Effigy Mounds a popular destination during pandemic

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Effigy Mounds National Monument, located north of Marquette, has remained a popular recreational destination for both locals and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Kim Corpian)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Effigy Mounds National Monument has remained a popular recreational destination for both locals and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“It was really obvious there were more visitors this fall than any time in the last 10 years,” said Effigy Mounds Superintendent Jim Nepstad. “People were driving in circles to find a parking spot.”

 

The visitor center has been closed since last spring, a safety measure Nepstad said has unfortunately kept people from visiting with rangers and experiencing the exhibits. However, except for a short period early in the pandemic, Effigy Mounds’ 14 miles of hiking trails have remained open.

 

“A lot of visitors are using this as an escape, to get away from the pandemic,” noted Nepstad. “Plus, they want to see what makes this a special place. And I think these special places are valued now more than ever before.”

 

Nepstad said Effigy Mounds, which is located north of Marquette and is home to over 200 American Indian mounds, received a number of positive reviews on sites like Trip Advisor. Thanks to a kiosk set up outside, visitors could stamp their own national park passport books. 

 

Kids could also still participate in the popular Junior Ranger program by printing off the booklet found online, then completing the activities. The booklet helps junior rangers explore Effigy Mounds National Monument, develop an understanding and appreciation of the prehistoric American Indian people who inhabited the area and experience the natural environment of the Upper Mississippi River Valley. The booklets could be mailed to Effigy Mounds upon completion, then badges were sent to the kids.

 

“It’s definitely different, but there are a lot of things people are still able to do,” said Nepstad.

 

The past year has been different for the Effigy Mounds staff too. While some are working remotely, those on site have been able to safely spread out among several individual buildings.

 

“Someone is always around and has eyes on the park,” Nepstad assured.

 

Much of the focus has been on basic upkeep of the grounds.

 

“We were able to get out and  do the mowing of the mounds,” he said.

 

Planning for projects has been a struggle, as staff have been unable to consult with Effigy Mounds’ tribal partners.

 

“So we’ve been in a holding pattern,” Nepstad said.

 

He’s hopeful operations will be more back to normal by this summer, though.

 

“It all depends on the vaccine schedule,” he stated. “Once we get to a place where the staff is vaccinated and more of the public as well, when cases have declined.”

 

For now, Nepstad is just happy people are enjoying the resource: “This is a nice, healthy thing to do during a scary time. We thank the people who’ve visited the park and are thrilled by the respect and appreciation they’ve shown.”

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