Campus: CSU Chico -- January 28, 2002

Chico to Explore Bidwell Ranch

The Archaeological Research Program, California State University, Chico under the direction of Greg white, has received a $27,000 grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to locate traces of historic Bidwell Ranch structures.

DPR intends to implement a new historic landscape plan including a revised interpretive program at Bidwell Mansion. In order to best capture an appropriate historic landscape, DPR needs to know the whereabouts of historical buildings long demolished. At the same time, the footprints of these buildings and associated historical resources (wells, privies, dumps, etc.) need to be protected.

The job of the Archaeological Research Program is to figure out where the archaeological traces are located on the grounds and in the vicinity, without digging. Professor Michael Magliari, Public History Program, will collaborate in the coordination of background research.

White, with assistance from undergraduate and graduate students from the anthropology and history departments, will oversee the background research of notes, sketches, photos, Government Land Office records, Sanborn Insurance Company maps and city plans.

The hope is that these records will provide a look at the evolution of the buildings and other features in 10-year increments from the initial purchase of the original Chico land grant through the turn of the century.

The Archaeological Research Program will use hi-tech specialists to create digitized pictures of the results of the record search. A specialist in Computer Assisted Design will create digital versions of each decade on its own layer. An expert in "remote sensing" technology will then use a state-of the-art high sensitivity cesium vapor magnetometer, or CVM (and possibly, ground penetrating radar) to "see into the soil." These machines are capable of detecting discrete local variation in composition and density of soils and their contents underground.

The remote sensing machines are effective only in characterizing the upper 10-15 feet of deposit. However, the features pertinent to the mansion grounds study should be within the range of the machines.

The remote sensing fieldwork will be tied into sampling grids, and the results will be converted into color-coded maps or three-dimensional "spike plots" which will show buildings as square to rectangular features.

These results can also be turned into digital layers. "We'll juxtapose the research results with the remote sensing results in an effort to tease out the traces of individual buildings and features. We'll then write a report, which will include our findings and recommendations for future historical resource management at the park," said White.

White said they hope to find traces of buildings, including Bidwell's original adobe and other work buildings and outbuildings that were part of the ranch complex.

"It's handy that the research resources and project location are all within walking distance. I'm excited about building the project into classroom activity," said White.

The research will begin this week, and field work may wait until soil moisture drops in mid-spring.

For more information, contact Greg White at 530-898-4360 or e-mail him at

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