Glimpse: Effigy Mounds
As you climb the hill behind the Effigy Mounds visitor center near Harpers Ferry, Iowa, you are enveloped in green, hickory and maple trees, bushes, grasses, punctuated with spots of sunlight and pink, purple, white and red wildflowers. When the Woodland people were building mounds 850 to 1,400 years ago, they would regularly burn the slopes by the river, presumably to maintain open meadows and attract large game. In a more open area, you could easily see the beautiful banks of the Mississippi River, and the mounds would be more visible. Today, they are shaded and somewhat obscured by thousands of trees. Still, you can make out the shapes, although they would be more easily seen from the air, an odd fact for builders who had no way to fly. The Native American Woodland people created these mounds, many of them for burials, piling topsoil usually four feet high, some up to 212 feet long. There are birds, turtles, bison, deer, lynx, lizards and bears, lots of bears. Bears are most prevalent here, some marching in a line downriver. Simpler dome shapes sometimes were connected with linear mounds. No one knows the true meaning of the mounds, or why the building stopped. But as you walk past the massive earthworks, you marvel at the collective effort and artistic aesthetic required.