This post is part of a series on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, our 10-month, 15,000-mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
Standing atop the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, it’s easy to see why American Indians chose to make their home in this breathtaking place. Imagining what their lives must have been like is both inspiring and daunting. Evidence shows that these people were a hunter-gatherer culture, surviving on what the river and the surrounding land would provide. They fished and collected wild rice, acorns, fruits, and berries from their summer camps high on the rock escarpments, and hunted deer and elk in the nearby river valleys where they spent the winter.
It may sound like a difficult existence, but the people here thrived. So much so that, around 2,500 years ago, they began building mounds. Earthen mounds were built by Native Americans at different times and for different reasons across the Americas, but mostly they appear in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys. The ancient people living here in Iowa built conical mounds, round domes of earth 2 to 8 feet high and 10 to 20 feet across, to bury their dead.
Think about that for a minute … using stone and bone tools, carrying fill material in woven baskets, they took time from tasks that helped ensure their survival to build mounds for their dead. That speaks volumes about the importance of these formations in their culture.
Around 1,400 years ago, the people specifically in this area began to build more elaborate mounds. Long, narrow “linear” mounds, “compound” mounds, which are conical mounds connected by linear mounds, and “effigy” mounds, which resemble animals. These new types of mounds are much more rare – existing only from the western bank of the Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota and the Wisconsin/Illinois border, across the state of Wisconsin to the western shore of Lake Michigan.
The mound building continued for about 550 years, and then archeological evidence suggests that a major cultural transition occurred. The people began living in larger, permanent villages, and spent more time on agriculture than hunting and gathering.
The Native Americans’ way of life continued for another 500 years or so, and then in the late 1600s European explorers reached this area. The fur trade among the Indians, French, British, and later American flourished into the mid-1800s. American settlers began to arrive in the 1840s, and then much of the land was logged, plowed, and turned into farmland.
Surveys of northern Iowa in the 1800s and early 1900s recorded more than 10,000 mounds of all kinds, but within 100 years fewer than 1,000 had survived. Effigy Mounds National Monument was founded as part of the protection effort, and holds 206 prehistoric mounds, 31 in the shape of animals.
Located three miles north of Marquette, Iowa, Effigy Mounds National Monument covers 2,500 acres along the western bank of the Mississippi River. Split into the northern and southern units by the Yellow River, both sections have miles of trails to explore and a variety of mounds to view.
There is a deep peacefulness and sense of timelessness here – not surprising since this sacred land has been blessed by generations of Native Americans. Visiting this place, where the ancient have rested for centuries, invites an intriguing reflection on the concerns and priorities of modern culture.
Pets at Effigy Mounds National Monument
Pets are welcome to enjoy the park grounds and trails with you, as long as they are on leash and cleaned up after. Please be respectful of the mounds – neither you nor your pets should walk on them.
Pet Rules at Effigy Mounds National Monument
- Pets must be leashed
- Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
- Pets are not allowed inside park buildings, including the visitor center
The park also offers ranger-led tours, primarily during the summer months. Well-behaved pets that won’t disrupt the presentation are welcome to join you for the tour. Thankfully the ranger didn’t take Ty’s snoring as a commentary on the discussion and we were able to tag along. We learned a lot, and if you have the opportunity to take part, we highly recommend it!
The trails are covered with wood chips and were easy to navigate, even with Ty’s stroller. We hiked north from the Visitor Center, which required a pretty steep climb to get to the top of the bluff, but after that the elevation changes were minor, the trail was shady, and the views made it well worth the effort!
Following the trail north about a mile brought us to Great Bear Mound, the largest remaining effigy in Iowa at 137 feet long and 70 feet wide.
Our only regret is that we weren’t able to explore the entire park, but it would be hard to accomplish in a day. And now we’re looking forward to our next visit!
Visiting these attractions with Ty and Buster is a dream come true. We’ll be blogging about each one as we go along, so fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors: Winnebago, 2 Hounds Design, Alcott, goDog®, PetGuide.com, Red Roof Inns, Sleepypod, The Bark, PetHub, RVPetSafety.com, and The Honest Kitchen. Please be sure to visit their websites and social media pages and thank them for their participation!