With February vacation on the horizon, why not explore some of the histories in our backyard. Well, in Harpers Ferry to be exact. February is a month to celebrate history - President's Day and Black History Month are welcoming us to linger and walk through the pages of our past - but in Iowa that can be taken literally. Exploring local antiquities reveals just how much ancient beauty the US has to offer. And...when it's just a short drive away, that's even better!
The Effigy Mounds (1400 to 750) are an understatement. These earthworks are the magnificent ceremonial "effigies" constructed of layers of dirt hilled up to represent various local animals like the sacred buffalo and bear. Over a dozen Native American tribes have ancestral links to the cultures that constructed the animal likenesses, modern Native Americans state that these animal representations were built to mark religious sites. Archeologists agree but add that the animal mound effigies may also have stood to highlight rich hunting grounds, land boundaries or to celebrate astral or seasonal events.
One aspect that everyone agrees on is that these heritage sites are truly awe inspiring.
Curiously, it was in 1949 that the Effigy Mounds National Monument was signed into posterity by Harry Truman (it is the month for President's Day). Luckily, all invasive research was halted in 1959 to preserve the beauty and integrity of the earthen artifacts, since "when a mound is excavated, its value as a scientific object of study is greatly reduced or destroyed "when a mound is excavated, its value as a scientific object of study is greatly reduced or destroyed." The environs of the park offer sweeping vistas and superb trails blossoming with wildlife and native flora.
Plan Your Visit
The Effigy Mounds National Monument is open year round with hiking paths open for exploration from dawn to sunset. The park has no entrance fee and February has some interesting events being held in the visitor's center. Plan your visit to coincide with a few of these extras.
Don't forget to return for the summer season. Ranger guided programs and tours enrich the visit and special events and tours for kids are worth a second (or third) trip.
Iowa has international caliber heritage sites - right at our back door!
Learn more: One of the last Winnebago women has direct ties to the Effigy Mounds. Emma Big Bear "chose to live and raise her daughter in northeast Iowa, surrounded by the things and people she loved. She has left an unforgettable mark upon the people and history of the local area."
Photo Courtesy: Flickr, "Wally Slowik, jr"