Discovering Wisconsin’s History: Burial Mounds

Between 800 BC and 1200 AD, Native Americans built over fifteen thousand burial mounds in Wisconsin. That’s more than anywhere else on the continent. 

Native Americans built their enormous burial mounds with basketfuls of soil over many years – sometimes centuries. They are giant earth sculptures, some based on geometric shapes and others, called effigy mounds, modeled after birds, turtles, bears, and other creatures. Given the size of the mounds, these shapes are only apparent from above – which makes their construction so long ago even more remarkable. Wisconsin was at the center of effigy mound culture, and has some of the world’s finest examples. 

In total, about four thousand of Wisconsin’s burial mounds have survived, and you can visit many of them in State Parks, Natural Areas, and other Department of Natural Resources properties. Here are a few we recommend:

Cranberry Creek Mound Group State Natural Area, in Juneau County, is one of the best places in the world to see Native American burial mounds. Cranberry Creek has conical, linear, oval, and effigy mounds – including a 50-foot-long bird effigy with a 125-foot wingspan.

Nelson Dewey State Park, on the Mississippi in Grant County, was the home and farm of Wisconsin’s first governor. Long before that, it was the site of Native American villages and burial mounds. You can still see three kinds of mounds today: conical, linear, and “compound mounds” – unusual chains of conical and long mounds. A vehicle admission sticker is required for admission ($25 annually, $7 daily).

The stories of the peoples and creatures that lived in Wisconsin thousands of years ago can still be found on our land and in our museums. Check out more natural attractions and parks here, and discover Wisconsin’s museums here.

This entry was posted in Natural Attractions and Parks, Native Culture and tagged History / Heritage, Discovery, Exploring, State Parks, Native Culture