Glimpse: Effigy Mounds

  • Detail from poster in visitor center showing bear mounds along a ridge.

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.



  1. Reply
    Nancy Warfield February 22, 2016

    years ago I traveled to Nazca, Peru and braved a ride in a bumpy helicopter to see the giant sand drawings. I had no idea something similar happened in North America. thanks for the post Judy and congratulations on one year on the road!

    • Reply
      Judy Nichols February 24, 2016

      Great to hear from you. Glad to see you liked the piece on the Effigy Mounds. It was amazing.
      Where are you traveling this year.

      • Reply
        Nancy Warfield February 26, 2016

        hi Judy!

        We are still working, alas! After the rally last year we came home, arduously fixed up our house and sold it, moved to a small mobile home to cut expenses and are hoping to get a Roadtrek in a year or two. It’s hard to tell how much money we will need to retire since neither of us has a pension. Your budget is super helpful for our planning!
        Next summer we hope to go to Colorado. A friend has a summer orchestra job there and has invited us many times to come visit. It’s west of the Rockies where neither of us have ever been. He promises great hiking there. How about you?

Leave a Reply to Nancy Warfield Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.