Just across the river from St. Louis lies the state historic site of Cahokia Mounds.
These archaeological remains of an ancient civilization provided us with our first adventure on our recent family trip, and an excellent pit stop to stretch our legs.
Touring the large visitors center we learned all about the history, discovery & renovations of Cahokia - the "most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico". The kids loved the short documentary video, the intricately made models of native settlements and vast array of arrowheads and ancient pottery on display.
There was no fee to visit Cahokia, though they do have a donation box located inside the visitors center.
After a picnic lunch in the parking lot, we headed across the road to hike on the mounds, particularly the largest one, known as "Monk's Mound". Though perhaps not quite as architecturally impressive as the Great Pyramid at Giza, it is roughly the same size (rather unfortunate that it is dwarfed by the neaby landfill...). And amazing that it was built by hand with basketfuls of dirt carried from nearby pits.
The view at the top was very nice.
If you look closely, you can even see the St. Louis skyline and the arch in the background.
The last time I remember being at Cahokia was when I was just a wee one, maybe five years old. Our family was very into attending pow wows and searching for arrowheads at that point, mostly due to my dad's influence. I remember being in awe of the mounds, the throb of the drum, and the elaborate assortment of colorful pow wow attire. My mom was just reminding me of how we climbed to the top of Monk's Mound after dark, and looked out over the darkness spotted with firelight, drums & haunting Indian melodies. We held our own family pow wow up there on top and felt like we were getting a glimpse of how the mounds might have looked in all their glory.
I don't know if they still hold pow wows there or not, but I hope they do. And perhaps someday we'll take the kids back there for one.
For now our visit was over, and it was back to the van for another long stint of driving. The kids left with happy memories and tired legs that were thankful to be back in their carseats. A successful stop!