Poverty Point National Monument | THE DOCK

Top of the Dock at Poverty Point National Monument

Top of the Dock at Poverty Point National Monument

WALKING TOUR STOPS 1 AND 2

Top of the Dock / The Dock

The Poverty Point archaeological site is located on the Maçon Ridge (pronounced Mason), which is about 20 feet above the Bayou Maçon, the river that forms the eastern boundary of the Poverty Point settlement. You can see the bayou from behind the Visitor Center where the walking tour begins. During the 1800s, steamboats traveled on the bayou, so it must have once been wider, and perhaps deeper, than it is now, because it doesn’t look like a steamboat could make it through today.

Being on a ridge, the Poverty Point settlement rarely flooded, even during the most disastrous of the Mississippi River flood periods (the Mississippi River is just 14 miles to the east). The area on the other side of the bayou is part of the Mississippi floodplain, so that area flooded often. This is probably why the prehistoric people chose Poverty Point as a home. Archaeologists believe that the Bayou Maçon didn’t even exist when the Poverty Point people lived here from 1650 BC to 1100 BC. Instead, the Mississippi River was closer than it is today, and most likely a small lake bordered the settlement.

Poverty Point National Monument is situated along the bank of Bayou Macon

Poverty Point National Monument is situated along the bank of Bayou Maçon

It is a .2-mile walk from the Poverty Point Visitor Center to the first stop on the walking tour of the archaeological site. From the start of the hike until this point, the trail goes downhill. At Stop 1 the terrain levels out for a few hundred feet to form a ridge before heading downhill once again to what is known as The Dock, the area closest in elevation to Bayou Maçon. The flat ridge at Stop 1, known as the Top of the Dock, is not natural. It was leveled by the people of Poverty Point. Ancient visitors to the settlement would arrive at The Dock, as this was the easiest climb up from the water, be it the Bayou Maçon or a lake. Archaeologists theorize that the Poverty Point people created the level area at the Top of the Dock so that those arriving via The Dock could not initially see the settlement. This was not to hide it from their enemies, as anyone passing by on the water was bound to hear the hustle and bustle of hundreds of people going about their daily business, but to hide the splendor of the settlement until visitors crested the artificial ridge. Once on the ridge, they would no longer be able to see where they landed.

View from The Dock towards the Poverty Point settlement

View from The Dock towards the Poverty Point settlement

The Top of the Dock and The Dock are not accessible on the driving tour of Poverty Point National Monument, so on foot is the only way to see these features.


Stops 3-4: Mound D | Main Walking Tour Page


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Last updated on November 8, 2022
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