Points West Heritage Consulting Ltd. completed an archaeological inventory and impact assessment of several developments associated with a portion of proposed all season highway in the Mackenzie Valley. This section of the highway extends from Norman Wells 12 km south to Canyon Creek.

The archaeological investigations included the proposed road route, surrounding area of the existing bridge, two possible borrow sources with associated access roads, and access roads to a camp and recreation area at Canyon Creek. The vicinity of the existing bridge was included in the archaeological inspections since it was possible that the approaches might be expanded. The existing camp/recreation area is a short distance downstream from the bridge and is currently only accessible on an ATV or snowmobile trail.

We completed a helicopter overflight of the proposed alignment and associated project components as identified by GPS coordinates and plotted on topographic maps. The purpose of the overflight was to view the terrain to judge its potential for archaeological resources. Based on this overflight, locations that were thought to offer good potential for sites were selected for ground reconnaissance. In addition, coordinates of two previously recorded sites were compared to the locations of the proposed activities; these sites were determined to be sufficient distance away that there was no concern for disturbance.

During the pedestrian transects, we examined ground exposures, we scraped dirt on root balls of overturned trees, and we dug shovel tests in those areas of good potential where vegetation was covering the ground. Most of the road route will pass through flat muskeg, much of it wet, and this type of ground is typically low potential for archaeological sites. The creek terraces adjacent to the bridge are well defined and the road right of way is cleared and disturbed on both sides of the bridge, providing good ground exposures to examine.

One possible borrow source is an expansion of the existing town quarry. Our ground surveys indicated that, although vegetated, most of this area is already disturbed. The second proposed rock quarry is along the north side of a broad, well defined valley containing a series of lakes. The quarry includes parts of three bedrock ridges of increasing height. This quarry and its access road were rated as good archaeological potential, but, in spite of shovel testing on some well defined terrain features, no archaeological evidence was found.

Overall, no archaeological remains were found. Some camp structures were observed along the trail to the Canyon Creek recreation area that are from recent use.

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