Allamakee County is home to the Effigy Mounds; Iowa's only national monument. Within the borders of the 2,500 acre National Park are in total 210 effigy mounds, 31 of which are in the form of animals.
The culture of the Effigy Moundbuilders dates to the Late Woodland Period (1400 – 750 B.P.) which ran along the Upper Mississippi extending east to Lake Michigan and was a regional cultural phenomenon. The Effigy Moundbuilders constructed burial mounds of earth in the shapes of the wildlife that would have been a major part of their lives; bison, deer, bear, lynx, panther, birds and turtles. Rectangular, linear mounds were also built and it is believed that these were used for marking celestial events or ceremonial purposes such as the changing of the seasons or were perhaps used as territorial markers. The majority of the remaining 31 effigy mounds within the park are constructed to resemble bears or birds.
The park offers the visitor the unique chance to step back in time; to enjoy the same views as those Native American peoples of history. There are fantastic views across the expanse of the Upper Mississippi River Refuge from the overlooks of Twin Views, Fire Point and Hanging Rock.
The park's Visitor Centre offers a wealth of information including a site map. The visitor can learn all about the people who lived in the Mississippi Valley some 1400 years ago. There are ranger-guided hikes to be enjoyed through stunning scenery. Routes vary from two to seven miles and all the trails are well-maintained and hiker-friendly. The trailhead for the North Unit is conveniently located just outside the Visitor Centre. To the south of the Visitor Centre just off Highway 76 you will find the South Unit trailhead.
The National Monument lies within a designated Audubon Important Bird Area of remnant oak savanna, mixed deciduous forest and reconstructed prairie. The hikes are a perfect way to experience not only the wonderfully rich cultural history of the area but the amazing natural landscape of the Driftless Area.
Entry to the Monument is free of charge and the Visitor Centre is open every day, all year round. For full details of tours, history, special events and much, much more check out the website at http://www.nps.gov/efmo/index.htm, or telephone 563.873.3491.
Effigy Mounds National Monument is located at 151 Highway 76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.