Tag Archives: mounds

Ocmulgee National Monument

Overview

Beginning around 1,100 years ago, the Mississippian Culture became the third and final group of mound builders in the eastern U.S.  In contrast to earlier inhabitants at Poverty Point and Effigy Mounds, they were the first to rely heavily on agriculture.  Located in Macon, Georgia, Ocmulgee National Monument is one of many examples of temple mounds from this time period.

Highlights

Indian mounds, museum, film, Opelofa Nature Trail

Must-Do Activity

Artifacts dating back to 8000 BCE can be found in the National Park Service museum.  On your walk to the mounds, stop in the reconstructed 42-foot wide earthlodge.  It was an important meeting place for religious leaders (similar to a great kiva) and offers a glimpse into the Mississippian Culture.  There is also evidence of an English trading post from 1690 and trenches from the Civil War.

Best Trail

Walk from the visitor center, under the railroad tracks, and up the stairs to access the top of the 55-foot tall Great Temple Mound.  Then watch for wildlife along the Opelofa Nature Trail in the Walnut Creek wetlands.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Mississippian Culture had a complex social hierarchy, with a royal Great Sun who lived atop this flat-topped temple mound and traveled on a canopied litter carried by servants.  When a Great Sun died his people made human sacrifices so he would not enter the afterlife alone. 

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ocmu/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Indian Springs and High Falls State Parks are both about 35 miles from the monument.

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Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

Overview

The Hopewell Culture was found in southern Ohio from approximately 2,200 to 1,500 years before present.  Sites are identified by their construction of geometric enclosures made of earth, primarily for burials.  Many earth mounds were plowed under for farms or destroyed during construction of an army base in Chillicothe during the 1910s, which increased awareness of these archaeological treasures.  In 1923, it was protected as Mound City Group National Monument and in 1992 expanded to become Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

Highlights

Indian mounds, museum, film from 2016

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in Chillicothe is small but has had recent updates, including the excellent film and displays of beautifully intricate artwork in the museum.  From there you can walk to the Mound City Group on the Scioto River.  Most of these 23 mounds are less than four feet tall, but the largest mound in the area was 33 feet high. 

Best Trail

At separate portions of the National Historical Park, Tri-County Triangle bike path passes near the Hopewell Mound Group and the Ohio Historical Society maintains Seip Earthworks, 17 miles west of Chillicothe on Highway 50.  Two other protected earthworks are closed to the public.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Hopewell Culture must have had an extensive trading network to obtain the shells, copper, obsidian, and sharks’ teeth which have been excavated from their burial mounds and displayed artfully in the NPS museum.

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/hocu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved or good gravel

Camping

There are private campgrounds in Chillicothe and state parks within 30 miles, including the scenic Hocking Hills.

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Poverty Point National Monument

Overview

Mound builders historically settled near major rivers, especially the Ohio and Mississippi, because the floodplains provided fertile soil for farming.  However, Poverty Point was settled 3,700 years ago by hunter-gatherers so efficient they did not need agriculture to provide leisure time.  They built a city with a population estimated at 1,500 along Bayou Macon in northeast Louisiana. 

Highlights

72-foot tall Mound A, film, tram tour

Must-Do Activity

A guided tram ride with a State Park ranger is included in your admission fee, which in addition to the film shown in the State Park visitor center is the best way to learn about this site.  The tram tour does not stop to allow visitors to climb Mound A, so you will have to return in your own vehicle.

Best Trail

A stairway leads to the top of Mound A, the most impressive mound at 72-feet tall in the shape of a bird with a 70-foot wide base.  It required approximately 15-million basketloads of soil to complete.  They had no wheelbarrows or domesticated animals for assistance, so each basket was carried by hand to form the largest manmade structure in North America at the time.  No wonder this site was chosen in 2014 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The inhabitants constructed other mounds and built their houses atop concentric rings in a semi-circle D-shape facing towards Bayou Macon.  This pattern is best seen from atop Mound A.

Peak Season

The tram tour operates March through October.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/popo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$4 per adult or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are private campgrounds nearby or 40 miles away is Chemin-A-Haut State Park.

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