Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park (formerly Ocmulgee National Monument) in Macon, Georgia, United States preserves traces of over ten millennia of culture from the Native Americans in the Southeastern Woodlands. Its chief remains are major earthworks built before 1000 CE by the South Appalachian Mississippian culture (a regional variation of the Mississippian culture.) These include the Great Temple and other ceremonial mounds, a burial mound, and defensive trenches. They represented highly skilled engineering techniques and soil knowledge, and the organization of many laborers. The site has evidence of “17,000 years of continuous human habitation.” The 3,336-acre (13.50 km2) park is located on the east bank of the Ocmulgee River. Macon, Georgia developed around the site after the United States built Fort Benjamin Hawkins nearby in 1806 to support trading with Native Americans.
For thousands of years, succeeding cultures of prehistoricindigenous peoples had settled on what is called the Macon Plateau at the Fall Line, where the rolling hills of the Piedmont met the Atlantic coastal plain. The monument designation included the Lamar Mounds and Village Site, located downriver about three miles (4.8 km) from Macon. The site was designated for federal protection by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1934, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and redesignated as an national historical park in 2019.
While the mounds had been studied by some travelers, professional excavation under the evolving techniques of archeology did not begin until the 1930s, under the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) sponsored large-scale archaeological digs at the site between 1933 and 1942. Workers excavated portions of eight mounds, finding an array of significant archeologicalartifacts that revealed a wide trading network and complex, sophisticated culture. On June 14, 1934, the park was authorized by Congress as a national monument and formally established on December 23, 1936 under the National Park Service.
As an historic unit of the Park Service, the national monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed March 12, 2019, redesignated it as a national historical park and increased its size by about 2,100 acres. It has an NPS-owned area of 701 acres (2.84 km2), and the expanded area will be conveyed to the Park Service following redevelopment.
In the early 1990s, the National Park Service renovated its facilities at the park. In 1997, it designated the Ocmulgee National Monument as a Traditional Cultural Property, the first such site named east of the Mississippi River.
Ocmulgee’s visitor center includes an archaeology museum. It displays artifacts and interprets the successive cultures of the prehistoric Native Americans who inhabited this site for thousands of years. In addition, it interprets the historic Muscogee Creek tribe and diverse peoples who settled nearby in the colonial era. The visitor center includes a short orientation film for the site. Its gift shop has a variety of craft goods, and books related to the park.
The large park encompasses 702 acres (2.84 km2), and has
5+1⁄2 miles (8.9 km) of walking trails. Near the visitor center is a reconstructed ceremonial earthlodge, based on a 1,000-year-old structure excavated by archeologists. Visitors can reach the Great Temple Mound via a half-mile walk or the park road. Other surviving prehistoric features in the park include a burial mound, platform mounds, and earthwork trenches. The historic site of the English colonial trading post at Ocumulgee is also part of the park.
The main section of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is accessible from U.S. Route 80, off Interstate 16 (which passes through the southwest edge of the park). It is open daily except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
The Lamar Mounds and Village Site is an isolated unit of the park, located in the swamps about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Macon. The Lamar Site is open on a limited basis.