The Amana Fish Weir is a rare example of Native American architecture in Iowa that looks much as it did when first constructed. Fish weirs are structures of wood or stone that forced fish swimming downstream into a narrow corridor or a single point where waiting Native American hunters could spear, net, or hook them as they passed. The Amana Fish Weir is the best-documented example of such a structure in Iowa if not the entire Midwest. The Amana Fish Weir was first recorded in the 1844 and was most likely constructed or at least utilized by Meskwaki Indians living nearby in the early 1800s. Settlers, primarily those from the Amana Colonies, found the weir a rich fishing spot and the site became a local landmark before becoming a State preserve in in 1976 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
The weir, originally appearing as a 20-inch high dam, became progressively less visible through time. The construction of the Coralville Reservoir raised water levels at the site and the weir was only visible during periods of prolonged droughts. Concern over the present condition of the weir was raised when no one is known to have seen the structure since the late 1990s. A review of historic photographs and aerials by the OSA concluded the Iowa River channel had moved to the north and the weir was either buried or destroyed. In 2018, a survey funded by a State Historical Society of Iowa Historical Resource Development Program grant was conducted by the OSA used soil probes and a laser transit to create a 3-D model of the former riverbed at the suspected location of the weir, now a grassy field. The resulting map shows the weir is buried intact under about 8 feet of silt and sand. Although no longer visible, the weir is protected by burial and could reemerge someday if the river changes course again.
About the presenter:
Bryan Kendall is a Project Archaeologist for the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist where he has worked since 2006 completing hundreds of archaeological surveys throughout Iowa. Kendall received a B. A. in Anthropology and Geology from the University of Northern Iowa in 2004 and an M. A. in Anthropology from the University of Iowa in 2007. His interests include geoarchaeology, landscape-scale archaeology, site formation processes, and soil interpretation.
About the event:
Brown Bags at the OSA is a semi-regular series where staff and guests share their research over the noon hour. Topics include individuals’ areas of interest, work in the field, developments in archaeology and architectural history throughout Iowa and the Midwest. Guest speakers whose expertise is in other areas pertaining to archaeology or ethnohistory may be invited throughout the year as well. For more information please go to http://archaeology.uiowa.edu, contact Maria Schroeder at the Office of the State Archaeologist; firstname.lastname@example.org; (319)384-0974.
These presentations are free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to engage in discussion and exchange following the presentation. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the Office of the State Archaeologist in advance at (319) 384-0732.