Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ocmulgee National Monument

Ocmulgee National Monument has one of the niftiest Visitor Centers I've seen in a long time. The 1930s architecture grabbed my attention so thoroughly I almost forgot about the rest of the park -- I recommend clicking on the photo above to get a closer look at that decorative frieze. The park itself is a little over 700 acres right on the edge of Macon, Georgia, and was created to preserve the archeological resources at the site. The park museum has an impressive collection of artifacts and interesting interpretive displays. The site was a major Native American settlement prior to the arrival of Europeans; several sizable mounds remain, including a large temple mound.  
 The Monument was created by executive order in 1936. Much of the work at the park was done using WPA funding, including reconstructing an earth covered structure. The earth lodge is interesting, and I've no doubt the interpretive material is reasonably accurate, but there was something a bit bizarre about walking around to the back of it and seeing the grates for the ventilating system.
Of course, the ventilation grates in the earth lodge weren't the only unintentionally amusing sights at the park.  After we climbed to the top of the temple mound, up the stairs pictured here,
having negotiated quite a few sets of stairs, we step off the landing at the top, walk out a few feet to admire the view of Macon and I-16, look back, and see this:
It's ramped. After climbing a zillion steps, it turns out the step down on to the mound itself is ramped. Bizarre. 

I have no idea how the park maintenance guys get the lawn mowers up there to cut the grass, but they obviously do -- the sides of the mound aren't manicured, but the top is like a lawn.
The park has a number of trails that meander around in the woods, so a person can spend a pleasant hour or two ambling (or jogging, if so inclined). There's also a park road that winds around from the Visitor Center to the temple mound for visitors who want to see the major mounds but aren't up to walking quite that far.

Update: The other side of the earth-lodge. The passageway isn't particularly easy for anyone much above 4 feet tall, but the interior room (once you get there) is surprisingly large.


  1. That is fascinating. Have you read 1491? Pre Columbian Americas. Very interesting and certainly makes one think about what was destroyed by the coming of the Europeans, though I think smallpox did much of the work for them.

  2. I have read 1491. It's a fascinating book.

  3. Another wonderful park - so many of them in your orbit. Do the grates mean visitors can go inside the mound?

  4. Susan, it is possible to go into the mound. It's a reconstructed earthhouse, so there is an entrance on the other side. The archeological speculation is that the space was used for ceremonial purposes. It is built on a site where they found evidence of a similar structure.

    Most people live close to great parks (national, state, and local) and don't realize it.

  5. maybe they built the ramps for the lawn mowers?


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