I was doing some research in the process of gathering material to update my book “Survival Fish Harvesting,” which is currently available on Amazon and I found a reference to fish traps found on the Caney Fork of the Cumberland River in 1769. Actually they found a series of traps or fish dams and presumed that they had been placed there by the natives. This incident is described in the book “The Caney Fork of the Cumberland” uploaded on a website maintained by Daniel Hanston who graciously gave me permission to use the info and image from his site.
The Need for Multiple Traps
What is of particular interest to me is that the book describes how there were a series of traps, reinforcing the concept that it’s not enough to have one trap, one source of vegetables, one source of fruit, water, energy or whatever. A harvester has a range of planned sources of anything that is essential to them. Bestselling author Robert Allen wrote the book “Multiple Streams of Income” promoting the concept of not putting all of your income eggs in one basket. This is the same idea.
Early deeds that describe the land along the Caney Fork of the Cumberland describe at least nine different locations, typically in shallows, where the traps were constructed. They were of a unique design as well. Check the image below.
The gently angled slats in the center allowed the current to push fish up out of the water. The water current was strong enough to do that because the rock dikes diverted a higher level of flow towards the slats. Here is the description from the book:
“Loose rock dams were built out from each bank of the river to a wood structure supporting poles or slats at an angle of about 30 degrees, spaced about 2” apart. Even though the rock dams were not water tight, the level of the river was raised so that the velocity of the water through the slats was quite rapid. Small fish passed through but the large ones were caught on the slats and due to the water pressure could not get away. As Jim Baker of Campaign used to say, “It was just a matter of walking out to the trap and picking up a mess of fish for supper.”
As the book states, these traps “…were fragile and easily washed out. ” I don’t see the slats surviving spring runoff. O the other hand, it wouldn’t have been too hard to reproduce the center portion. The rock dikes weren’t going to move.