A hidden archaeological site is revealed after 32 years
During the spring of 2006 a massive thunderstorm dumped over 10 inches of rainfall in less than 8 hours on the Talking Rock Creek Basin. For the first time ever, the waters of the Lower Carters Lake Reservoir came very close to spilling over the dam. With the emergency gates wide open on the lower dam, there was still more water entering the reservoir than could be ejected. The dam held, but afterward there were massive amounts of dead trees and debris piled up against the dam and the flood gates.
On August 22, 2006, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drained down the lower reservoir to the lowest water level since the lake was filled in 1974. This was done to facilitate removal of all debris from around the flood gates. For the first time in 32 years the site of Kusa was visible.
This examiner spent the day photographing, canoeing and finally, walking the site of Kusa. It was both a thrilling and sad experience. To actually have one’s feet on such a famous place, but then see how the underwater currents are destroying grain by grain, produced very mixed emotions. The attached slide show contains images that the readers will probably never be able to see personally, even if they travel to Carters Lake. Normally, when the Corps drops the water level at the lower reservoir, the entire ancient town site is still covered with water.
Sadly, very few visitors to the lake even know that a great town was occupied almost all of the bed of the lower reservoir. There is absolutely no signage around the lake denoting this important cluster of archaeological sites. Tourists were puzzled when they saw a man taking photographs of amorphous bands of mud with a telephoto lens from the top of the lower dam. They probably assumed he was fishing from his canoe, when he went out to the bands of mud a thousand feet away. Undoubtedly, they thought he had gone bonkers when he beached the canoe and was taking pictures of the mud close up.
Despite all the damage done by erosion to the site over the past 425 years, one can still visualized the general form of the town. In particular, the oval plaza formed by mounds and earthworks is clearly visible. Occasionally bits of pottery or flint can be spotted in the lake bottom, but for the most part there are no hints that many houses once stood at that location. Silt has covered most of the town site, while underwater channels have eroded a few spots. However, the underwater channels did cut through the clay cap on which the most important buildings sat when de Soto stayed there. When the lake was at its lowest point, one can see the original dark soil sloping down to the old river channel. Above it is cap of red clay that steadily thickens as it approaches the old river bed. Directly adjacent to the old channel the clay rises to form an embankment or dyke. There were numerous carbonized post hole-like spots on the dyke, but it is not clear whether they were remnants of a palisade or just trees that grew after Kusa was abandoned.
There is very little visible from its thousands of years of human occupation, but Carters Lake is still a beautiful, enchanting place to visit. It is certainly worth the effort and fuel costs to see, if one is visiting northern Georgia.
Many a fisherman there has sworn the he or she heard Indian drums beating as the sun set over the Coosawattee Valley. Who knows? You might be fortunate enough to hear those drums, too. It is a sign of a blessing from the people that once ruled that land.