Effigy Mounds National Monument

Center for the State of the Parks: Park Assessments

Published August 2009

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Northeastern Iowa is home to some significant cultural resources within Effigy Mounds National Monument. American Indians constructed the earthen mounds for which the monument is named sometime during the Woodland Period (1,000 B.C. to AD 1000) for burial and other ceremonial purposes that remain a mystery. Today, Effigy Mounds National Monument’s diverse cultural and natural resources draw more than 88,000 visitors each year to explore the mounds, other cultural resources, and interesting geologic features (e.g., caves, sinkholes, and caverns). The monument’s various microclimates and diverse habitats, which host many animal and plant species, combine to make Effigy Mounds a nature lover’s paradise.

According to an assessment by NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks, the cultural and natural resources protected within Effigy Mounds National Monument are in “fair” condition overall (cultural resources achieved a score of 80 out of 100; natural resources scored a 72 out of 100). The monument faces challenges protecting cultural resources: A lack of funds and staff limits research and preservation, results in missing or outdated planning and management documents, and adds to a growing maintenance backlog. Natural resource concerns include invasive non-native plants that have become entrenched within certain areas of the monument, fragmentation of the adjacent landscape that isolates the park from other natural areas, and the encroachment of woody species into the monument’s savannah and prairie ecosystems. Monument staff are doing all they can to protect Effigy Mounds’ natural and cultural treasures with the resources available, and they have accomplished some significant projects. For example, Effigy Mounds staff have restored 80 acres of native prairie and 15 acres of native oak savannah; performed three repatriation ceremonies with help from affiliated American Indian groups; and reintroduced native peregrine falcons back into the area.


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