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Montana AmeriCorps Aids Flood Recovery at Historic 'Ghost Town'

by Greg Tucker

A flash flood on July 17 swept through Bannack State Park, a ghost town near Dillon, MT, unearthing many historic artifacts that were scattered throughout the flood zone. Shortly thereafter, a 14-member team from Montana State Parks AmeriCorps sprang into action to locate, tag, and recover items from the site.

Montana State Parks AmeriCorps members locate and tag historic artifacts that were swept away during a flash flood at Bannick State Park. Bannack is a national historic landmark, the site of Montana’s first territorial capital, and preserves more than 60 historic buildings dating as far back as the 1860s. Approximately 80 percent of the buildings at the town site were affected by the flash flood.

“I was working in the park office that day, said Patrick Madden, an AmeriCorps member who serves at the park. “It started raining and shortly thereafter we had golf ball size hail and had water rushing down the street. After the rain subsided there was still three to four feet of fast-running water coming through town. There was debris and mud everywhere, boardwalks pulled up ... it was bad.”

When additional AmeriCorps members arrived, they worked with the park’s Heritage Program manager and a professional archaeologist to help sift through displaced artifacts as cleanup efforts began. 

“We had been planning to help out a Bannack for their annual special event, but instead were called to help them with the recovery after the flood and it was an experience beyond my expectations,” said AmeriCorps member Leslie Dinsmore, who serves at Pictograph Cave State Park.

Montana State Parks AmeriCorps members catalog some of the historic items recovered after the flood at Bannack State Park on July 17, 2013.“AmeriCorps members picked up all the artifacts we could find, GPS-ed their location and completed information tags for them and are getting them organized,” said Madden.

Even though the flood was an unfortunate incident for the park, the presence of an enthusiastic crew of helping hands surely made the recovery less stressful.

“It is a really unique opportunity and when the call came out for AmeriCorps to be a part of the flood recovery,” said Rebekah McDonald, who is serving with AmeriCorps at Lone Pine State Park. “I am not trained in archeology but I have a huge interest in history, and it has really been amazing to be able to come down here.”  

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