Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia
Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures
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Built around 1000 – 1550 AD, the Etowah Mounds in north Georgia are the most intact Mississippian culture site in the southeast. This state historic site has preserved the six earthen mounds and surrounding area for preservation and historical interpretation. The park offers informative hiking trails that wind around the mounds and along the Etowah River.

Table of Contents

About

Native Americans once lived among these grounds where they established their village and used the nearby river for a food and water source. They even controlled trade on the Etowah River from this excellent location. It is estimated that the mounds had been occupied at three different time periods based on the artifacts uncovered. The Native Americans that lived at this site were of the Mississippian culture. On these grounds, several thousand people would have lived in the village at a time. The village was composed of a ceremonial complex, ritual mounds, and even burial mounds.

The mounds were long abandoned when in 1832, Col. Lewis Tumlin platted the land surrounding the them. He soon built his home and raised his family nearby; thus the earthen landmarks first being known as “Tumlin Mounds”. Tumlin went on to not only live in the area, he was also the county sheriff for the six years immediately following his arrival.

In 1864, the infamous William T. Sherman led his disastrous “March to the Sea”. In his path, Sherman was to burn everything in a 285-mile trek over the course of 37 days from north of Atlanta to Savannah. It was Sherman’s long-time friendship with Col. Tumlin that led to the mounds and his home not being damaged.

Over the years, the mounds drew the interest of various historians and artifact hunters. The Tumlin family allowed the Smithsonian Institute to conduct a small investigation on Mound C in 1887. The Tumlin’s considered themselves conservationists and did not want the mounds to be dug up or ruined, especially the burial mounds. They believed the mounds were important to the Native Americans and of historic significance so they should not be bothered.

In 1953, the remaining Tumlin family sold the 54-acre site to the State of Georgia. The state then built a visitors center and made the area into a state historical site to preserve it for future generations. In appreciation to the Tumlin’s, the state granted Lewis Henry Tumlin Jr. the job of being the first resident custodian of the park.

Since it’s founding as a state park, the mounds have grown in popularity. Numerous historians and archaeologists have visited the site in hopes to gain more knowledge on Native American culture. Visitors today can hike the grounds and learn all about the interesting history of Etowah Mounds.

Things to See

Visitor Center and Museum

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia
Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Violet Sky Adventures

The Visitor Center and Museum is a great place to start your visit at Etowah Mounds. Inside, you can speak with park rangers who can inform you about the site and answer any questions you may have. There are also some displays that reveal history and artifacts dating back to the Native American inhabitants that once called this river valley home.

Borrow Pits

Within the park there are two borrow pits dating back to the era of Native Americans. The first borrow pit is located near the museum. The second borrow pit is much larger with an overlook, that can be accessed from the nature trail. While they make just look like large holes in the ground, these borrow pits are actually where much of the dirt was gathered to build the large mounds within the complex.

Central Plaza

As you enter the main mound area, it will look like a large field with a few earthen uprisings. In front of Mound A, there is a Central Plaza that would have been a ceremonial center for the entire mound complex. Outside the mound area, there would have been numerous waddle and daub huts where the villagers would have lived. Similar to a downtown park or courtyard in a modern day city, the Central Plaza was a public gathering place.

Defensive Ditch

There is a 10-foot-deep defensive ditch that is a product of digging away dirt to build the earthen mounds. However, this ditch was also strategic in providing security and defense for the people of the village. To fortify this first line of defense, 12-foot-tall upright logs were placed along the ditch to help create a boundary. This allowed the village to be safe from attacks from conflicting tribes or even dangerous wildlife.

Fish Trap

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia
Fish Trap at Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Jflo23

The remains of an old fish trap can still be seen in the Etowah River when the water levels are low. The Native Americans would use the shallow areas of the river to catch fish using a V-shaped formation of rocks and a large woven basket.

Trails

Interpretive Trail is 3/8 mile long and is the fastest route from the museum to the mounds. The trail goes across the Central Plaza, between Mound A and Mound B before ending near the river.

Perimeter Trail is the longest trail within the park and is a 1 1/8 mile loop. The trail departs from just over the bridge from the museum and takes hikers on a journey around the park past the borrow pits, mounds and along the river.

River Walk Nature Trail loops 5/8 mile from the museum to the banks of the Etowah River. Embark on a journey through the beautifully landscaped park while learning about the history of some of the earliest settlers in what would become present day Georgia.

Mounds

There are six mounds within the complex. Each of the mounds are lettered ranging from Mound A to Mound F.

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia
Mound A at Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Kåre Thor Olsen

Mound A is the largest of them all and visitors can climb stairs to the top of the 63-foot plateau to view the entire complex, surrounding area and even the Etowah River. The chief would have lived and presided over the entire village and ceremonies from this lookout perch.

Mound B was a temple platform for the village and was also assumed to be the residence of a lesser ranking chief in the village. Some artifacts have been found in this mound along with a few burials.

Mound C became the burial mound for the village and housed 350 burials when excavated by professional archaeologists. The oldest of burials were at the center and more recent burials on the outside showing different practices and ceremonial burial rituals over the years. Those buried in the mounds were dressed in elaborate costumes and items they would need in the afterlife.

Mounds D, E and F are much smaller than the other three. It is assumed that these had various purposes over the course of the villages existence.

Plan Your Visit

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia
Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia | Photo Credit: Flickr – Stephen Rahn

Etowah Indians Mounds State Historic Site is located at 813 Indian Mound Road SE in Cartersville, Georgia.

For a complete map of the park and its trails, please click here.

The park is open seven days a week and is only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For current hours and admission rates, please click here.

If you enjoyed reading this post or have visited Etowah Mounds before, leave a comment below or share this post on your favorite social media!

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