Archaeological Investigations along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail

The Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum presented “Archaeological Investigations along the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, YellowstoneNational Park” with Daniel H. Eakin, Senior Archaeologist with the Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist, on Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the history museum, 225 N. Cache Street.

Dan on Timothy CreekThe Nez Perce War of 1877 is viewed as one of the last major Indian wars of the nineteenth century.   From a historic perspective, the event was unique as it involved a band of nearly 800 men, women and children – with 2000 horses – pursued by superior forces of the U.S. Army for almost four months, over more than 1,100 miles of both mountain and prairie landscape known today as the Nez Perce National Historic Trail (NPNHT).  The Nez Perce entered Yellowstone National Park (YNP) on 23 August, 1877.  During the following two weeks they traveled and camped within the Park along a west to east path which, even today, remains poorly documented or understood.  The Nez Perce fought no major engagements with the army during this time but their various raids and encounters with tourist groups, as well as the route they followed, has sparked a level of interest and speculation that remains an exciting, though enigmatic, area of historic research.


In 2008, in partnership with the Office of the Wyoming State Archaeologist, YNP initiated the Nez Perce National Historic Trail Project with the stated goal of identification of both prehistoric and historic archaeological sites within the YNP portion of the NPNHT corridor.  A major focus is the use of archival and other resources to identify Nez Perce, U.S. Military, and civilian localities associated with the Nez Perce War of 1877.  More than three seasons of investigation have been completed within ten study areas that extend from LowerGeyserBasin in the west, to HoodooBasin near the Park’s eastern boundary.  More than 75 sites have been identified and range in age from Paleo-Indian to early twentieth century.  Five Nez Perce War-related sites have been identified archaeologically: the Radersburg party wagon abandonment locality, the Nez Perce Council/Howard bivouac site, the Helena party camp, Nez Perce Ford, and a possible Nez Perce camp near Parker Peak.