Tricks to digging below the water level?

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willong

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Plywood is a waste of time, effort and expensive material for your intended use in my opinion. Cheap rubber boots--get them half a size too large and wear with double socks (bulky wool for the outer pair) if it's really that cold--is a better investment. A mountain stream should not pose much difficulty or danger of getting "stuck ankle deep." Wait until you start probing muddy tidal sloughs for that worry!

PS: If you really have to lay down a mat to stand on, you'll find that laying down brush and branches cut on site, perhaps topped with some old carpet material, will provide surer footing than mud-coated lumber; but I would go the rubber boot route, or even hip waders.
 
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willong

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So, I found a turn of the century dump and I pulled out a straight sided coke where the wall of the dump drops a little below the level of the creek bed. In other words, I pulled it essentially out of the dirt underneath the water. The dump is right on the water and is even below the creek. Any tips on how to dig in these kinds of dumps? Most often the water just refills the hole with mud. It's also a shame, since the freezing and thawing likely caused a lot of these bottles to break. As for the part that is on dry land, I'm not sure if water seeping in and flooding the dig hole would be a problem. Anyone know? Thanks in advance!
Find the downstream limit of the dump and slowly work your way upstream with a potato rake. Let the flowing water carry the mud away behind you so that it doesn't obscure you view of the bottom. If there is insufficient current for that, you'll just have work blind.

I had a nice green capers bottle pop up to the surface once when I was scratching through the watery muck, almost knee-deep, at the bottom of a pit near the shore of Lake Washington. The large, old, Seattle dump had originally been deposited in marshland at the end of the nineteenth century, then capped over years with construction and excavation waste. Had to sink shafts a minimum of four feet, more typically six, before even hitting the old trash layer at that site. In the wetter holes, one could only tell they'd gotten all the way through the use layer to original lake bottom when there was no more crunchy feel to the digging tools' movement
 

MountainMan304

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Find the downstream limit of the dump and slowly work your way upstream with a potato rake. Let the flowing water carry the mud away behind you so that it doesn't obscure you view of the bottom. If there is insufficient current for that, you'll just have work blind.

I had a nice green capers bottle pop up to the surface once when I was scratching through the watery muck, almost knee-deep, at the bottom of a pit near the shore of Lake Washington. The large, old, Seattle dump had originally been deposited in marshland at the end of the nineteenth century, then capped over years with construction and excavation waste. Had to sink shafts a minimum of four feet, more typically six, before even hitting the old trash layer at that site. In the wetter holes, one could only tell they'd gotten all the way through the use layer to original lake bottom when there was no more crunchy feel to the digging tools' movement
Thank you for all the tips! I'm thinking ab getting some rubber boots or waders, just because you really do sink about up to your ankles at this dump and can't break free from the mud so it floods your boots. That was another concern of mine that you brought up--how deep the dump goes. It seems way too large to be a surface dump, but the 'clay layer' with slate and stones could easily just be the creek bed and its natural formation, if I'm not mistaken. I have no qualms with digging below the water line and dealing with the veritable quicksand if there's older stuff beneath.

The bottles in the clay and underneath the waterline tend to be intact, which I'm assuming is the insulation and cushioning of the clay, particularly whenever they burned the dump; but I'm not sure if these bottles being found in that clay layer is an indication that there might be more below. I found the best bottles around that layer--a straight sided Coke from Charleston and a Scott Bros Druggists med. Who knows--the only way to tell for certain is to put in the work and try to dig deeper!
 

MountainMan304

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BTW: I see why they say that tons of heart attacks occur during shoveling snow because of the vasoconstriction plus the exertion. Good God I thought I was about to die hiking up and down the mountain and shoveling wet, heavy soil while freezing. I'm a young guy but I'm prescribed ADHD meds which also constrict your blood vessels. Y'all be safe!
 

Huntindog

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What I've done in creek dumps is start at your lowest point of the dump down stream.
Hopefully there is enough drop to lower the water and dig a ditch to drain it.
Waders is the best to keep you dry and warm.
Always try to throw your spoils as far away as you can. Seems every time the dump runs under the spoils, and I have to re-dig them.
When you think you are on the bottom, dig a few test holes deeper just to be sure.
Good Luck... Sounds like fun
 

Bohdan

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So, I found a turn of the century dump and I pulled out a straight sided coke where the wall of the dump drops a little below the level of the creek bed. In other words, I pulled it essentially out of the dirt underneath the water. The dump is right on the water and is even below the creek. Any tips on how to dig in these kinds of dumps? Most often the water just refills the hole with mud. It's also a shame, since the freezing and thawing likely caused a lot of these bottles to break. As for the part that is on dry land, I'm not sure if water seeping in and flooding the dig hole would be a problem. Anyone know? Thanks in advance!
Simple -
You just have to pump it out faster than it comes in.
 

willong

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BTW: I see why they say that tons of heart attacks occur during shoveling snow because of the vasoconstriction plus the exertion. Good God I thought I was about to die hiking up and down the mountain and shoveling wet, heavy soil while freezing. I'm a young guy but I'm prescribed ADHD meds which also constrict your blood vessels. Y'all be safe!
Although I assumed you were young after seeing your mention of college, it is not necessarily a given. I mostly lucked out with health in my younger years and never thought twice about exerting myself when pursuing an interesting hobby. One sometimes forgets that others might have health issues that impact similar pursuits. You take care too.

If that stream bottom is mostly mud and clay without a lot of rocks embedded, you should be able to probe it with the type of probe privy diggers use and save yourself trying to dig exploration holes after you reach the apparent limit of the trash layer. Glass, and certainly intact bottles, do produce a pretty distinctive sound when tapped with a metal probe. Because I was searching for mostly shallowly-buried dumps in thick forests--the covering being produced by decades of fallen leaves and conifer needles, moss and other forest duff--I usually probed for dumps with a simple pitchfork. More often than not, it was the sound and feel of severely rusted cans as the tines crunched into them that clued me to a deposit. however, if you have isolated bottles bedded in mud or clay like a couple of those in Leon's photo, you will not have the benefit of crunchy cans to find deeper bottles. Because striking glass itself becomes more likely in that scenario, I would recommend using a privy probe with a rounded end to minimize the chances of chipping bottles with a probe strike.
 

MountainMan304

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Although I assumed you were young after seeing your mention of college, it is not necessarily a given. I mostly lucked out with health in my younger years and never thought twice about exerting myself when pursuing an interesting hobby. One sometimes forgets that others might have health issues that impact similar pursuits. You take care too.

If that stream bottom is mostly mud and clay without a lot of rocks embedded, you should be able to probe it with the type of probe privy diggers use and save yourself trying to dig exploration holes after you reach the apparent limit of the trash layer. Glass, and certainly intact bottles, do produce a pretty distinctive sound when tapped with a metal probe. Because I was searching for mostly shallowly-buried dumps in thick forests--the covering being produced by decades of fallen leaves and conifer needles, moss and other forest duff--I usually probed for dumps with a simple pitchfork. More often than not, it was the sound and feel of severely rusted cans as the tines crunched into them that clued me to a deposit. however, if you have isolated bottles bedded in mud or clay like a couple of those in Leon's photo, you will not have the benefit of crunchy cans to find deeper bottles. Because striking glass itself becomes more likely in that scenario, I would recommend using a privy probe with a rounded end to minimize the chances of chipping bottles with a probe strike.
Thanks for your response :) Yeah, I've had pretty good physical health all my years so far besides a risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides, so I do have to be somewhat careful since the medication is a vasoconstrictor. I'm thinking of bringing a camp heater out, though, to help out with the circulation issues and generally being able to stay out for longer!

There are quite a few rocks topping/mixed in the layer of clay. I've heard that might be an indication that there are deeper layers, but it is a pain to clear out the rocks. Since I'm heading back to school Sunday I'll likely have to buy a probe to pick up where I left off during the summer and just deal with the surface bottles for now. The four layers I'm recognizing so far is a layer of top soil and random forest debris (and frost for now), an ash layer a bit underneath that, a rust layer, then a wet clay layer where bottles (mostly broken) are scattered around. The clay layer is typically where I find the whole ones; I'm guessing they were spared from the heat of the burn, freezing of the soil, and other trash being thrown on top.

Question for everyone though: the dump continues on the other side of the creek as I discovered in my last trip there. I'm not sure what to make of this. Would y'all say that this implied the creek is younger than the dump and it simply carved out a path through it? Or that there was another house on that side? Or maybe they just tossed some over there as well?
 

willong

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Question for everyone though: the dump continues on the other side of the creek as I discovered in my last trip there. I'm not sure what to make of this. Would y'all say that this implied the creek is younger than the dump and it simply carved out a path through it? Or that there was another house on that side? Or maybe they just tossed some over there as well?
If there is an embankment of any significant size on the opposite side, and if the trash continues up that slope, then most likely people dumped into the ravine from both sides. Have you prowled around on the other side of the creek to check it out?

Stream courses usually develop over geological time spans. Unless your stream originates in an outflow of water from a mine portal that is newer than the dump, or similarly, from irrigation runoff or stream diversion that is younger than the trash deposit, I don't think it's reasonable to think that the stream is "new" just because it flows through a trash dump. There was a time when any low ground that could not be tilled was considered "waste" itself, and nearby residents would not hesitate to dispose of their trash in such a spot. Could a farm wagon have been backed into the stream in the past?
 

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If there is an embankment of any significant size on the opposite side, and if the trash continues up that slope, then most likely people dumped into the ravine from both sides. Have you prowled around on the other side of the creek to check it out?

Stream courses usually develop over geological time spans. Unless your stream originates in an outflow of water from a mine portal that is newer than the dump, or similarly, from irrigation runoff or stream diversion that is younger than the trash deposit, I don't think it's reasonable to think that the stream is "new" just because it flows through a trash dump. There was a time when any low ground that could not be tilled was considered "waste" itself, and nearby residents would not hesitate to dispose of their trash in such a spot. Could a farm wagon have been backed into the stream in the past?
Well, it's not in a ravine exactly. It's a flat area between two hills in such a way that they couldn't have just chucked them off the top. I'm thinking there was an old home or a road which led there, as the hills come together just past the dump so that there's no exit in that direction. I think I said earlier that the stream ends as you walk towards that direction (which is shown on today's maps). I just checked maps from 1909-1936 and that stream doesn't appear anywhere. Strangely enough, there's no marker of a home being there during either 1909 or 1936, so unless it only stood in the years between I'm at a loss (I figured that a family would stay in a home they built longer than that span of time, but I may be wrong). It runs downhill from the direction of that coming together of hills, so there's no stream to be diverted and it has always flowed so it probably isn't runoff. Doesn't smell like sewage or contain any other trash. I'll have to check whether there's a pipe and if it gives any hints. Definitely not a very traditional dump or like any I've dug before--it leaves me with a lot of questions!

Edit: It seems like the stream appears in in an 1899 map. Maybe it was just too small to be worth drawing on the later maps. Still no home sight on that 1899 map, however. I'll look for some between 1909 and 1936.
 

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