Effigy Mounds National Monument

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Effigy Mounds National Monument
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Big Bear Mound at Effigy Mounds National Monument
Map showing the location of Effigy Mounds National Monument
Map showing the location of Effigy Mounds National Monument
Location Allamakee / Clayton Counties, Iowa, USA
Nearest city Marquette, Iowa and Dubuque, Iowa
Coordinates 43°5′19″N 91°11′8″W / 43.08861°N 91.18556°W / 43.08861; -91.18556Coordinates: 43°5′19″N 91°11′8″W / 43.08861°N 91.18556°W / 43.08861; -91.18556
Area 2,526 acres (1,022 ha)[1]
Created October 25, 1949 (1949-October-25)
Visitors 82,581 (in 2011)[2]
Governing body National Park Service
An entrance to Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves more than 200 prehistoric mounds built by Native Americans including numerous effigy mounds shaped like animals, including bears and birds. It is located in Allamakee County and Clayton County, Iowa in the midwestern United States.[3]


Woodland conical mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument, Sny Magill Unit, Clayton County, Iowa
Lidar-derived image of Marching Bears Mound Group, Effigy Mounds National Monument.

Prehistoric earthworks by mound builder cultures are common in the Midwest. However, mounds in the shape of mammals, birds, or reptiles, known as effigies, only exist in southern Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and small parts of Minnesota and Illinois. The one exception to this is the great serpent mound in south-eastern Ohio.

Effigy Mounds National Monument represents the western edge of the effigy region. 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 (18 km) south of the other units, and offers no visitor facilities. Other mounds are located on remote parts of the Monument property.[4] The monument contains 2,526 acres (10.22 km2) with 206 mounds of which 31 are effigies. The largest, Great Bear Mound, measures 42 meters from head to tail and rises over a meter above the original ground level.

In 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.

Effigy Mounds 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.

Public Access[edit]

View of the Mississippi River and western Wisconsin from Effigy Mounds National Monument in 2007

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.

Natural features in the monument include forests, tallgrass prairies, wetlands and rivers. There are no lodging or camping facilities in the park. Excellent camping is available at nearby Pikes Peak State Park and Yellow River State Forest in Iowa; there is also Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin. Various primitive campgrounds exist in the area as well. The national monument is quite close to the town of Marquette, Iowa, and is just across the Mississippi River from the city of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where ample motel and gambling-boat facilities exist.

Effigy Mounds was proclaimed a National Monument on October 25, 1949, largely because of the efforts of Charles R. Keyes, head of the Iowa Archaeological Survey, and Ellison Orr, chief field supervisor for the Iowa Archaeological Survey.[5]

Map of Effigy Mounds National Monument and the surrounding area

Driftless Area[edit]

The Effigy Mounds National Monument is also noted for being in the Driftless Area, an area of North America which escaped glaciation during the last ice age. The adjacent Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge takes its name from this region.

The Park Service writes that:

"Patchy remnants of Pre-Illinoian glacial drift more than 500,000 years old recently have been discovered in the area. Unlike the rest of Iowa, the Paleozoic Plateau was bypassed by the last of the Pleistocene glaciers (the Wisconsin), allowing the region's fast cutting streams to expose and carve out deep channels in the bedrock-dominated terrain. The area is characterized by thin loess soil cover, isolated patches of glacial drift, deeply entrenched river valleys, and karst (sinkholes, caves, and springs) topography."[6]


From 1999 until her voluntary transfer in 2010, Superintendent Phyllis Ewing presided over a construction boom throughout Effigy Mounds National Monument in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act and other statutes. Jim Nepstad, who was appointed superintendent at the monument in 2011, is working to right the Park Service's image with area residents and members of the site’s affiliated American Indian tribes.[7]

View full investigation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-13. 
  3. ^ "Effigy Mounds". National Park Service. 
  4. ^ National Park Service. "Effigy Mounds NM Historic Resource Study: Appendix A". Retrieved May 15, 2006. 
  5. ^ Iowa Archeology; http://www.nps.gov/archeology/sites/npsites/effigyMounds.htm
  6. ^ "Effigy Mounds Historic Resource Study", Chapter 3, Environment, National Park Service, Retrieved July 10, 2007
  7. ^ Love, Orlan (10 May 2014). "Effigy Mounds report to be released Monday". The Gazette. Gazette Communications, Iowa. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 

External links[edit]