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Iowa’s Only National Monument
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Iowa’s Only National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa’s only national monument, encompasses 2,526 acres overlooking the Mississippi and is home to 206 prehistoric Native American Indian mounds—31 of them shaped in the likeness (effigy) of bears or birds. The visitor center there gives an overview of the mounds, which were built between 850 and 1,400 years ago.

With no written records and few surviving tribal stories and traditions, the mounds’ origin and meaning remain somewhat of a mystery. They were likely religious sites or clan symbols.

Some tribal stories hold that the bear is the guardian of the Earth and the bird the guardian of the sky. So perhaps the mounds were a means of connecting the people to the land and their spirit world and ancestors.

Among the exhibits was this quote from Chief Black Hawk from after the surrender in the Black Hawk War: “Iowa was such a beautiful country. I loved my villages, my cornfields, the home of my people, and that’s why I fought so hard for it. It’s yours now. Please keep it as we did. I have looked upon the Mississippi since I was a child. I love the Great River.”

With those thoughts still echoing in our minds, we went out to visit a couple of the effigy mounds. It had rained earlier, and there were raindrops still dripping from the trees. A hard-to-explain spiritual feeling washed over us…and those raindrops dripping from the leaves became like teardrops from the native people who once inhabited this sacred place. Perhaps in some mystical way, they were.

With a long drive ahead of us, it was time to head home. We didn’t come close to seeing everything Allamakee County has to offer and what was on our agenda, including a quick stop to the warehouse near Waterville for Kitchen Krafts.

If you are a foodie, a kitchen whiz, or just love to eat, Kitchen Krafts is a culinary hotspot.  You can order hard-to-find cooking tools, ingredients and supplies from Kitchen Krafts. While they don’t have a retail outlet, their warehouse is fully stocked, and they will sell you just what you need.

Lastly on our agenda was to learn more about cruises on the Mississippi River and canoeing opportunities on the back waters. During our next trip, we hope to rent a houseboat and live on the Mississippi for a few days or even up to a week!  


This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at

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  1. Travel Iowa
    Travel Iowa
    Thanks for the great post! Keep up the great writing!
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