Birds and bears, carefully placed oblongs and circles rise from the earth in silent testimony to… what?
Why did American Indians living along the upper Mississippi construct these monumental earth mounds? That is the enduring question that draws people to Effigy Mounds National Monument.
The mounds are as simple as they are spellbinding. Heaps of rich Iowa soil were piled and pressed into massive shapes more than a thousand years ago. What do they mean? What purpose did they serve?
More than 200 mounds can be found within the monument, including 31 shaped like animals. To protect the mounds, the monument is closed to cars, but 14 miles of trails take you past dozens of these mesmerizing formations.
Join a ranger for an informative guided tour, or set out on foot to discover this mystical place on your own. Be aware: Most of the trails are quite challenging, with steep rises and rugged terrain.
There are many activities for children, including ranger demonstrations of ancient Indian tools, a film about the effigy mound culture, and hands-on exhibits.
If You Go
A hike out to Fire Point, while strenuous, provides a breathtaking view of the Mississippi River.