Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves three prehistoric sites in Allamakee County and Clayton County, Iowa in the midwestern United States.
The North Unit (67 mounds) and South Unit (29 mounds) are located where the counties meet along the Mississippi River. They are contiguous and easily accessible. The Sny Magill Unit (112 mounds) is approximately 11 miles (17 km) south of the other units, and offers no visitor facilities.
It forms the heart of a cluster of interrelated protected areas. It is adjacent to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge, the Yellow River State Forest, and a short distance to the south, Pikes Peak State Park. There are also a number of state-owned wildlife management areas, such as the one at Sny Magill Creek, where Clayton County also maintains a county park.
Prehistoric mounds are common from the plains of the Midwest to the Atlantic seaboard, but only in this general area was there a culture that regularly constructed mounds in the shape of mammals, birds, or reptiles. The monument contains 2,526 acres (10 km²) with 206 mounds of which 31 are effigies. The others are conical, linear and compound. Woodland period Indians built mounds from about 500 BC until the early European contact period. When the American prairies were plowed under by European settlers for agriculture, many mound sites were lost. Effigy Mounds National Monument is the largest known collection of mounds in the United States.
Examining the geography of the region reveals why human cultures have occupied this part of the country for so long. Historically, most of the Great Plains to the west of the Mississippi River was covered in grasslands, which are very prone to fires that keep trees from becoming established. Here in extreme northeastern Iowa, the Effigy Mounds area was a point of transition between the eastern hardwood forests and the central prairies. Native American and early settlers would have been able to draw on natural resources available in forests, wetlands, and prairies, making the site hospitable for humans for many centuries.
The visitor center, located at the park entrance, contains museum exhibits highlighting archaeological and natural specimens, an auditorium and book sales outlet. The park has 14 miles of hiking trails. No paved public automobile access roads exist in the park. Rangers give guided hikes and prehistoric tool demonstrations that are scheduled and advertised, mid-June through Labor Day weekend. Educational programs are presented on- and off-site by appointment.
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