Twin Cities Metro Area on Minnesota Map
Institute for Minnesota Archaeology logo From Site to Story logo

Twin Cities Metro Area








The Spring Lake Area Sites         
Site Number(s):   21DK1, 2, 4, 5, 6 21WA1, 9  
County:   Dakota and Washington, MN  
City Township:    
Images (thumbnails)    (big)     (medium)     (small)       

Until the early 1930s Spring Lake, just south of Pine Bend and opposite Grey Cloud Island, was a marshy area fed by springs and separated from the Mississippi by a broad bar of wooded land. With the raising of the river level by the Hastings dam, Spring Lake was flooded and became a part of the Mississippi. The resulting erosion of the banks, combined in the early 1950s with a proposed industrial development at the upper end of the lake near Pine Bend, threatened to destroy a number of early Indian sites. Therefore between 1953 and 1958 the Science Museum of Minnesota conducted an extensive program of salvage archaeology in the area.

Spring Lake Area Map

Seven sites were excavated or tested, of which the principal ones (21DK1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 21WA1, 9) were on the southeast shore of Spring Lake and the eastern tip of Lower Grey Cloud Island. The results were recorded in a series of four reports.


Ancient occupation had long been suspected because of the large number of mound groups in the area, and mounds on Grey Cloud Island had been tested by University of Minnesota archaeologists in 1947. Investigation in the 1950s of nearby habitation sites revealed that permanent or seasonal settlements had existed there from Early Woodland to Mississippian times.

Sorg Woodland vessel
This crushed pot, found at the Sorg site (21DK1), was classified as "Sorg Banded Dentate". The grit-tempered material is relatively thick. The vessel is 18 inches high.



Spring Lake Area photo
The Sorg, Lee Mill and Bremer sites looking SE from Grey Cloud Island.

The greatest number of artifacts represented the Middle Woodland period (2600 -- 1100 years ago), with a diminishing number of Late Woodland and Mississippian or Oneota examples. The comparatively small amount of pottery showed similarities in style to that found in areas farther south and east. Carbon 14 dating, then in its early stages, suggested a date of 800 years ago plus or minus 200 years for a cobblestone hearth found at one of the upper levels on the Sorg site.


Later work on Grey Cloud Island, conducted in 1971 by the Minnesota Historical Society, revealed a very similar hearth near one of the mound groups (21WA9) and a pottery sherd similar to Oneota-type ceramics found across the river at Lee Mill Cave (21DK2). Some additional work was also done that year at the Schilling Site (21WA1), which had been investigated by the Science Museum team in 1956.



Sources Stories Credits Search Contents Links
Northern Headwaters Twin Cities Metro Area Red Wing Locality

From Site to Story web address
© 1999 The Institute for Minnesota Archaeology
Email us:
Updated 29 Jun 1999