The Grand Tour – Day 9 – Ocmulgee National Monument


Our last day in Georgia, we slept in and got ready to go at a leisurely pace. We didn’t have much in the way of a “must-do” itinerary, so we decided we would visit the Ocmulgee National Monument, which is a site that preserves another group of Indian Mounds. In addition, there is evidence of over 17,000 years of human habitation at the Ocmulgee site.   The Visitor’s Center there was started in the 1930s, in the Art Deco style, but due to World War II it wasn’t completed until 1952. Inside there is an exhibit featuring artifacts that have been found on the site and displays about the tribes who once inhabited the land.

We walked outside from the Visitor’s Center and first we came upon an Earth Lodge in a mound; it is at the site of the oldest Ceremonial Lodge in the Americas. The Earth Lodge was found in ruins  and reconstructed on the same site, using evidence they found from the ruins.  The floor is the original floor, constructed by the Ocmulgee people in 1015 A.D.  You enter through a tunnel the way the Native Americans did.  I had to stoop to go through the tunnel and they have even raised the height of the tunnel during the excavation and preservation of the lodge!  For reference, I’m 5’3″ tall, so these must have been some very short people!  Inside, the Earth Lodge would have seated about 50 people and there were seats molded into a platform for the leaders to sit.

Me In Front of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

Further on you come to 3 more mounds; 2 are ceremonial mounds and a third is a burial mound.  The walk isn’t that far, but you can drive to all 3 mounds if you aren’t inclined to walk.  The tallest ceremonial mound on the site is 55 feet tall.  Scans of the tallest mounds have revealed that this one had a spiraling staircase leading to the top.  The site is also unique because the mounds were built a bit further away from each other than other mound sites – scholars believe that this was to provide additional space for public space and residences around the mounds.

Two Ocmulgee Temple Mounds

Sadly, one of the ceremonial mounds was sheared in half in 1843 when the railroad came through.  Further damage was done in 1874 when the railroad cut was widened substantially, destroying a large portion of the funeral mound. The railroad line still runs through the site today, and when you are walking, you actually cross over the cut on a pedestrian bridge. It makes me wonder how many historical artifacts were carted off by railroad employees and construction workers of the day. I’m glad that there is a bit more awareness of the need for historic preservation today.

If mounds aren’t quite your speed, archaeologists have also found Clovis Points on the site, which date back about 13,500 years.  Clovis people used the points to hunt for game, and they have been found at sites all around North America.  It is pretty neat to think that this site has supported human life for so long.

Also on the site of Ocmulgee National Monument is a plantation house, which used to be the house for the Dunlap Plantation. The Civil War battle of Walnut Creek was fought near here, and the Confederates built an earthworks in the yard of the Dunlap house that remains today. We walked to see the earthworks, which are entirely unexciting, but you have to imagine what it was like 150 years ago. Given the heavy cannon firing during the battle of Walnut Creek, it is hard to believe there weren’t more casualties. The Confederates had 1 killed and 2 wounded, while the Union had 9 wounded.

If Case You Couldn’t Tell, This is a Civil War Earthworks

This was a lovely stop to explore a part of US history that I didn’t know much about, plus I got some more stamps for my National Park Passport!

After Ocmulgee, we made the drive back to Atlanta, and Jon found an independent record store he wanted to visit. He would have to tell you about his experience himself (he was like a kid in a candy store!), because I find it difficult to entertain myself in indie record stores. 99% of the music they carry is stuff I have never heard of. Let’s just say I like more “commercial” music. But Jon was happy, so it was a nice ending to a great trip!

We headed to the airport, got checked in, went through a terribly long, slow line at security, and finally got settled in for the long flight home. Although I had a fantastic time the whole trip (well, except for that one fight during the traffic jam…), I was ready to sleep in my own comfy bed.  Of course, after a couple days back at home, I was ready to travel again!  Now we just need to save up for the next trip!

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12 thoughts on “The Grand Tour – Day 9 – Ocmulgee National Monument

    • Thank you! We had a blast and I loved sharing! My mom has been reading them to my grandma (she’s 95 and can’t see well enough to read now) and she is enjoying them too. That makes me happy!

      • Oh I love that.
        I do not have as much time in my life to read all the books I would like to. With things being so busy and stressful I tend towards the easy to read fiction. So your blogs are a great way for me to get a bit of history (which I love and really miss reading about) and not feel overwhelmed with trying to finish a long book that I can only renew 3 times at the library before they start harassing me. but I digress. Thank you again and I just love that visual of your Grandma listening to the stories.

  1. WordPress needs a like button. I too, wish I had more time to read (and to travel but that goes without saying…). The work thing really interferes with my recreation! See you soon so we can increase our mileage!

  2. Wow, I need to go here next time I’m going through the southeast. I’ve not experienced a mound with a tunnel and I’d be very interested to learn about these types of regional variations of the Mississippian culture. Great post!

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