Smithsonian Institution Logo Terminus Reservoir
Geology, Paleontology, Flora & Fauna, Archeology, History
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The construction of dams and reservoirs, the stabilizing of river banks, and a host of additional water control and hydroelectric projects are bringing great changes to many of our major river systems. Valleys have been transformed into lakes and meandering streams into controlled channels. The river valleys hold a key to electric power, and the periodic floods that have inundated so many of our cities and towns must be prevented at all costs. Unfortunately, it is precisely along our rivers that much of the record of our Indian forerunners and of our own historic past is to be found.

The Inter-Agency Archeological Salvage Program was organized to preserve and to interpret the paleontological, archeological, and historic remains threatened with destruction by Federal water control and hydroelectric projects. The program is administered by the National Park Service with the advice and active field participation of the Smithsonian Institution. Federal funds provide support for much of the work, but state, local, and even private contributions have been used.

Figure 28: Birds-eye view of Terminus Reservoir and environs.

The excavation and recording of historic and prehistoric sites is but one aspect of the program. The material objects recovered, artifacts, such as arrow points, pottery, military insignia, and the like are preserved in the National Museum, in specialized museums of the National Park Service, or in the repositories of the participating states. Here, they are reminders of the past—public property, equally available to all.

There is still another consideration, and, in the long run, a more important one. Artifacts are not gathered for their own sake. It is true that many of them, even the most commonplace things of a century past, are interesting in themselves, but the archeologist and the historian see them in a very different light. Artifacts are tools, tools that can be used to amplify the written history of books and records—tools that can be used to write history where no written history exists. This is the ultimate purpose of the program, to extend man's knowledge of himself—to interpret the past, making it meaningful for today.

The Inter-Agency Archeological Salvage Program operates over the entire United States. Its basic stimulus is provided by the Committee for the Recovery of Archaeological Remains, an independent group of private citizens composed of representatives of the Society for American Archaeology, the American Anthropological Association, and the American Council of Learned Societies. The committee was formed in response to the threatened destruction of important paleontological, archeological, and historic sites by public construction projects within the United States. The National Park Service, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, agreed to administer the program on a national scale. Actual field investigations are carried out by units of the Smithsonian Institution and by a large group of state and private agencies. The Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation have provided support from the beginning. Without their recognition of the peculiar archeological and historical problems involved, the salvage effort would have been impossible.

Despite setbacks and temporary retrenchments, the program has been highly successful. Paleontological, archeological, and historic sites have been destroyed by the construction of dams and the flooding of reservoirs, but this has not been a total disaster. Archeological research in particular has received an important stimulus. The construction programs have made possible a comprehensive, integrated program of archeological work, which would not have been practical under ordinary circumstances. No single institution or foundation could have borne the burden alone.

Although irreparable losses have occurred, this has been inevitable since even under ideal conditions it would never have been possible to excavate every site of importance. An effort has been made, however, to secure a sample from the remains represented in each endangered area. This has resulted in the accumulation of a vast amount of information helping to clarify the story of the aboriginal peoples of North America. The salvage program has been a particularly successful effort aimed at the reconstruction of important parts of the American past.


National Park Service
The Smithsonian Institution


Atomic Energy Commission
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Mines
Bureau of Reclamation
Corps of Engineers
Federal Power Commission
Fish and Wildlife Service
Forest Service
Geological Survey
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Tennessee Valley Authority
Urban Renewal Administration


California Division of Beaches and Parks
University of Alaska
University of Alabama
University of Arkansas
University of California at Los Angeles
University of Colorado
University of Denver
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of Idaho
University of Illinois
University of Kansas
University of Kentucky
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Missouri
University of Montana
University of Nebraska
University of North Dakota
University of Oregon
University of South Dakota
University of Tennessee
University of Texas
University of Utah
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
University of Wyoming
Florida State University
Idaho State University
Washington State University
Southern Illinois University
Southern Methodist University
Temple University
Long Beach State College
Portland State College
Sacramento State College
San Francisco State College
Dana College, Nebraska
Kansas State Historical Society
Nebraska State Historical Society
State Historical Society of North Dakota
Ohio State Historical Society
Central California Archeological Foundation
Missouri Archeological Society
South Dakota Archeological Commission
Society of Underwater Archeology
Arizona State Museum
Bernice P. Bishop Museum (Hawaii)
Carnegie Museum of Pittsburg
Los Angeles County Museum
Museum of New Mexico
Museum of Northern Arizona
Nevada State Museum
St. Paul Science Museum
Georgia Power Company
Idaho Power Company
Nevada County Irrigation District (California)
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (California)
Pacific Northwest Power Company (Washington)
Pacific Power and Light (Oregon)
Portland General Electric Company
Public Utility Districts 1 and 2 (Washington)
Seattle Department of Lighting

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Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008