Fort Ancient and Prehistory

Ohio forest

The forested green hills of Ohio hide a lot of history.

The Geeky Kids having summer fun series continues from last week with a giant step forward in time from the Ordovician fossil era to the time before history in Ohio, when the Hopewell peoples lived on the green hills.

  • Pets? Pet-Friendly (dogs need to be on a leash at all times)
  • Cost? Anywhere from $8 and up. For outdoor access to the trails, a carload of people is $8, admission to the museum is more.
  • Terrain? Variable. Trails can be anywhere from 0.5 mile in length to 1.5 miles, and some are flat while others are quite steep. This area is known for ‘gumbo’ mud, which is very sticky and slippery, so check the weather! If it has been raining, you might want to wait a day or two.

Fort Ancient is a set of extensive earthworks and mounds found on the top of a flattened hill in southern Ohio. While it was once believed to have been a fort, intended to house and protect an entire village of Hopewell people, archaeologists now believe it was a place of ceremony and burial. It’s very impressive to walk along and look at the breastworks rearing up beside the trail, knowing it was built a basketful of dirt at a time.

Nature Trails

Hiking trails wind through the forest along the sprawling earthworks.

Things to Bring:

  • Good Hiking Boots: the trails can be rough and slippery
  • Insect repellent: I have never before seen mosquitoes this thick in Ohio.
  • Camera: always, really. Capture lasting memories and leave only footprints behind.
  • Water Bottles: Ohio in summer is hot, muggy, and you’ll be dehydrated before you know it.
  • A Map: available at the museum when you pick up your parking permit. The trails are not clearly marked, so carry it with you.

The trails are not terribly well marked. There are numerous small trails which don’t appear to be official that branch off. Pay attention to your feet, the trails are also not well maintained and I observed a lot of nettles and poison ivy growing right up to and in some places on the path. Long pants might be a good idea, but at least hiking boots and socks will keep you from winding up itchy and rashy. The toilets are a bit of a hike from the parking lot, and date back to the original CCC build in the 1930s. Don’t bring a picky sitter here!

Fort Ancient, Ohio

Looking over my son’s head you can see the Earthwork here.

That being said, it’s a lovely hike in the Ohio woods. We saw a beautiful doe on the far side of the ravine from us, and she just looked at us for a minute before calmly strolling off into the brush. In the spring I think it would be simply full of wildflowers, and in midsummer there were fewer but someone who knows plants and trees would enjoy this hike. The earthworks didn’t impress the kids as much, but they liked the scenic overlooks and the numerous little bridges.

dodder parasite

This is a nifty find for the sharp-eyed geeky kid: a vampire plant. Dodder is a parasite that stabs into other plants and steals their blood… er, sap, in order to survive.

Things to talk about:

  • Prehistoric peoples and how much effort it took to build something of this scale.
  • What the Stone Circle might have been used for.
  • The wickiups in the picnic area, their construction and the woven fence around them
  • Flowers, bugs, trees… so much life! What’s edible around here for prehistoric people? There were no supermarkets back then.

For Geeky Kids who want to learn more about these vanished cultures, you might check out your library, or The Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient of Ohio. For a more advanced reader or research,  Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley would be a good title to look for.

Fort Ancient Ohio

The wickiups and woven fence at Fort Ancient.

Fort Ancient Ohio

A Fritillary butterfly on Purple Coneflower. Purple coneflower was used by native peoples as medicine.

About Cedar Sanderson

Writer, mother, reader, gardener, cook… artist.

3 comments on “Fort Ancient and Prehistory

  1. […] another part of having a great summer vacation with Geeky Kids. This edition: food and cooking. In order to carry this out, you will need a good market with […]


  2. […] Unlike the visits to Fort Ancient and fossil hunting, this is not a pet friendly […]


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