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Mounds State Park

Updated on March 8, 2015
The entrance to Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana
The entrance to Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana

Mounds State Park is named for the ten Indian mounds located there. Nine were built by the Adena culture and one was built by the Hopewell culture. The state park was created in 1930, and is one of the smallest in Indiana, with only 290 acres.

This park makes an excellent destination for bicycle camping. Its on the eastern edge of Anderson, so you can get to it easily, without going through town. Since you are at the edge of town, you won't need to ride too far to find someplace to eat. Mounds does not get nearly the visitors that the larger parks do, so the campground is usually not as crowded.

The Mounds

Archaeological excavation has revealed that the area was originally wooded, and had to be cleared before the mounds were constructed. They cleared the area by burning the woods. Nine of the ten mounds were constructed by the Adena culture, who inhabited the area as far back as 1,000 B.C. The Adena mounds were built around 150 B.C. One small mound was built by the Hopewell culture, nearly 200 years later than the other mounds. Little is known about either of these groups since they left no written record. It is unclear whether the two groups are distinct, and simply used the same site at different points in history; or whether the Adena gradually transformed into the Hopewell culture.

Most of the mounds were used for ceremonial purposes. Only the mound built by the Hopewell culture was used for burials. Don Cochran, an archeologist at Ball State University, discovered that several of the mounds at the park are aligned with the rising and setting of the sun and several of the brighter stars. All of this centers around the Great Mound, which is basically a large circular trench (Personally, I think it is a good mound, but not a great one). The dirt that was removed from the trench during construction was piled up around the outside. Since the circle is not quite complete, a narrow path to the center of the mound remains. It is believed that performers (priests or shamans) would walk out to the middle of the mound along this pathway, while the audience would sit on the outer embankment.

The Great Mound - Trees have grown up on the mound since Indians used it for ceremonies
The Great Mound - Trees have grown up on the mound since Indians used it for ceremonies | Source

The Bronnenberg House

Frederick Bronnenberg Sr. came to America from Germany in 1791, when he was only 16 years old. He and his wife eventually settled in this area around 1820. The family eventually owned over 600 acres. Frederick Bronnenberg Jr. built the two story home that still stands today in the 1840s. When the park was created in 1930, the park superintendent lived at the house. This practice continued until the 1950s. Eventually the home fell into such disrepair that it was nearly torn down. Friends of Mounds State Park stepped in to begin restoration in 2005.

Be sure to visit the Bronnenberg House when you are in Mound State Park
Be sure to visit the Bronnenberg House when you are in Mound State Park | Source

Mounds Amusement Park

The Mounds Amusement Park opened in 1897 in what is now the south end of the park. A miniature train circled the Great Mound, and was a popular ride for kids. For five cents a person could get a ride on the Interurban (a streetcar) to and from Anderson, plus admission to the park. The best known ride was a roller coaster called "Leap the Dips". It was located between the Great Mound and White River. It opened in 1908 and was about thirty feet tall. The ride lasted about a minute and reached a top speed of about 10 miles per hour.

The amusement park was only open during the summer months, and in the 1920s its popularity began to fade. Interurban service to the park ceased and the equipment was sold off. The Madison County Historical Society stepped in and purchased the land for use as a state park. Mounds State Park opened in the fall of 1930.

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