If you’re into Native American history, you don’t have to travel far to visit the largest prehistoric Indian site within the United States—the Cahokia Indian Mounds.
Cahokia offers a fun and educational introduction to the prehistoric lives of the Mississippian culture that flourished between 700 and 1400 A.D. Consisting of more than 2,200 acres of history, Cahokia features 70 mounds, a stockade wall and Woodhenge, a wooden sun calendar.
The mounds, built by moving dirt to a central location, probably allowed leaders to live and rule from an elevated position. Some mounds were used for burial and others for ceremony. Visitors can climb a stairway to the tallest mound, Monks Mound, and explore the 100-foot-tall man-made earthen structure.
To further enhance the experience, families can take a breather in the Interpretation Center. Bringing history to life with a life-size re-creation of the village, kids can explore all aspects of Cahokia up-close or watch an orientation movie. Visitors can also borrow a tape-guided tour or even explore the site with a tour guide.
“Cahokia is something for Illinois to be proud of,” says Assistant Site Manager William Iseminger."It’s an amazing expression of prehistoric culture in our country.”
Special events are held throughout the year including Kids’ Day in May, lectures, workshops, hands-on activities and a possible chance to see an excavation in progress.
Make sure to watch your children on the top of Monks Mound, which does not have guard rails. Respect the site by staying on the path, since it is a historical and religious area.
The Interpretive Center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday and is open seven days a week during the summer. The grounds are open 8 a.m. until dusk. Admission is free, but a donation of $2 for adults and $1 for children is appreciated.
Cahokia is located in Collinsville, four hours southwest of Chicago and 30 minutes east of St. Louis.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
n (618) 346-5160www.cahokiamounds.com