Ruby Pipeline

From 2008 to 2010, Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc. (Alpine) conducted archaeological surveys and excavations for the Utah portion of El Paso’s Ruby Natural Gas Pipeline, which crosses Utah north of the Great Salt Lake. Seven prehistoric sites were excavated, three extensively. These investigations identified Native American campsites on the northwestern edge of the Great Salt Lake Desert ranging from 700 to over 4,000 years old, where stone tools were made and local wild foods gathered (Figure 1).

Obsidian artifacts were analyzed to determine the source of the obsidian and the approximate age of the artifacts. The results reveal that obsidian from volcanic deposits in Idaho and Nevada was used by prehistoric people in what is now northern Utah, transported there through trade or lengthy provisioning trips.

rubypipeline_12x5 Figure 1. Archaeologists excavate a prehistoric site dating to the Archaic and Late Prehistoric periods in northwestern Utah.

Significant historic sites were also documented. Several, including original freight and wagon roads and three buried aqueducts, are associated with the first transcontinental railroad or with railroad stations such as Kelton and Terrace. The study of these sites has revealed new information on a broad transportation and support network related to the railroad, which was completed in 1869. Two of the aqueducts were test excavated, in one case exposing an original iron hoop-bound, wood-stave waterline possibly constructed by the same Chinese laborers who helped build the railroad (Figure 2).

rubypipeline_12x5_2 Figure 2. A wood-stave aqueduct dating to around 1870, exposed in a test excavation.

As part of the project, a study of ancient environmental data from northern Utah was undertaken by Utah-based Western GeoArch Research, and a second paleoenvironmental study to be undertaken by the Desert Research Institute is in the works. These studies of ancient environments will help Alpine interpret the excavated prehistoric sites and also provide valuable information for future researchers. Data analysis is ongoing. Project findings will be presented in technical reports, in an article planned for Utah Historical Quarterly, and in other formats suitable for presentation to the public. The final reports will be completed by the fall of 2013.

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