If you frequently drive I-75 through South Georgia like I do, you know it can get pretty boring!
On the other hand, if you exit the interstate and explore the Georgia backroads, you will discover the region is anything BUT boring, as seen in our post 5 Boredom-Busting I-75 Exits in South Georgia.
On a recent trip from Florida to Franklin, North Carolina, Jerry and I decided to take U.S. Route 441 through Georgia. Yes, it added two or three hours to our trip, but it was so worth it to avoid the interstate madness and focus on roadside discoveries.
Even so, I am guilty of making repeated interstate beeline trips between Florida and PInebox, my North Georgia mountain cabin. When you drive like a horse headed for the barn you miss a LOT, which is why I missed exploring the geographic center of Georgia so many times before. While I-75 leads straight through Macon, the I-475 bypass leaves it totally off the radar.
When I finally took 48 hours to explore history and music in Macon, I realized how much I had missed in this amazing city “where SOUL lives.” The three elements of soul music, soul food, and history with soul all conspired to make Macon, Georgia, one of my newest favorite destinations.
I am an avid National Parks Passport fan, and I have been known to drive many miles out of the way just to collect an elusive NPS stamp. For years, the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park was the only cancellation I needed to complete all of Georgia’s NPS locations. On one Georgia-Florida trip, Jerry and I hopped off I-75 and made it to the park entrance, but it was late afternoon, and the gates were already closed.
This time, I arrived in the afternoon with a couple of hours to spare and finally got my stamp.
The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park was established in 1934 as a significant archaeological site of Southeastern Native Americans dating back 17,000 years.
Because I am old school, I still consider the birth of Christ as the central point in history. Based on my potentially flawed calculations, that means that Native Americans were hunting and gathering on these grounds 15,000 years before Christ was born.
That just blows my mind!
The Ocmulgee NM Visitor Center houses an impressive archaeological museum.of artifacts unearthed on the 702-acre property.
Between 1933 and 1936, the largest archaeological dig in American history was conducted under the leadership of Dr. Arthur R. Kelly from the Smithsonian Institution. More than 3 million artifacts, including pottery, arrowheads, stone tools, pipes, jewelry, seeds, and bones from each of the six Ocmulgee archaeological periods were recovered.
Artifacts of note include a copper-covered puma jaw headdress, copper sun disks from the funeral mound, and the Clovis spear point, the oldest artifact dating to 10,000 BCE,
The museum also features realistic dioramas depicting life during various historical periods, such as a meeting inside the Earth Lodge, a Green Corn Ceremony, and the 1703 Moore’s Raid.
The best part of a visit to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is walking the grounds of the “Old Ocmulgee Fields.”
To access the mounds, visitors must cross a footbridge across the 1873 rail line between Macon and Savannah. This cut, and a previous 1843 cut, devastated sections of the mounds, unearthing pottery, spear points, and skeletal remains.
The path leading beyond the bridge offers an expansive view of various earthworks, including trenches, the trading post site, the Cornfield Mound, and the Earth Lodge.
The interior of the reconstructed Earth Lodge is accessible, but taller visitors should use caution with the low ceiling.
Journalist Howard Blount
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