The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Cultural Resources Management Archaeology: M.S.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Kelly Branam Macauley

Second Advisor

Mark Muñiz

Third Advisor

Judson Finley

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey Torguson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Bad Pass Trail, cairn marked route, least cost path, path of least resistance, Bighorn Canyon, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Bighorn Canyon corridor


The Bad Pass Trail is a 10,000-year-old prehistoric cairn-marked trail system, located within the naturally occurring Bighorn Canyon corridor. Its braided path marks a passable route across rugged terrain, connecting the Bighorn Basin of northcentral Wyoming and the Yellowstone River Basin of southcentral Montana. Until recently a comprehensive synthesis of locational data of all associated cairns was not available for application in spatial analyses. Using this most recent data I will test my hypothesis that the culturally created cairns of the Bad Pass Trail’s route follow a path of least resistance through the Bighorn Canyon corridor as determined by terrain slope.

Measurements of near distance between cairn locations and computer-generated paths of least resistance comprise my dataset values. The application of critical values and numeric thresholds identify statistically significant occurrences. Cairns located within numeric thresholds likely share terrain slope as a primary influencing factor. My results demonstrate that terrain slope likely serves as primary influence upon cairn locations within the Bighorn Canyon corridor.

With an additional application of predictive intervals, I provide measurements which may one day aid in determining areas of increased likelihood for containing similar cairn features as measured from paths of least resistance. However, it is imperative to acknowledge caveats of examining prehistoric activities by quantitative testing alone. The ability to fully encapsulate complete understandings of complex stimuli acting upon prehistoric people through these tests is limited. Therefore, measurements and assumptions produced from quantitative tests are best used as tools for the development of future inquiries.



I am indebted to the many people who have offered their guidance throughout this thesis process. First, I would like to recognize my thesis committee members for their patience and their knowledgeable feedback: Dr. Kelly Branam Macauley, Dr. Mark Muñiz, Dr. Judson Byrd Finley, and Dr. Jeffrey Torguson. My gratitude extends to Dr. Molly Boeka Cannon and the Spatial Data Collection, Analysis, and Visualization Lab at Utah State University for offering such hospitality to visiting students.

An immense thank you to Kelly Branam Macauley and Chris C. Finley for inviting me to participate in this research opportunity. I am thankful for the open doors and endless humor offered to myself and my team by Chris and Grandma Inez. My appreciation does not fall short of my 2014 field crew, and I am honored to have been a member of our team. I would like to recognize as well the friends and family who provided encouragement in times when my own levels seemed waning. And a most sincere thank you to Rosemary Ginger for providing me with a family in an otherwise unfamiliar place.

I am grateful to the Rocky Mountains Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, St. Cloud State University, and Northwest College, for providing students with the opportunities to participate in the research and management of our archaeological and cultural resources.



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