Saturday, June 8, 2013

Etowah Indian Mounds: Etowah River

The Etowah River at Etowah Indian Mounds
Rising in the mountains of North Georgia, the Etowah River was vital to the capital Muscogee village of Etowah. 164 miles long, it joins the Oostanaula at Rome, Georgia to form the Coosa, draining via the Alabama, Tensaw, and Mobile Rivers into the Gulf of Mexico at Mobile Bay.

The Etowah River's Fish Trap Dam. Click on photo for larger image.

One unique aspect of the Etowah River at Etowah Indian Mounds is the ancient fish dam that still survives in the river. Built of rocks in a V shape, the dam funneled fish into a trap set at the opening at the point of the V.

V-shaped ripples formed by the remains of the Etowah fish dam in the river.

Close-up of the fish dam


The fish dam ensured the Etowah residents a large, constant supply of fish right at their doorstep. Fish could be easily speared or caught in nets or baskets in the shallow artificial pool. One explorer recorded an account of Indians using a rope of twigs with six-foot tree boughs attached to drag the river for about a mile downstream to herd migrating fish into the dam. The Indians were reported to be able to catch about a thousand fish in half a day.

The following species of fish once lived in the Etowah River:
  • Southern brook lamprey
  • 14 varieties of minnow
  • 9 varieties of catfish
  • Southern studfish
  • Yellow perch
  • 2 varieties of freshwater drum
  • Redfin and chain pickerel
  • 6 varieties of suckers
  • Banded and mottled sculpin
  • 12 varieties of bass and sunfish
  • Blackbanded darter





Transportation on the river was by means of dug-out canoe.

Coals from the fire were placed on top of a large log to burn out a trench ...

... which was then dug out with hand tools.

River cane was harvested from the banks of the river for many uses.

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