The St. Louis area is home to one of the most important archeological sites in North America. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the remains of an ancient civilization that built its cities along the banks of the Mississippi River. Here's information on what to see and do at Cahokia Mounds.
Location and Hours
Cahokia Mounds is located about 20 minutes from downtown St. Louis at 30 Ramey Drive in Collinsville, Illinois. The grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to dusk. The Interpretive Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's closed on Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free, but there is a suggested donation.
Please note: There is a town near St. Louis that is also named Cahokia. It is not the location of Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
A Bit of History
Cahokia Mounds was once the site of a sophisticated ancient culture. The city peaked around A.D. 1200 with up to 20,000 people living at the site. At that time, Cahokia had more than 100 earthen mounds with hundreds of houses and huts spreading out around them.
By A.D. 1400, Cahokia had been abandoned, and archeologists are still trying to determine why. What visitors can see today are the remains of some of the mounds and recreations of some key parts of the city. In fact, the remains are so important to the prehistory of North America, that in 1982 the United Nations named Cahokia Mounds a World Heritage Site.
The Interpretive Center
If you want to learn about Cahokia Mounds and the ancient people who lived along the Mississippi River, start your visit at the Interpretive Center. The center has a life-size recreation of a Cahokian village, as well as many exhibits explaining what life was like at the site in A.D. 1200. The Interpretive Center also has a gift shop, snack bar and auditorium for special events.
After a visit to the Interpretive Center, don't miss the chance to climb Monks Mound. It is the largest mound at the site, with stairs leading to the top. From there, it's easy to see much of the Mississippi River bottoms and even the St. Louis skyline in the distance. Visitors are welcome to walk around on their own or take a guided tour.
Cahokia Mounds offers many free special events throughout the year. There are Indian Market Days in the spring and fall, as well as Kids Day each May. Visitors can also enjoy nature hikes through the site in warmer months. For more on special events, see the Cahokia Mounds calendar of events.
For more information on free things to do in St. Louis, check out the Top 15 Free Attractions in St. Louis.