Newark Earthworks and Alligator Mound – Licking County

For those of you that might be getting convinced that southern Ohio is nothing but Native American burial and ceremonial mounds…this post won’t change that perception. It probably will be the last one for a while as I’m trying to change things up and move on to different parts of the state in the near future.

According to the Ohio History Connection’s website, the Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures in the world. So take that, Earth! The entire earthworks is spread out over a couple miles in the area that divides Heath and Newark. The original earthworks consisted of a 1200-foot in diameter circle, an octagon that enclosed 50 acres, and a square that enclosed an additional 20 acres.

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Due to development, the square has mostly been destroyed (only a 200 foot section of wall remains). The circle and octagon are still intact. Due to some intriguing business dealings in the early 1900, a private golf course was built on the site of the octagon. So, it’s intact…mostly. There are some bunkers and such built into the sides of some of the octagon. Public access to the octagon is very limited, although there are 4 days a year that the public may go walk the grounds.

While the octagon is neat to see (you can view parts driving by the course on 30th street), the star of the earthworks is the great circle, which is located in a park at the intersection of Route 79 and 21st street in Heath (right across from the Chipotle!). There are two different parking lots for this park. If you park right along Route 79, you have closest access to the circle and the tiny (and hot) museum building. The other lot gives you closer access to some of the odd “parkway” mounds which help lead to the octagon grounds a couple miles away.IMG_1624

The circle itself is quite a sight. Official sites call it an 8 foot tall mound, with a  5 foot deep moat built within it. That may be true for some of it, but there are parts near the entrance that feel more like 15-20 feet tall, and 10 foot deep moats Being 1200 feet across, walking into it feels a lot like walking onto the field of the biggest stadium you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, being right near the road, it’s not as quiet and as peaceful as it could be, though the high walls do block out a good bit of traffic noise.

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Right at the center of the field inside the circle is a formation known as Eagle Mound. At first, I believed it was another animal effigy mound akin to the Great Serpent Mound. What it turned out to be was a burial spot for the large ceremonial building and the various items that had been erected and used during this mound’s time. So, is this our first landfill?

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The museum on site isn’t much to behold, but it’s a clean bathroom, a gift shop, and has a few neat (though outdated) exhibits about the mound system in Ohio.

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There’s also this giant statue carved out of a tree for no apparent reason.

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Well worth a stop if you’re in the Newark area.

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What’s not so great a stop is the Alligator Mound in nearby Granville. The Alligator Mound IS an effigy mound, akin to the Great Serpent Mound. It is said to be the only one of its type still in existence. The most interesting thing about the mound may have been everything surrounding the mound.

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Alligator Mound is literally at the end of a cul-de-sac in what I’d guess is the richest neighborhood in Granville. There is no parking whatsoever. The road is far too narrow to park on the curb. I parked my car right in front of a gated driveway (just after a police patrol drove by), and just hoped the owners (or cops) didn’t show up.

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The mound is actually on top of a very small, but steep hill (I had a fair bit of trouble going up and down the hill). When I got up there…erosion has done a serious number on this mound. There’s a mound up there, but nowhere near any of the definition of the Serpent Mound. Near the tail area, the mound virtually disappears. There’s just not much to make out from ground level (in fact, it’s nearly impossible to see anymore from the air either, as you’ll see in the Google Map view later). It’s probably 50-60 feet long, much smaller than I was led to believe. A rather disappointing end to this trip. The view was pretty nice from up there, at least.

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I can’t really recommend stopping at the Alligator Mound, but it’s worth a drive down Bryn Du Drive just to see the houses along the road. Granville itself is also an extremely nice town. It’s worth spending some time walking around downtown and soaking in its charm.

Newark Earthworks map:

and the flickr set: Newark Earthworks

Alligator Mound Map

Seriously…Street View a few of those houses…

flickr set (spoiler, 4 of the 8 pictures are of the Historical Marker sign): Alligator Mound

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