Serpent Mound – A Mystery in Adams County

About 75 miles east of Cincinnati in Adams County lies the mysterious Serpent Mound National Historic Landmark. Serpent Mound is a giant 1,300 foot long serpent shaped mound built by Native Americans. Because it was built by moving baskets of dirt and piling them into giant mounds, one of the mysteries of the effigy is determining when it was built as carbon dating samples from the earthen structure gives vastly different dates of origin. And since it hasn’t been definitively determined when Serpent Mound was built, archeologists are not sure who built it. The two main theories of who built Serpent Mound are either the Adena people in about 300 B.C. or the Fort Ancient people in about 1,000 A.D.Serpent MoundEither way, the mystery surrounding Serpent Mound adds to the appeal of the beautiful snake shaped earth sculpture that is found in the middle of rural farmland in Adams County, Ohio. We visited on a blustery spring day and had the museum and trail around the giant earthwork to ourselves which made our time there even more special. The museum has a small gift shop as well as exhibits detailing how the effigy mound would have been made.Serpent MoundSerpent MoundThe movie playing on a continuous loop was helpful in explaining how difficult it has been to learn about who made the mounds, when they were made and the reasons why it may have been built. Because there are two burial mounds located adjacent to the effigy mound, one theory is that the effigy may have served a ceremonial purpose. The giant serpent is also of astronomical significance as the head of the snake aligns to the summer solstice sunset with the coils of the snake aligning with other solstice and equinox events.Serpent MoundSerpent MoundSerpent MoundBurial Mound at Serpent MoundSerpent MoundThe paved trail loops around the giant earthen serpent and there is also an observation tower which allows you to better visualize the entire effigy mound. It is just breathtaking to look over the whole thing all at once and somewhat surreal to see the beautiful farmland in the background.

Serpent Mound – If you go-

-While you can visit Serpent Mound during the daylight hours throughout the year, the museum’s hours vary. Click here for more information about hours of operation.

-The admission fee for visiting is $8 per car, payable at the museum.

-There is no food services at Serpent Mound State Park, so pack a picnic to eat at the sheltered picnic area. Or better yet, head to nearby Miller’s Amish Market for delicious sandwiches and pastries. Read about our visit here.

Other Resources –

For more information about Serpent Mound, check out these posts about the giant effigy-

History Got it Wrong at Indian Country

Great Serpent Mound at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

You might also like the following books –

Finding Ohio Mounds by Dale and Maria Lute

Star Mounds – Legacy of a Native American Mystery by Ross Hamilton

Have you visited earthworks such as Serpent Mound? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy Travels!Serpent Mound

 

 

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I love to plan family travel adventures with our four kids. Encouraging time in nature, National Parks travel, backpacking and hiking are my passions and I love to write about them.

2 Comments

  • Looks great! My kids and I just checked out the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park which is near Chillicothe. It has some interesting mounds, but high traffic noise as it is next to a huge Prison. Maybe next time I will check this one out with them instead! (Not a complaint really- my kids liked the Jr Ranger program)

    • Kelly- I visited Hopewell once with my son. While we were there, a huge alarm from the prison went off while we were out on the trail by the river. It was kind of scary honestly!

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