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LCRA ends LUAS contract for operating Nightengale Archaeological Center

Nightengale Archaeological Center on Circle Drive in Kingsland

Many of the artifacts on display at the Nightengale Archaeological Center on Circle Drive in Kingsland have been moved now that the contract between the Lower Colorado River Authority, which owns the land and buildings, and the Llano Uplift Archaeological Society has dissolved. Many more are archived at the University of Texas at Austin. Staff photo

The Llano Uplift Archaeological Society no longer has a contract to operate at the Nightengale Archaeological Center in Kingsland and has removed all artifacts and equipment it personally owns from the property. Everything else has been left for the Lower Colorado River Authority, which owns the land and buildings. 

“The LCRA said they wanted to try something different with that piece of land,” said Chuck Hixon, archaeological project director for LUAS. “From our end, we are no longer there, but we are still going to stay as an organization.” 

LUAS now holds its meetings at the Marble Falls Public Library, 101 Main St. Meetings are at 12:30 p.m. once every two months on the second Saturday starting in January.

According to an LCRA spokesperson, the authority asked LUAS to secure a land use permit to formalize its years-long agreement. According to Hixon, LUAS has been on the site for 30 years. That time frame could not be confirmed with the LCRA, which sent comments by email to inquiries from DailyTrib.com.

“LUAS members have informed LCRA they do not plan to pursue a land use permit and the group has removed its items from the site,” the LCRA said in the email. “The LCRA plans to work toward opening the property for use as an education center for summer camp programming and field trips.” 

The center is not closed, the LCRA said, but no further details were available.

The site includes an air-conditioned building, restrooms, displays, and two open digs. It is located on Circle Drive between the Twin Oaks subdivision and the shoreline of Lake LBJ on the eastern side of Lookout Mountain in Kingsland. 

More than 100,000 artifacts have been excavated from the site, most of which are archived at the University of Texas at Austin

Although Hixon said LUAS was caught off guard when LCRA ended the contract, the group holds no hard feelings. 

“It was a lot of work for us,” he said. “We had been having to cut back over the years. We had to give tours, check on the place from time to time, and maintain the hiking trails, but we’re fine. That’s the way it goes.”

LUAS continues to meet and is looking for a new project after finishing a dig in San Saba. Anyone wanting to explore whether their own land is a historic archaeological site can contact LUAS to have members come out to investigate. 

“Best thing is to come to one of our meetings,” Hixon said when asked about how to contact the group. “Then, they can know more about what we are about. We are not about arrowhead hunting. This is for people interested in archaeology and history and its scientific aspects. We are not collectors. Please make that clear.” 

suzanne@thepicayune.com