Effigy Mounds National Monument

Marching Bear group (coutesy of National Park Service)

Marching Bear group (coutesy of National Park Service)

A few miles north of Marquette there is a series of remarkable burial mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument (151 State Highway 76; 563.873.3491). Dozens of animal-shaped mounds were built by Native Americans between 850 and 1,400 years ago that are fully recognizable only from several feet above them. The most common design is a bear, but you will also see birds, turtles, bison, and lizards. Start at the Visitor’s Center for an overview of the history of the mounds and their construction. The mounds in the Marching Bear Group in the South Unit are especially impressive; getting to them requires a moderately strenuous four-mile round-trip hike. In the North Unit, the longest hiking route is seven miles and includes several good overlooks of the Mississippi River. You can easily spend half a day at Effigy Mounds. I hiked nearly all of the South Unit trails in about two hours. You won’t find any drinking fountains along the trails, so bring water if you plan on being out for more than a short hike. And don’t forget the bug spray. Effigy Mounds hosts several festivals and special events throughout the year such as the Native American Cultural Festival held every two or three years.

View toward Hanging Rock

Effigy Mounds National Monument has a third unit that I’m a big fan of, but it is a bit of a drive from the North and South Units. The Sny Magill Unit has 100+ mounds that are mostly conical and linear designs, but the quiet location along a backwater slough gives the place a palpable spirituality. It is worth an extra stop to walk around this place for an hour or so. Just be aware that the road floods easily so the site may closed in spring. The Sny Magill Unit is about 11 miles south of the park office along County Highway X52 and 4 miles south of Pikes Peak State Park. The road to the site does not seem to have a name, but it is the gravel road on the north side of the bridge over Sny Magill Creek and just before Keystone Road.

Effigy Mounds National Monument is included in these products: 


Heading upriver? Check out Waukon Junction.

Heading downriver? Check out Marquette.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009

By | 2016-10-21T15:29:23+00:00 October 4th, 2009|Iowa|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dean Klinkenberg, the Mississippi Valley Traveler, is on a mission to explore the rich history, diverse cultures, and varied ecosystems of the Mississippi River Valley, from the Headwaters in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. He is the author of Rock Island Lines, a mystery, and several guidebooks for the Mississippi Valley.

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