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Step Back in Time at Iowa's National Monument: Effigy Mounds
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Step Back in Time at Iowa's National Monument: Effigy Mounds

Within the borders of Allamakee County’s 2,500 acre National Park, you’ll find Iowa’s sole national monument; the Effigy Mounds. The park contains over 200 effigy mounds, around 30 of which depict various animals. But who built the effigy mounds and why?


The Effigy Moundbuilders’ culture goes right back to a time known as the Late Woodland Period, 1400 to 750 B.P. The culture ranged right along the Upper Mississippi right out east to Lake Michigan. The structures themselves are burial mounds made from earth and many are formed to represent the wildlife that would have been a big part of the builders’ lives and that they would have seen around them every day; panthers, birds, bears, deer, turtles, bison and lynx.

Other mounds were constructed in a rectangular, linear design and it’s believed that these were intended to mark celestial events or for were perhaps used for ceremonies to mark the changing seasons. Another theory is that they were in fact nothing more mysterious than territorial marker posts. Interestingly, most of the 31 effigy mounds that have survived the test of time and remain in the park take the form of birds or bears.

The Park

Visitors to the park can enjoy a wonderful step back in time. You can observe the stunning views out across the expanse of the Upper Mississippi Refuge just as the Native American people did all those years ago. The overlooks of Hanging Rock, Twin Views and Fire Point offer particularly wonderful views. Keep an eye out for wildlife too!

The park has a well maintained Visitor Centre which is open every day, all year round. They have lots of useful and historical information and there is also have a site map to help you find your way around. To make the most of the scenery, you can enjoy a ranger-guided hike along well-maintained, hiker-friendly trails ranging from two to seven miles. The North Unit trailhead is located conveniently just outside the Visitor Centre and the South Unit trailhead can be found south of the Visitor Centre, just off Highway 76.

This wonderful National Monument is situated in an area of mixed deciduous forest, oak savanna, and reconstructed prairie and is a designated Audubon Important Bird Area.

Even better, entry to the National Monument is free of charge!

For more information click here.

Image courtesy: NPS

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