Indian Mounds Regional Park in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood is home to six sacred Native American burial mounds. The greenest-of-green hills are perched atop 450 million-year-old limestone and sandstone cliffs and fenced in for protection; another 19 mounds were once located down the ridge above Wakan Tipi, a.k.a. Carver’s Cave.
Minnesota is in the red-tape–heavy process of designating these Dakota Nations burial grounds, which are believed to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old, as a proper cemetery. Excavations from the mid-1800s revealed log tombs and stone cists filled with human bones, plus offerings like mussel shells, perforated bear teeth, and copper ornaments. The archeologists also discovered an extraordinarily rare “death mask,” or skull covered with red clay to reveal a human form. Sadly, most of these artifacts disappeared with the exhibition team.
Beyond the mounds, the 111-acre park is a lovely spot to while away an afternoon. It has several lookouts with sweeping views of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Paul, public art sculptures, a tennis court and softball field, two playgrounds, and numerous picnic areas with barbecue grills. One reservable picnic shelter seats 80 folks; another fits 30. If you have the time, follow the park’s mile-long “tree trek,” which strolls past 28 varieties of woody perennial including Bigtooth Aspen, Princeton Elm, White Oak, and Northern Catalpa.
Indian Mounds Regional Park
10 Mounds Blvd., St. Paul, MN; 651-266-6400.