Poverty Point National Monument | PARK AT A GLANCE

Mound A at Poverty Point National Monument

Mound A at Poverty Point National Monument

PARK OVERVIEW

Poverty Point National Monument (aka Poverty Point World Heritage Site) is located in Pioneer, Louisiana. The park preserves prehistoric earthen mounds and ridges built by Indians beginning around 1650 BC and continuing for several hundred years. The site was abandoned in 1100 BC. Nobody knows why. All of the earthworks were constructed from basketful after basketful of dirt dug from one area and piled high in another area. The Indians did not have draft animals, carts, or modern tools, so all work was done by hand. Poverty Point was the largest earthworks site in North America at the time. In 2014, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Poverty Point archaeological site consists of six mounds ranging from 4 to 72 feet tall and a series of six ridges laid out in a semicircular pattern. Due to the abundance of household artifacts and earth ovens found on the ridges, archaeologists believe the Indians built houses on them, possibly making Poverty Point an early Indian city. What is interesting about this theory is that the people of the time were hunter-gatherers who tended to move around, not settle in one area.

The ridges, which are essentially elevated platforms of dirt, range from 1 to 6 feet in height and are roughly 50 feet wide with 90 feet between them. However, due to erosion and subsequent modern settlement, most of the ridges are so worn down that they are not noticeable unless pointed out. To make them more distinct, in the open fields the grass is allowed to grow tall on the ridges and is cut short in between them. Ridges in the forested areas fare a little better, as the trees helped stem erosion and modern settlers never farmed the area.

Visitors to Poverty Point can first learn about the history of the archaeological site at the park’s Visitor Center. Inside is a small museum with hundreds of artifacts such as spear points, pottery, beads, and other carved, decorative items. The archaeological site itself is accessible by vehicle along a paved tour road or on foot along an easy and level hiking trail. The trail is 2.8 miles long, and those who opt to walk will see more points of interest than those who tour the park in their vehicle. Poverty Point National Monument also offers daily guided tram tours.

Poverty Point National Monument is managed by the state of Louisiana, not the National Park Service. There are no National Park Service Rangers at the park, only state employees.

The name Poverty Point is taken from the name of the farm, Poverty Point Plantation, established on the site in the mid-1800s.

OPERATING HOURS

Poverty Point National Monument is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Entrance to the hiking trail that leads around the Poverty Point archaeological site closes at 3:30 PM. This gives visitors an hour and a half to explore before the park closes. As for the tour road, visitors just need to be out by the time the park closes. The driveway to the parking lot and Visitor Center is closed at 5 PM, so everyone needs to have their vehicle out by then.

Times can always change, so before heading to the park be sure to get the latest schedule on the Poverty Point World Heritage Site website.

FEES

There is a $4 / person fee to enter Poverty Point National Monument for those 4 to 61 years old. Children 3 and under and adults 62 and over enter free of charge.

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Visitor Center
allow 30 to 45 minutes

Auto Tour
45-60 minutes

Walking Tour
2 Hours

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Last updated on November 9, 2022
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