The Great River Road

Old Man River, Father of Waters, “body of a nation,” Big Muddy—by any name the mighty Mississippi cuts a mythic figure across the American landscape.

Marquette: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Immediately across, and effectively underneath, the long bridges over the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien, Marquette is a homey, workaday community that verges on quaint—so long as you manage to turn a blind eye to the garish pink elephant advertising its Isle of Capri Riverboat Casino complex. Unless you’re a gambler, the main reason to visit is three miles north of Marquette, right along the riverbank: the Effigy Mounds National Monument (563/873-3491, daily, free), which preserves 2,500 acres of natural riverside ecosystems plus more than 200 distinct burial mounds, many shaped like birds and animals, for example, the Great Bear Mound. The unusual mounds are traces of the native people who lived along the Mississippi from around 500 BC to the time of first European contact. The visitors center has exhibits on the archaeology of the mounds, and a dozen miles of hiking trails reach from the river to restored vestiges of the native tallgrass prairie.


Effigy Mounds National Monument