(Ancient) Green Acres


The wooded hills of Ohio hold a secret: thousands of Native American ceremonial grounds that date back nearly three millennia. A new online self-driving tour, ancientohiotrail.org, maps out some of the major sights.

Mound City
The Army used the 23 grass-covered hillocks that form Mound City as a World War I campsite. Today, visitors can wander the 13 acres of ancient burial mounds. You can also learn about the people who built the structures—they left no record of a written language—at a museum displaying such artifacts as copper bird cutouts and blades carved from obsidian. 16062 State Rte. 104, Chillicothe, 740/774-1126, open year-round.

Fort Ancient
Around 2,000 years ago, Native American builders sliced the topsoil off a 125-acre, hourglass-shaped bluff using the shoulder blades of deer, and then they molded the excess dirt into Fort Ancient's serpentine walls. The site has 2.5 miles of hiking trails and a replica of a traditional dwelling built with mud plaster and woven saplings that you can visit. 6123 State Rte. 350, Oregonia, 800/283-8904, Apr.Oct., museum $8.

The Octagon
In addition to being skilled engineers, the creators of the mounds were astute astronomers. The best way to view this 60-acre site (only part of which is shown here) on a golf course in Newark is from a 10-foot observation tower when the moon is out. Throughout the lunar cycle, the moon aligns with different points of the octagon and its adjoining circle. 125 N. 33rd St., Newark, 800/600-7178, open year-round.

Serpent Mound
For a bird's-eye view of the 1,348-foot-long snake—the largest effigy mound in the world—climb the 35-foot tower. The serpent, which appears to be swallowing a big egg, was sculpted across the grassy hilltop nearly 1,000 years ago. The snake's head was designed to align with the summer-solstice sunset, and the coils point to the winter-solstice sunrise. 3580 State Rte. 73, Peebles, 937/587-2796, MayOct., parking $7.

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