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Georgia May Be Getting Its First National Park Soon — and It Has More Than Just Scenic Trails


Taking its name from the word for “boiling waters,” Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Georgia dates back more than 12,000 years and features Indigenous earthen mounds used for burials and ceremonies. Today, it's in talks to be designated a national park with expanded acreage.

“This was a capital city for the Creek Confederacy,” says Tracie Revis, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and director of advocacy for the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative (ONPPI). “The Federal Road, the trade road, below the Fall Line — everything cut through here, so this was the absolute capital of everything.”

The park holds special significance to the Muscogee (Creek) people like Revis, who lived here before being displaced to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The capital of the tribal land is Okmulgee, a nod to the Georgia site.

The Ocmulgee Mounds have been protected since 1936, when, under president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 678 acres were designated under the Antiquities Act. It was also the site of the largest archaeological dig in American history, which unearthed artifacts from the early days of settlement, many of which are now on display inside the park’s museum.

Should Congress approve the new designation, Ocmulgee Mounds will be the first national park in the United States to be co-managed by a removed tribe. Come see for yourself what makes this landscape, named one of the best places to visit in 2024, so unique.

Planning Your Visit

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park currently covers 600-plus acres, but the ONPPI has acquired more land from the city of Macon and other groups. It’s estimated that in the future, it could reach more than 2,000 acres, including hunting land along the Ocmulgee River. Unlike many other national park installations, no fee is required to enter the park.

How to Get There

Macon, Georgia, is about a two-hour drive south of Atlanta, off Highway I-75. Driving is the easiest way to get there, but if that’s not an option, there are alternatives. Greyhound, for example, has a bus route between the two cities. From the Macon bus station on 5th Street, you can take a taxi or ride-share service to Ocmulgee Mounds, which should take less than 10 minutes.

Best Time to Visit

The city of Macon has a humid subtropical climate, so temperatures vary based on the time of year. During the winter, averages hover around the 40s, and Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park sometimes gets snow. Summer can see highs that feel like 100 degrees with humidity, so it’s important to check the forecast before venturing out on a hike.

Spring is the best time to go as the temperatures are comfortable, but you might encounter sudden storms and flooding. Be sure to check the conditions before you visit. Another great time to visit is during the annual Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration, held every September with dances, crafts, and educational discussions. The Lantern Light Tours, held in March, add to the magic of visiting the site at night.

Best Things to Do in Ocmulgee

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park has several trails, but what makes it so unique is the glimpse it offers into the Indigenous people who lived here thousands of years ago.

Go inside the Earth Lodge.

The Earth Lodge is a reconstruction of the council chamber that would have been a significant part of Mississippian culture, dating back to around 1015 A.D.

“[This] is where different tribal towns all along the river would come. They would meet here and decide if they were going to war or what they were going to do,” says Revis. “The ground floor here is the original.”

Note that this space is not accessible, and the entrance is narrow, so taller visitors might need to crouch to enter.

Tour the museum to see artifacts from the archaeological dig.

From 1933 to 1936, several agencies, including the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration, worked to unearth historic items from the site under the leadership of Dr. Arthur R. Kelly from the Smithsonian Institute. More than 2.5 million items were found, including bones, pottery, arrowheads, and jewelry. 

Many are now on display at the on-site museum, along with photos of the Muscogee (Creek) people. Revis even found her family’s photos inside. “[There’s] a massive photo of my aunt because [she] has always worked down in Georgia, telling our stories and culture and preserving all of that.” 

Climb to the top of the Great Temple Mound.

While climbing on these mounds is discouraged, there's an exception is this area, which has stairs that go above the land so you can take in views from above. The area includes the two tallest mounds within the park, created by Mississippian people around the 10th century C.E. using river clay.

Must-see Wildlife and Natural Features

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park sits along the river wetlands, and much of the plant and animal life reflects that. You might expect to spot a wide variety of creatures, including alligators, river otters, deer, and egrets. 

It's also home to the Ocmulgee shiner, a species of fish found only within the state. Fishing is allowed within the park, but just on the banks of the river, along with Walnut Creek and Clay Pond.

Best Places to Stay

Hotel Forty Five, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel

There’s currently no lodging within the park, but downtown Macon is a short drive away. Hotel Forty Five is named for the angle at which the art deco building sits at its cross streets. Inside, the decor is like a love letter to Macon’s music history, with photos and artwork inspired by artists like Otis Redding. There’s also a coffee shop to start your day, as well as a restaurant and rooftop bar. 

The Woodward Hotel

The Woodward Hotel is inspired by writers and was named for the owner’s grandfather, a noted author and professor. There are Southern books in every room and suite, each designed in a different style, and the cocktail bar, Quill, is the perfect spot for a nightcap. We recommend The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, a bourbon and black tea concoction named for Carson McCullers’ notable work. 

Macon Marriott City Center

The Macon Marriott City Center is closest to the Ocmulgee Mounds entrance, located on the opposite side of the river from downtown. It has all the amenities you’d expect from a convention center-type hotel, including an indoor pool, a fitness center, and a restaurant. Rooms are also pet-friendly, with a fee. 

Best Places to Eat

Ocmulgee Mounds doesn’t yet have an on-site restaurant, but downtown Macon has an abundance of dining options.. 

Grab breakfast from Macon Bagels and take it with you to the park. The cafe offers bagels with all the spreads, plus coffee and sandwiches. If you’re not in a rush, H&H Soul Food is a Macon must. Before they were famous, The Allman Brothers Band came here to eat for free. You’ll have to pay, but you won’t mind doing so after trying the fried chicken biscuit. 

Nu-Way Weiners is right by the park entrance and has been a Macon classic for more than a century. It’s known for its chili dogs, burgers, and the classic chocolate malt. They also offer breakfast. Rookery is another essential stop, with its funky burgers inspired by the Peach State. 

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I guess the AI “journalist” never heard of Chickamauga. About as accurate as the other BS junk articles. Just give me the news.

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