Effigy Mounds National Monument | PARK AT A GLANCE

Conical mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument

Conical mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument


Established in 1949, Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, protects a group of mounds built between 500 BC and 1200 AD by a people now referred to as the Effigy Moundbuilders. The park is noted for its mounds in the shapes of bears and birds—effigies. While people in North American built mounds of various types all over the continent, effigy mounds are exclusive to an area in the Midwest that extends from Dubuque, Iowa, north into southwest Minnesota, east across southern Wisconsin to Lake Michigan, and down to the Wisconsin-Illinois border.

Effigy Mounds National Monument is divided into a North and South unit, with the North Unit being the most popular (this is where the Visitor Center is located). In both units an out-and-back trail runs the length of the property, and there are side trails that branch off and lead to groups of mounds and overlooks of the Mississippi River. Most visitors do nothing more than hike the 1.7-mile Fire Point Loop Trail in the North Unit, but along this trail they can see compound, conical, and bear effigy mounds. Bird effigy mounds are only in the South Unit.

The mounds within the park were never that big to start with, and most have been so whittled down by erosion that they wouldn’t be recognized if they were not pointed out. To make visualization easier, the National Park Service allows the grass to grow tall on the mounds so that their shapes are more defined.

Bear effigy mound in Effigy Mounds National Monument

Bear effigy mound in Effigy Mounds National Monument


The grounds of Effigy Mounds National Monument are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. In the winter, the trails are available for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

The Visitor Center is open daily from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Times can always change, so be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the park.


There is no fee to visit Effigy Mounds National Monument.


Visitor Center
allow 30 to 60 minutes

Fire Point Loop Trail
allow 1.5 hours

If you plan to hike all trails in the park, allow one day for the North Unit and one day for the South Unit.

Back to the Top

With a few exceptions, use of any photograph on the National Park Planner website requires a paid Royalty Free Editorial Use License or Commercial Use License. See the Photo Usage page for details.
Last updated on May 28, 2024
Share this article