Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve

Not only does Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve boast some of the most commanding views of the Mississippi River and its backwater sloughs, it is also an archaeologically significant site. The 85-acre site contains the Aiken Mound Group, named for the nearby community of Aiken. Our knowledge of these mounds stems from 1900, when William Baker Nickerson, an amateur archaeologist who worked for the railroads, documented 51 mounds at this location: 38 long, wall-like structures, 12 conical mounds, and one thunderbird effigy. Nickerson also observed an earth ellipse or hut-ring and two circular depressions.

Nickerson’s limited excavation of the mounds in 1900 produced pottery fragments, indicating the fill may have come from a nearby habitation site. Archaeologists from the University of Chicago visited the site in 1926; however, only 40 mounds were observed at that time. In 2006, Phil Millhouse from the University of Illinois was able to relocate Nickerson’s original map, kept at the Illinois State Museum. Using GIS technology, the location of all 51 mounds documented by Nickerson have been identified. At the present, however, only 20 mounds can be visually identified on the ground surface. Agricultural cropping and grazing have no doubt affected the integrity of the mounds.

The Aiken Mound Group is part of the larger Effigy Mound culture that existed between A.D. 700 and A.D. 1000 in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. While most of what is known about the site is based on the mounds themselves, there is a possibility that there may still be intact archaeological features among the mounds. Skeletal remains from the Aiken Mounds have been found in adjacent crop fields. Habitation sites, while not mapped, were thought to occur in the nearby low-lying fields east of the steep river bluffs where the ceremonial mounds are located.

While the Effigy Mound peoples are thought to have abandoned the region after A.D. 1000, as late as 1875 members of the Ho-Chunk Nation performed ceremonies in the vicinity of Aiken Mounds and constructed a burial mound for the son of their leader, Green Blanket. This burial site is thought to be located one mile east of the reserve within the bottomlands of Small Pox Creek.

Upcoming Events

Film: Flight of the Butterflies

March 18 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
GTA Owners Club

Each fall, monarch butterflies migrate up to 3000 miles to the overwintering grounds of their ancestors, a place in Mexico they themselves have never know.  This 44-minute feature, which the New York Times called “fascinating,” tells their story along with that of the man who spent 40 years discovering their flight path and secret winter […] Read More

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NW Illinois Cooperative Burn School

March 19 @ 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
GTA Owners Club

A meeting to organize and train burn team participants for the spring prescribed fire season will be held this year in the Galena Territory Owners’ Club Lounge on Saturday March 19, 2016 at  2000 Territory Drive, Galena, Illinois.  The Northwest Illinois Burn Cooperative is organized to help organizations and people who want to use fire […] Read More

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JDCF Annual Meeting with Guest Dr. Karen Oberhauser

April 2 @ 4:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Chestnut Mountain Resort

Join us as we kick off our 2016 theme of Insects of the Driftless Area with monarch butterfly expert Dr. Karen Oberhauser beginning at 4:30 PM at Chestnut Mountain Resort.  Dr. Oberhauser is a professor in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology department at the University of Minnesota.  In 2013, she was named a Champion of […] Read More

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Experience Gateway Park – A Walking Tour

April 8 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Galena Gateway Park

Join JDCF and Field Museum staff for a guided tour of Gateway Park.  The walk will take place on mowed trails over rolling terrain.  We will meet in the parking lot off of Powderhouse Hill Rd at 1:00 PM.  The event is free and RSVP’s are not required.

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