We may not have cliff dwellings here in Michigan, but evidence of our Native American heritage can still be found deep in the heart of Michigan.
One of those places is Aetna Township in mid-Michigan’s Missaukee County, where several circular enclosures built by the Hopewell Indians can be found.
They date from around 600 – 700 years ago and their use is thought to have been ceremonial. The enclosures are not all that remarkable in appearance. They are about four feet higher than the surrounding country in most spots and several hundred feet in circumference. The enclosures really get to be remarkable when you realize that building them required a lot of dirt to be moved-and all by hand.
The enclosures (and there are several of them at each site) are slowly eroding and trees have taken root on and around them. Their disintegration in some areas is being accelerated by dirt bikes and four-wheelers whose riders probably do not realize they are destroying Michigan’s pre-history.
I first became aware of these mounds in a small book called Mystic Michigan by Mark Jager, part of a series of inexpensive paperbacks featuring legends and fun facts about the state. I learned even more about them in a book my mother-in-law gave me one year called Weird Michigan that cataloged even more items in the realm of the strange but supposedly true. Once I knew of the mounds, I needed to see them.
Finding them wasn’t easy.
Maps, such as the one in the Michigan Atlas & Gazetteer , show approximate locations. Books do the same. I finally decided the only way to find them was to take a hike. Or several. So last summer, that is exactly what I did.
And although several of the searches ended in dead ends in farm fields or private property, I did locate two mounds.
One is on University of Michigan property and (as I came to find out) easily accessible from Jennings and Gray Roads. The other though is deep in state land off of a two-track that goes east of of Kelly Road.
So to make things easier for the next person, here are the coordinates to both.
44 degrees 18′ 220” N
084 degrees 59′ 660″ W
44 degrees 17′ 980″ N
084 degrees 59′ 890″ W
I also went looking for some mounds located in Ogemaw county near the Rifle River this summer. No luck there, at least not yet. If anyone knows where those mounds are located, please let me know. I know how I plan to spend part of next summer.
That’s all for now, folks.