Arkansas’ largest ceremonial mound site

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Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park.
Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park.

Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park, formerly Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, is an interesting place to learn about Native American culture and the largest remaining ceremonial mound site in Arkansas. 

“This is a prehistoric Native American mound park that was inhabited between 650 to 1050 A.D.,” said Amy Griffin, park interpreter at Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park. 

Visiting Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park
Visiting Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park.

The people who inhabited the site were called the Plum Bayou people. “We have given them that name because we don’t know what they called themselves since they are a prehistoric group,” said Griffin. “The name Plum Bayou is from the local bayou. So we borrowed that to name these people. “

The people who inhabited the site were mound builders and we have discovered that they built 18 mounds total. They also built a wall around the mounds. “We believe this is a large ceremonial site that some people would live in year-round,” said Griffin. “But most people would come from miles around, do their ceremony and then leave. It is kind of like today. People will gather together for special occasions, eat, play games, have music and then depart.” 

Aerial View of Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park
Aerial view of Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park. 

What makes this state park, which is located a few miles from Scott and around 20 miles from Little Rock, stand out is that it is a prehistoric Native American mound park. The park also has the tallest mound in Arkansas, known as Mound A. It is around 49.5 feet tall, making it almost as tall as a five story building. 

Three mounds remain of the 18 that were once at the site. The mounds are located at precise measurements from each other and were used as an earthen calendar by this culture. The changing position of the sun on the horizon is marked by the mounds, which helped keep track of planting and ceremonial schedules. The park holds annual solstice and equinox celebrations that visitors can attend. The only time visitors are allowed on a mound location is during guided sunset tours given at these celebrations. Otherwise, visitors are not allowed off the trails to avoid potential damage to the archeological site and out of respect to the tribes and nations who still use this ceremonial place. 

Arkansas has 52 state parks and Plum Bayou Mounds Archeological State Park, which is also a National Historic Landmark, is one of three Native American parks in the state park system. Parkin Archeological State Park is a mound park and Hampson Archeological Museum State Park has artifacts from a mounds site. 

People are usually curious to know if there are burial mounds at the site. There is one burial mound and the rest are ceremonial. The tall flat top mounds are platform mounds.