The Indian Shell Mound Park makes for a super interesting, quick visit that took literally hundreds (even thousands) of years to “build.” It’s located in Dauphin Island, which is a barrier island about 40 minutes from downtown Mobile, AL.
According to AlabamaTrail.org, there’s evidence of settlements at this location from as far back as 4,000 years ago. But it was the Native Americans of the Mississippian Period (1100 – 1550) who over hundreds of years created the shell mounds now found at this park. It is believed that they traveled to Dauphin Island from other locations to survive the winter months eating oysters and preserving them for the future year.
These Native American tribes would harvest the oysters and then smoke them over a pit. It made the chore easier as oysters open up by themselves when heated. Then, they would either eat them or store them, simply throwing the shells to the side. This was done repeatedly by so many and for so many years that mounds began to form. In other words, these are piles of historic trash that today we can walk over in amazement, since they connect us with people who lived hundreds (and thousands) of years ago.
It took a lot of oyster eating by a lot of generations to build these mounds, but today it only takes a few minutes to walk the entire park. Still, the feeling of connection it provides is profound. This location is revered as an ancestral site by various Native Americans. The park is also a bird refuge and there are wonderful subtropical plants in it – the Tarzan-like lianas hanging from the trees being my favorite.
You can visit free of charge. The Indian Shell Mound Park is located at 2 North Iberville Dr., Dauphin Island, AL 36528.