Ancient Indigenous tribes once thrived across the region now known as Georgia, living here for thousands of years before the first European settlers arrived.
Many of them were forcibly removed after the Georgia gold rush brought an influx of prospectors to the state in the late 1820s, which led to the Georgia land lotteries.
But their influence can still be felt today in place names such as Chattahoochee, Chestatee, Chattooga, and Coosawattee (all popular rivers in Georgia).
Upon this land, these tribes and communities built networks of “Indian mounds” that were used for burials and other sacred ceremonies.
The Indian mounds in Georgia were mostly constructed by the Mississippian civilization between 800 CE and 1600 CE. However, other mounds have been found by archeologists from the Atlantic coast to Wisconsin.
Due to the construction of roads, towns, and other major infrastructure developments, many of these Indian mounds have been destroyed.
Thankfully, there are six Indian mounds in GA that still remain intact, so visitors can learn more about the people who lived on this land for countless centuries.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the Indian mounds in Georgia, including the history of each historic site, its major attractions, and a map showing the closest Indian mounds near you.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Historic Sites in Georgia
Indian Mounds in Georgia Guide
- Etowah Mounds State Historic Site (Cartersville)
- Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail (Cartersville)
- Eagle Rock Effigy Mound (Eatonton)
- 4. Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound (Sautee Nacoochee)
- Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park (Macon)
- Kolomoki Native American Mounds State Park (Blakely)
READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Visit in Georgia (State)
What are Indian Mounds?
The Georgia Indian mounds were built in various shapes.
Some were pyramid-like, while others were flat-topped and table-like. Some barely protruded from the ground at all.
There were mounds that stood alone, while others were built in networks that were connected by earthen walkways.
Many mounds were used to bury the dead (especially tribal chiefs and wealthy elite), while others had temples built atop them.
But the purpose of some Indian mounds still remains a mystery to archeologists today.
In general, the mounds held great significance to the local people. They are thought to have signified territory, social unity, and community identity.
Thankfully, visiting these six impressive Indian mounds around the state of Georgia can give you an immersion in the history of each particular site, and a better understanding of the ancient civilizations that surrounded them.
READ MORE: 50 Fascinating Facts About Cherokee Culture & History
1. Etowah Mounds State Historic Site
813 Indian Mounds Road SE, Cartersville GA • 770-387-3747 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sun 9AM- 5PM
Designated a National Historic Landmark (one of just 49 in the state of Georgia), the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is one of the largest of its kind in North America.
If you’ve ever been to Cherokee NC to visit the Museum of The Cherokee Indian, you’ve probably seen the huge mural depicting how the mounds may have looked 1000 years ago.
This particular site is thought to have been inhabited by people of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture, who were the prehistoric ancestors of the Muscogee Creek people.
Visitors can tour the 54-acre site in Cartersville GA and explore an onsite museum with a scale model of the Etowah village and mounds. It gives a better understanding of how things may have been, with many artifacts left by the mound builders.
After visiting the six earthen mounds, the plaza, and borrow pits, you can follow hiking trails that hug the Etowah River to learn how indigenous people used wildflowers and other local flora for food and medicine.
Visitors are encouraged to climb the steps to the top of the mounds to get a sense of the surroundings. Mound A is the largest and covers 3 acres at its base. A full archeological exploration of this mound has never occurred.
Mound B is slightly smaller, and was found to have been used for burials as well as discarding animal carcasses. However, a full archeological dig has not been carried out.
Mound C, the smallest of the mounds at just 10 feet high, is the only one to have been fully excavated. Some 350 burials took place here, and this is also where most of the ancient artifacts on display in the museum were found.
READ MORE: Exploring Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site & Trails in Cartersville GA
2. Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail
1700 West Ave, Cartersville GA • (770) 387-5626
HOURS: Mon to Sun 7AM-8:30PM
After visiting the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, consider checking out the much less well-known Leake Mounds Interpretive Trail before you leave the Cartersville area.
Experts believe that the three Leake Mounds may actually predate the Etowah Mounds by several centuries.
This archeological site was discovered when the Georgia Department of Transportation expanded GA 61/113, revealing a number of ancient artifacts.
Now, a 1.5-mile hiking trail with 18 interactive markers teaches visitors about the history of the site and the prehistoric Middle Woodland period.
Other noteworthy features here included Indian Fort (a stone wall similar to one at Fort Mountain State Park, near Ellijay) and Ladd’s Cave, where animal and human remains were found before it was destroyed by mining operations.
READ MORE: Exploring the Dark History of the New Echota Historic Site in Calhoun GA
3. Eagle Rock Effigy Mound
350 Rock Eagle Rd, Eatonton GA • (706) 484-2899
HOURS: Mon to Fri 8AM-5PM
Located between Atlanta and Augusta, the Eagle Rock Effigy Mound in Eatonton GA is another fine example of Georgia Indian mounds that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s a very well-preserved site built by Woodland Indians, with archeologists estimating it to be as old as 3000 years.
This historic site is not one you visit in hopes of marveling at a towering Native American mound. Instead, it’s the unique shape of this mound that makes it remarkable.
The mammoth bird, with its wingspan of 120 feet and a length of 102 feet, was constructed from pieces of white quartz.
Most experts believe that the shape depicts an eagle.
However, some folks believe the bird to be a depiction of a vulture, which is a symbol of death in Native American culture. Evidence of human cremation was found on the mounds.
The mounded part of the bird’s chest reaches 8-10 feet in height, while its tail, wings, and head lie much lower.
Eagle Rock Effigy Mound is free to visitors and is open all year round. Make time to climb the observation tower, where you can get a bird’s-eye-view of the effigy.
READ MORE: Hiking the Indian Seats Trail at Sawnee Mountain Preserve (Near Atlanta)
4. Sautee Nacoochee Indian Mound
Unicoi Turnpike, Sautee Nacoochee GA • (
HOURS: Mon to Sun 10AM-4PM
The Nacoochee Indian Mound can be found across the street from the Hardman Farm State Historic Site. It’s located 2.1 miles from Helen GA in the Nacoochee Valley, a historical district listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
One of the most popular Indian mounds in GA, it can often be seen surrounded by cows grazing in the middle of a field. With a gazebo built atop the mound by the former property owner, the ancient site’s historical significance is easily missed.
Local legend suggests that the mound is the final resting place of two young lovers who were from rival Native American tribes. But in reality the mound was a burial site, with 75 graves dating back to before the Cherokee people arrived.
In addition to the graves, archeologists found evidence of fire pits in the mound. It is believed that the Cherokee people used the mound for ceremonial rites and surrounded it with houses and other structures.
In addition to viewing the mound from roadside pull-offs, visitors can take a guided tour of the farm and mansion, which was built in 1870.
As you leave the Visitor Center and head along the road to the house, you’re actually walking along a remaining portion of the historic Unicoi Turnpike.
This road was some 200 miles long and stretched from Toccoa GA to western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It was originally used as a buffalo trail, then later as a Native American trading route.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Sautee Nacoochee GA (Near Helen)
5. Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
1207 Emery Hwy, Macon GA • (478) 752-8257 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sun 9AM-5PM
Ocmulgee Indian Mounds is a historic site that is thought to have had 12,000+ years of continuous human inhabitants.
Four prehistoric cultures occupied this land before European settlers arrived. It’s the ancestral home of the Muscogee Creek Nation, who were forcible moved to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears.
These Macon Indian Mounds are located on the site of the largest archeological dig in US history, which helped to tell the story of the Macon Plateau between 12,000 BCE and 1,800 CE.
Hundreds of thousands of artifacts were excavated, many of which are now on display at the park’s museum. Visitors can also watch a 17-minute video sharing some background about the Indian mounds in Macon GA.
The park offers 8 miles of hiking trails that lead visitors to see seven of the ancient Indian Mounds.
The Ocmulgee Mounds Association hosts several special events each year, including Lantern Light Tours and the Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration.
The volunteer membership organization also supports interpretive visual aids, Every Kid Outdoors, cultural programs, a river cane restoration project, the Outdoor Classroom, a canoe exhibit, and other park activities.
READ MORE: The Moon Eyed People & Other Cherokee Legends
6. Kolomoki Native American Mounds State Park
205 Indian Mounds Rd, Blakely GA • (229) 724-2150 • Official Website
HOURS: Mon to Sun 7AM-10PM
The Kolomoki Mounds can be found at the Kolomoki Mounds State Park, which is the largest and oldest Woodland Indian site in the southeastern US.
A park museum teaches visitors about the Woodland Mound builders and others who inhabited the area from approximately 350 to 750 AD.
One 57-foot-high temple mound– the oldest in Georgia– towers over two smaller burial mounds at the park.
There’s a total of 8 mounds located within the park’s boundaries, as well as two large recreational lakes with pedal boats for rent and camping facilities.
You can also play a few rounds of miniature golf, and kids will have a fun time on the park’s playground.
Families may also enjoy meandering along the Spruce Pine Trail, with its views of Lake Yohola and Lake Kolomoki, or exploring forest landscapes along the Trillium Trail or White Oak Trail. -by Emma Gallagher; lead image of Etowah Indian Mounds by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We are well aware of the complexities surrounding terminology used to describe North American indigenous people. This article uses language in conjunction with terms used on the various parks’ official websites.)