By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
History unearthed at Don Pedro
Study finds prehistoric tools, mining town around reservoir
Placeholder Image

Summers at Don Pedro generally consist of Fourth of July celebrations, wakeboarding, and camping. But what many fail to realize is that Don Pedro is more than a recreational attraction and federally-licensed water storage and a hydroelectric generating facility; it is an archaeological site containing traces of prehistoric lifestyle.

Part of the Don Pedro Project requires issuing an Initial Study Report by the Turlock Irrigation and Modesto Irrigation districts to be filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The ISR contains progress reports on more than 30 studies being implemented by the districts in order to issue new licenses.

TID Director of Water Resources and Regulatory Affairs Steve Boyd gave a study report at Tuesday's TID board of directors meeting that analyzed water and aquatic resources, terrestrial resources, recreational resources, and cultural significance.

“[Don Pedro] means a lot of things to me and the community. It is a source of irrigation water primarily, and it is a source of hydroelectric energy when we run that water through. It’s a source of water for the fishery and it has recreational use,” said Boyd. “But I was frankly amazed at the number of artifacts within the area.”

A summary of recorded searches includes previous cultural studies. From January through September of last year, Boyd, alongside two or three teams of archeologists scoured Don Pedro in an attempt to identify cultural significance.

“I was very surprise at the number. I’m not a trained archeologist in any fashion. So when you have someone that is trained in that, a professional, it was very fascinating,” said Boyd. “Everything was fairly well dispersed. Depending on the terrain, and how steep the river was prior to the dam, we found a lot.”

The team walked in transects about 60 feet apart in sections to cover as much ground as possible. Though the project was intensely laborious, Boyd was shocked that so much was discovered.

“There were arrowheads, spear points, and scraping tools. There were areas where they probably lived and ground their corn. We found a wide variety of things,” Boyd said.

Previous archaeological sites identified 146 known documentations within and outside the FERC Project Boundary, which includes prehistoric and protohistoric components.

The prehistoric components included flaked stone along with bedrock milling stations that presented itself as though a long-term occupational site. There were remains found throughout the reservoir of habitation structures and building scattered with tools.

Previously unrecorded historic period sites also featured roads, trails, mines, ditches and the Hetch Hetchy Railroad/Yosemite Short line railroad. There was an aqueduct, and the town site of Jacksonville along with other features.

Reviewing cultural resources is just one component of Boyd’s analysis. The ISR requires continuous progress reports on many studies, and relies on additional information to be found daily in order to implement plans and procedures in accordance to those studies.

The next Initial Study Plan Meeting will be held at 8 a.m.  Jan. 30 in MID’s Multipurpose Room in Modesto. At this meeting, Boyd will present a formal review of his studies. Public participation and comments are encouraged.

For more information about the Don Pedro Project, visit