The Wardell Buffalo Trap
 
The Wardell Buffalo Trap is located five miles northeast of Big Piney near the Green River.  Since the actual dig site had eroded significantly due to runoff cutting through the area following the exposure of the site, a need existed to present the trap in a museum setting so the historical and cultural background would be available to the public.  The BLM and the University of Wyoming with help from archaeologist Dave Vlcek provided expertise for this exhibit.  Barbara McKinley was the project director.  Dig results have been published in The Wardell Buffalo Trap, 1973, by Dr. George Frison.
 
 
Athabascans apparently used the site for communal bison hunting during their migration southward.  Excavation revealed three cultural layers, each showing repeated autumnal use.  Radiocarbon dating of AD 370, 720 and 960 establishes usage time periods.
 
 
 
The communal hunt involved driving, killing, butchering and processing the bison.  The whole process was probably done by about 125 people, with 20 to 25 adult males.  The corral served for killing and butchering.  The 436 side-notched projectile points found in the three layers indicate a trap, not a jump.
 
 
The corral, situated at the head of a box canyon, was supported by juniper posts.  Corral dimensions were about 30 feet by 50 feet, with high sides of logs, brush, and hides to discourage buffalo from escaping.  Sagebrush and greasewood "wings" extending 1/4 to 1/2 mile toward the river helped funnel buffalo into the trap.
 
 
The processing area could have covered 2 1/2 acres and was probably hidden from the drive line to the corral by the brush walls of the wings.  The people camped there for extended periods while drying enough meat for winter.
 
 
 
For cooking, bones with meat attached were placed in pits, probably in paunches or skins to be cooked for immediate consumption.  Hot rocks dropped in with the meat provided heat and flat sandstone slabs placed on top sealed the oven.  One cooking pit had never been opened, providing an opportunity for archaeological investigation.
 
 
Wardell Buffalo Trap A.D. 370 - A.D. 960 This 4' by 8' mural of the site was painted by artists Lynn Thomas, Charmian McLellan and  Ruth Rawhouser, assisted by Ann Anspach, Tib Sutherland, Mary Krause, and Betty Pfaff who collaborated to create an artist's conception of history.
 
Petroglyphs south of Big Piney