Despite the prediction from our furry friend in Pennsylvania, every indication points to a warm, early spring in the state of Indiana. While our recent winter was mild for sure, there’s nothing better than being outdoors when the weather turns warm for good! I took advantage of this recently with a quick trip to Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana – one of twenty-five state parks operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Mounds State Park features six hiking trails ranging from easy to rugged; fishing; a swimming pool; campgrounds; picnic shelters; and a Nature Center w/viewing rooms.
However, the site’s Native American earthworks are by far, the most fascinating features of the park. The earthworks include three spectacular ceremonial mounds – the Great Mound, Fiddleback Mound, and the Circle Mound along with several circular and rectangular enclosures.
Evidence suggests that Native Americans inhabited the area for many thousands of years, but the earthworks were probably built over a 300 year period beginning in 250 BC, with final work being completed around 50 AD. This makes them older than the Roman Colosseum!
Archaeologists generally date the period of initial construction to the Early Woodland Period – a time when the Adena culture flourished in the Ohio River watershed area, particularly around the Scioto River in southern Ohio. In time, the Adena were replaced with the Ohio Hopewell, existing approximately in the same area south of Columbus.
In east-central Indiana, an affiliated group known as “New Castle Phase” constructed earthworks in the watershed area of the West Fork of the White River. Earthworks are found all over east-central in New Castle, Winchester, Yorktown, and of course, Anderson.
Amazingly, some scholars say the earthworks align to certain astronomical events! The Great Mound, for instance, might align with the sun at the summer and winter solstices. The gateways on the surrounding enclosure align with the sun at the spring and fall equinox!
Along with the earthworks, Mounds State Park has also preserved the legacy of the Bronnenberg Family. The Bronnenbergs were early settlers in Madison County and farmed the land that is now the park. Frederick Bronnenberg was fascinated by the Native American earthworks and kept them protected, which is why they are still in existence today!
By the 1890s, in the height of the Indiana Gas Boom, Frederick’s grandson Samuel placed a stop on the farm for the Union Traction Interurban system. Union Traction developed a 40-acre amusement park on the farm which lasted from 1897 until 1929. It contained several rides, a roller coaster, a kiddie train, and skating rink.
The Great Depression pretty much killed the amusement park and the land was donated to the state of Indiana for inclusion in the state park system.
Today, the park operates without the amusement rides, which in the humble view of this author, is a much preferred arrangement! Whether you are interested in archaeology, nature, hiking, a quiet walk along the White River, fishing, camping, or picnicking – Mounds State Park is the place for you this spring and summer!
Entrance Fee (for Hoosiers): $7
Entrance Fee (for non-Hoosiers): $9
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