Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, which was inhabited for 17,000 years by Native Americans, will more than double its size as a result of a recent land acquisition. That acquisition will also protect the new property, which was in danger of being developed.
Both the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and the new property are within the city limits of Macon, Georgia. Some of the most significant prehistoric Indigenous mounds in North America are located within the historical park.
The newly acquired property is within what’s known as the Ocmulgee Old Fields-Macon Reserve. This area, commonly called the “Ocmulgee Old Fields,” is made up of lands retained by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation from 1805 until the 1826 Treaty of Washington. That treaty, and others, resulted in the Muskogean people being displaced from their ancestral home and relocated in what is now Oklahoma, the National Park Service (NPS) explains.
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is now the fourth largest Tribe in the U.S., with 93,100 citizens.
“This additional property includes some of our most important unprotected ancestral lands,” David Hill, principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said. “The Muscogee [Creek] Nation have a long-standing history of preserving the Ocmulgee Old Fields-Macon Reserve. We have never forgotten where we came from and the lands around the Ocmulgee River will always and forever be our ancestral homeland, a place we consider sacred and a place with rich cultural history.”
A Historic Location
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is home to some of the most significant Native American mounds in North America. It also was the site of the largest single archeological excavation in American history. That excavation, by the way, produced more than two million artifacts.
“The park’s striking mounds are marvels of highly-skilled Indigenous engineering, that today constitute one of America’s most important cultural landscapes. Seven of the mounds can be found at the park, including the 55-foot-high Great Temple Mound, located on a high bluff overlooking the floodplain of the Ocmulgee River,” the NPS explains. “The Muskogean people who built these mounds spoke unique dialects reflecting lingual divergence from other tribes more than 3,000 years ago, making Muskogean — which is still spoken today — the only truly native southeastern language.”
The flat-topped, pyramidal Great Temple Mound and the Lesser Temple Mound, which are the two tallest mounds, together make up the Great Temple Mound Complex. The Great Temple Mound, where the village chief lived, was built in four separate stages. A series of clay steps are built into the mound’s northern slope.
An Important Addition
The newly purchased property, which is 951 acres, was under threat of industrial development. First, 906 acres will be immediately transferred to the NPS. The other 45 acres will be transferred to the Ocmulgee Land Trust, where it will be held during wetlands restoration before being donated to the NPS.
Acquisition of the property is the result of work by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, National Park Service, Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, National Park Foundation, and the Open Space Institute (OSI).
OSI, which “protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities,” negotiated a deal to purchase the land in 2021. It also is managing the transactions until their transfer to NPS and Ocmulgee Land Trust.
“It is our solemn duty and honor to protect our nation’s most significant lands,” Chuck Sams, director of the NPS, said. “It’s even more critical that we work collaboratively with Tribal nations to ensure proper conservation and access. The National Park Service will continue to work with willing sellers to preserve the culturally significant land associated with the Ocmulgee Old Fields.”
Know Before You Go
Admission to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is free. Its grounds and walking trails are open most days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The park has 8 miles of trails winding their way among the historical mounds as well as wetlands and forest. Most of the trails are under a mile-long (one-way), however they can be linked together to form longer loops.
You can learn more about Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park here.