Beyond Destin: Georgia’s Kolomoki Mounds State Park
Destin has a lot to offer, and although its beaches are world-famous and its seafood delicious, there are hundreds of hidden treasures in the surrounding area of Northwest Florida that yield for fun adventures, day trips and weekend getaways. This column which will be featured on Wednesdays, will follow the wanderings of reporter, Savannah Vasquez, and explore the many opportunities in Destin’s surrounding area. I invite you to explore with me Beyond Destin.
Many locals have heard about the history of Native Americans in this area with the Creek or Muscogee tribes leaving several traces of dwelling along the Emerald Coast; but did you know that the major hub for the coastal tribes centered in southern Georgia? Recently, Cristian and I travelled to Blakely, Ga. to visit Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park and were pleasantly surprised to discover the deep history that connects the area with the Gulf Coast.
Kolomoki, which means ‘land of the white oaks’ in the Creek language, was once a major settlement and gathering place for Native Americans in the south eastern states. Today, the historic park displays seven ceremonial mounds that have been excavated to reveal burial sites, temple platforms, and multiple artifacts from the rich culture that existed there centuries before modern civilization.
After obtaining a pamphlet about the mounds at the visitor’s center, Cristian and I began our self-guided walking tour of the park. Beginning at the visitor’s center we followed the invisible circular trail leading from one mound to the next. At each mound, we found a sign posted that gave further information of what the ceremonial site was used for. Some are speculated by researchers to have been for games or rituals, while others have been found to be burial sites.
Out of all of the mounds, the temple mound was by far the largest on the property, measuring 56-feet high and 325 by 200 feet at the base. This mound is so large and compact, that it has not been successfully excavated, but archeologists believe it to have been the religious center for the region. The shear size of the mound suggests years of laborious construction as red clay had to be brought in little by little by basket loads. A stairway allows visitors to climb to the summit of the mound and take in the sweeping view of the field below. From the top of the mound, it is easy to picture a bustling village surrounding the lofty man-made peak.
After walking the circuit of mounds we ended up back at the visitors center where a small fee allowed us access to the interactive museum. The museum is actually built over an excavated burial mound and is set up to look like it was when archeologists first discovered it. Four plastic skeleton replicas have been placed where they were found in the bottom layer of the mound and several clay pots and pottery shards are scattered around the outskirts just as they were discovered in the late 1940’s. An informative video within the mound room then explains the history of Kolomoki as told by archeologists and park rangers. An adjoining room shows a timeline of what is believed to have been the progression of life in the area, and even shows the migration of tribal groups as far south as Fort Walton Beach.
The park is also open year-round for camping, hiking, boating and relaxing. Three hiking trails and two lakes are available for exploring with clearly marked trails and scenic overlooks. Canoes, pedal boats and jon boats are available for rent and for those looking for a more relaxing atmosphere, a playground and putt-putt green are located near the picnic pavilions. So, while it may be a bit further than the usual day trip, Kolomoki Mounds is definitely worth the trip.
Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park is located at 205 Indian Mounds Road, Blakely, Georgia. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and costs $5 per car. Museum costs $5 per adult, $3.50 for children 6 to 17 and free for children under 6 years of age. For more information on the park visit www.georgiastateparks.org or call 229-724-2150.