Mounds are an interesting feature of history here in America. These large piles of earth, that if we didn’t know any better, one might think were oddly placed natural hills. But in truth, once the trees and undergrowth are cleared away, they’re typically flat-topped earthen pyramids. Maybe not as impressive as their stone cousins in Egypt, but still an impressive bit of work. When you stand next to one you realize that it had to have taken a lot of lifting, moving, and layering by hand to have created. There weren’t any excavators, earth movers, or backhoes in the prehistoric era. Heck there weren’t even any shovels or wheelbarrows.
The first mounds I visited were actually in Ohio a couple years ago. While visiting my cousin Doug and his family. He took me to the Hopewell Mounds south of Columbus. Which I need to go back to and maybe write about. Those mounds however; were tiny compared to what I found waiting for me down in Georgia at the Ocmulgee Mounds. Which I decided to visit on my way south, because Doug had taken me to the ones up north.
One important thing to know when going to the mounds however. That I really wish I had known… Do not trust the directions from google maps on your phone. I was still on the interstate when the voice said, “You have arrived at your destination.” Which I obviously had not. Glancing at my phone’s screen I saw a magical line that followed no roads. From where I was, to the center of the park. Apparently, I forgot to tell google I’d yet to install back to the future style hoverwheels on my car.
Thankfully though. I took the next exit just a few miles down the road. Looked at the map myself. And made it to the park without to much of a hassle. There is probably a good parable hidden in there about self reliance. But any how. This park may not be for everyone. I can see where someone could look at it and think, “They’re big piles of dirt. Looks boring.” In which case you probably will be bored. But for me standing in such places ignites my imagination.
I enjoy exploring places where I know something historical took place. A fort, a colony, a town or perhaps a battlefield… And trying to see in my mind what the sight once looked like. Envisioning events and people that have long since passed into the mist of time. What did it the society that built them look? What was it like thousands of years later when the British and the Muscogee (Creek indians) were here trading? Were those interred in the mounds liked? Feared?
Of course I enjoy hiking around and taking photos too. Especially now that I’m post bilateral lung transplant and can do so much easier. Which if you’re thinking of visiting the Ocmulgee Mounds… It’s 99% walking and going up stairs or hills. So it’s going to be tough on folks with pulmonary fibrosis. There are plenty of trails walking around the mounds, rather than up them. With the majority being paved. But none are comfortably flat. And benches for resting are spaced pretty far apart.
If you are in a wheel chair, either motorized or being pushed, and don’t plan in getting out of it to climb the taller mounds… you should be just fine on the paths. A rollator should also have no issue going most places in the park. A lot of the grassy areas are trimmed pretty short. If you want to try a little off roading. Pre-transplant I would have wanted one with me at this park. Just so I could have had an easily at hand place to sit and catch my breath. A O2 cart should likewise have no issue walking the paths. Though carrying a tank in a bag on your shoulder will probably be tiring unless you park next to the mounds and don’t plan on going very far.
Pictures I saw of the inside of the visitors center. Make it look like it may be informative about the site and those who once inhabited it. Unfortunately for me, as with many things right now, it was closed due to that scary bug going around right now. As was the mound, which in non-pandemic times, we would be able to enter and marvel at. Which I wish I could have explored. It is neat climbing the mounds and looking around. But that’s only one part of the tale the mounds have to tell.
The mounds aren’t just big piles of dirt. I mean that’s obviously a big part of it, hence the name “mounds.” But some of them had large hollow spaces. Which of course would have required their creators to have figured out a little engineering. They didn’t have advanced calculus or geometry back then. So maybe they learned via observation through trial and error? I don’t know… But if you go, I hope you get to see inside. Take a look around. And maybe learn a little more about it than I was able to on my stop.
And while I am an advocate for pushing one’s self. I don’t want to encourage anyone to push them to the point of hurting themselves. I pushed myself to hard at a wedding once pre-transplant and gave myself a hell of a nose bleed. Sooooo… and this is a big make sure you’re sure. But if you feel up to climbing the steps to the top of the mounds. There are some really nice views up there. I can only imagine what it must have been like before multi story office building and skyscrapers to have stood there. Looking out over the river, the forests, and the farms down below. And there are benches half way up and at the top to rest on.
If you’re heading North or south through Georgie along I-75. Or heading east and west to/from the coast along I-16… Ocmulgee Mounds is really close and simple to get to. Just double check to make sure your GPS is taking you to the right place. I found it worth the the small detour. And even if you don’t feel you’ve got the oxygen to walk the paths or climb the mounds. It might be a nice place to schedule a meal and rest stop. Perhaps grab some food, park at the farthest lot back in the park, and enjoy the view it gives of the largest mound, while you take a break from traveling down the interstate.
Don’t let your fibrosis stop you from enjoying life. There is always something you can still do. If you can’t climb a hill… enjoy walking a trail. If you can’t walk very far… go for a car ride. Life doesn’t have to be over the top go go go. Some of the best moments in life are the slow easy going ones. I remember my oxygen tanks and my rollator. I know it can be a struggle. But if we are going to struggle regardless… we should struggle to live as enjoyable a life as possible.
Don’t quite, don’t give up. There are no guarantees, but there is always hope. So hang onto it and live.
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park 1207 Emery Hwy, Macon, GA 31217
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