Seeing the sites in Walworth County: Sacred spot
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Whitewater's Maples Mound Group, located along Indian Mounds Parkway, holds ancient Native American effigy mounds. Margaret Plevak photo.
WALWORTH COUNTY — They’re not always marked on any map, but Walworth County has its share of quirky little spots. They come in all shapes, from a bit of living history to a slice of unexpected natural beauty. Some of them are hidden in out-of-the-way places. Others are in plain sight, but so familiar they can blend into the landscape unnoticed. All of them are worth a look.
It sits, a link to a past over 1,000 years old, in the midst of a subdivision on the west side of the city of Whitewater.
Whitewater's Native American effigy mounds, also known as the Maples Mound Group, is an ancient burial site with a collection of a dozen mounds in geometric and animal shapes ranging from turtles to birds.
Once the village home of the mound builders, the site is now a national historic landmark and a preserved 20-acre park, complete with marked pathways, watched over by the Whitewater Parks and Recreation Department, the Whitewater Parks Board and the Whitewater Landmarks Commission.
Mariann Scott, former landmarks commission chairman and a member of the Friends of the Mounds group, which gives tours of the area, remembered one of her neighbors first took her to see the mounds before the subdivision--or even the road around it--had been built.
The site is now clearly marked by a sign, but Scott remembers residents had mixed feelings about publicizing its location.
"Some people, afraid of vandalism, felt the best way to protect the park was to keep it a secret," Scott said. The landmarks commission felt it was public land, it belongs to everyone, so the best way to protect it is to learn more about it."
Scott said her education about the site continues to grow after decades.
"We have just recently learned that the area is also an oak savanna remnant. The land there has not been plowed, and some of the plants growing there were there when the mounds were made, so it's the original environment. If you get a glimpse of it, it's like you've gone back in time 1,000 years."
A sign at the park notes the area is not just a burial site, but a church, education center, city hall and library for Native Americans. Scott said the effigy mounds park is where Native Americans continue to come for special celebrations, and elders still teach their children the significance of the effigy symbols.
"I think my appreciation of the mounds grows the more I know about them," she said.
Other Walworth County backyard gems:
Sunday: Beulah Bog
Monday: Portal to the past
Tuesday: Muster tree
Wednesday: P.O. art
Thursday: Ever-flowing well
Friday: Sacred spot
Have any suggestions for your own backyard gems? Send them to email@example.com.