Effigy Mounds National Monument is located near McGregor, Iowa, less than a mile from the mighty Mississippi River. The monument is a collection of mounds that were part of a culture that transcended individual tribes and is considered to be an archeological treasure providing insight into Native American culture. These mounds were not constructed for burial purposes, as many of the tribes continued to build circular mounds for burial. The Effigy Mounds Culture utilized hills in the shape of animals such as deer, bison, and turtle, among others. Archeologists believe that the mounds may have been created to honor seasonal events, to mark territory or for other purposes, but their actual purpose is still unknown.
Today the monument is connected through culture to almost two dozen native tribes in the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, just to name a few. The monument is open to the public year-round from dawn to dusk and can be viewed even when snow has fallen and covered the mounds. The monument has a visitor center that is open during regular business hours, but the hours may change according to the season.
While you're here, you can walk freely on the grounds or take part in some of the staff-led programs such as guided hikes, educational talks, and demonstrations; for example, one type of demonstration offered is of the atlatl, an ancient spear-throwing device. Children and teenagers can participate in the Junior Ranger Program by completing an activity booklet that focuses on the American Indian tribes that lived (and still live) here and the area's natural environment. Pets are welcome on a leash.
The monument is a good place to engage in nature and wildlife viewing. The landscape has numerous ponds and marshes where you can see a variety of amphibians; the leopard, pickerel, and green and western chorus frogs can be heard chirping in the spring. The monument's proximity to the Mississippi River makes it an ideal refuge for almost 300 bird species which nest or pass through the area. You can have a chance to view the red-shouldered hawk that nests on the nearby Yellow River floodplain. Great blue herons, great egrets, and double-crested cormorants live in the area's trees and can be quite noisy when feeding their young (making them even easier to spot).
While many of the mounds require you to hike trails that can be long and steep, there are several mounds located near the visitor center. There is also a boardwalk trail that follows the Yellow River and is ADA accessible. The boardwalk was constructed from recycled planks and is less than a mile long, making it a relaxing stroll through the adjacent wetlands while protecting them from human traffic at the same time.
Camping at Effigy Mounds National Monument
RV rentals in Allamakee County are how your Effigy Mounds National Monument camping vacation will begin; where they take you from there is up to you. There are no camping areas within the monument, but you will find numerous options for motorhome camping near the Effigy Mounds.
Scenic View Campground can provide you with comfortable accommodations for your Harpers Ferry camper rental. You can rent a campsite by the day or seasonally. The campsites are either primitive (no hookups), have water and electric hookups, or have full hookups (water, electric, and sewer). All campsites have a picnic table and fire ring, and you can purchase firewood and ice on site. You can also rent canoes, kayaks, and inner tubes for use on the nearby Yellow River.
Another place to camp near Harpers Ferry is Gateway Park Campground. This city-run campground features full hookups at every site, a dump station, and a picnic shelter with tables. The park is open year-round, but it may not be serviced during the winter. You don't need to worry about reservations; sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Just watch for the payment box when you arrive and take an envelope.
Exploring the Area
Once you've had your fill of exploring the Effigy Mounds National Monument, there are other historical and entertaining attractions to see while you're here. Take your RV rental across the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where you can visit a memorial statue of Emma Big Bear Holt, who lived near the monument and followed a traditional lifestyle, making her renowned to the local population. She was one of the last of her people, the Ho-Chunk or Winnebago, to do this.
Also across the river, you'll find the Villa Louis Historic Site, a local family mansion from the Victorian era, and several urban parks. To the west, you'll find gas stations and places to eat and shop in Postville. All of these will combine to make camping with an RV near Effigy Mounds National Monument complete.
Effigy Mounds National Monument, IA is the perfect spot to start your next road trip.
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