Paths to the Present: Bison in Windsor
April 4, 2017
The soil below Windsor undoubtedly holds many secrets to Windsor's early history.
The majority of these stories will never be unearthed by archaeologists, but one fascinating story was resurrected in the late 1990s which sheds some light on the presence of Native Americans in the Windsor area.
Bison roamed the Colorado Plains and were even found at elevations of more than 11,000 feet. They were drawn to the Windsor area by the steady stream of water and tall grasses found near the Poudre River. It is said that Windsor Lake began as a natural swale in the landscape used by bison as a mud wallow.
For hundreds of years native people traveled through the Windsor area seasonally to hunt game and gather abundant resources. On an autumn day approximately 2,780 years ago, a Native American tribe armed with sharp stone weapons and a herd of bison clashed at a site in Windsor that would later be known as the Kaplan-Hoover Bison Bonebed.
“It is said that Windsor Lake began as a natural swale in the landscape used by bison as a mud wallow.”
While excavating to begin construction for new homes, work crews uncovered animal bones. Upon further investigation it was discovered that this spot was the site of a massive and strategic bison kill site. Archaeologists from Colorado State University conducted an excavation between 1997 and 2001, and concluded that native people used the natural contours of the landscape to funnel over 200 bison to their deaths off a high bluff. Based on the cut marks on the bones, primarily meat from the ribs and back were taken from the animals. Teeth marks on the bones indicate that carnivores such as wolves, black bear, and coyotes scavenged what was left behind by humans. Charcoal samples from the site were radiocarbon dated to estimate the event took place 2,780 years ago.
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In 2003, the site received historic designation through the National Register of Historic Places.
— Caitlin Heusser is the Museum Curator for the Town of Windsor.