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Geophysical and archaeological surveys were conducted in a segment of Lake Bluff Park immediately west of Lake Boulevard in St. Joseph, Michigan during Fall 2005. The surveys were conducted because background research had indicated the potential for archaeological remains in the project area, particularly the construction of Fort Miami in the vicinity in 1679 and encounters with human burials along the bluff edge in the nineteenth century. The City of St. Joseph requested the survey to avoid disturbing potentially significant subsurface remains during excavations to replace utility lines beneath Lake Boulevard.

Sixteen geophysical blocks were surveyed, comprising approximately 35% of the project area. Magnetometry and ground penetrating radar detected a range of subsurface anomalies including utility lines, near surface ferrous objects, and geological disconformities. A total of 52 shovel test pits, six 1-x-1 m excavation units, and one 1-x-1.5 m trench were located to ground truth many of these anomalies and to ensure even coverage over the project area. Archaeological excavations revealed that the project area has been landscaped and considerable fill has been brought in over the past century. In addition to artifacts associated with these secondary deposits, evidence related to the activities that took place in the park since it was established in the 1830s is preserved in the form of brick foundations of former buildings and accidental loss and discard of materials that reflect the park’s passive recreational use.

Evidence of activities or artifacts that predate the park is limited. A few flakes and some fire-cracked rock may relate to ancient (i.e., pre-Contact) Native American occupation and two artifacts—a clay pipe bowl and a hand-blown bottle—are similar in form to objects that were produced and used in the late 18th –early 19th century. No objects that date to the period of Fort Miami were identified.

Despite the extent of modern disturbance and the limited material evidence of pre-1830s activities, the project area has yielded artifacts and features that can inform about land use practices over the past 170 years. Further subsurface testing is needed to evaluate the artifacts and features that were encountered and to rule out the presence of human burials or artifacts associated with Fort Miami, particularly if the fort was located nearby, as sources seem to suggest.