At Aztalan State Park you will find meandering hiking trails, beautiful river views, and an amazing piece of Wisconsin History. Aztalan is only Wisconsin state park that is a National Historic Landmark. It is an important archaeological site and thousands of years ago it was the home of an ancient Indian society. Come check out this beautiful park and learn a little bit more about our Wisconsin history. There are mowed trails criss-crossing through a large meadow and traveling alongside the Crawfish river. Aztalan is a great park to spend a few hours. Check out other Wisconsin State Parks here.
Historical Significance of Aztalan
While this area, like many in Wisconsin, had Native American cultures living here for thousands of years, there was a period of approximately 100-150 years (A.D. 1000-1300) when this area was permanently settled. The people living here are believed to have come from a great Mississippian civilization. That civilization was centered at the city of Cahokia near modern day St. Louis. It is unclear why the people came to this area and why they left.
When the people were settled in what is now Aztalan State Park, the town covered approximately 25 acres. Within that area, there were three earthen platform mounds. Of the three original mounds, two have been restored. They have also reconstructed parts of the stockade walls in places were remnants of the original logs were found.
Learning more about Aztalan State Park
While there are a lot of unanswered questions about the people who lived here, scientists have put together some very interesting facts. The “princess mound” is worth looking into. It is one of several conical mounds near the entrance of the park. These mounds mark important events. Inside the “princess mound,” scientists found the remains of a young woman. She was covered in thousands of decorative shells. What was her story?! The experts aren’t sure.
Another interesting fact involves the origin of the name Aztalan. The name sounds similar to Aztecs, the native people of Mexico, however, that is because early settlers mistakenly believed that the townspeople were related to the Aztecs rather than the Mississippian society.
Check out the Friends of Aztalan State Park for more information. If you prefer a tour, the Friends of Aztalan group does free tours Sundays at 2p from June to September. They also have books and more information about the site on their website. You can click here to get access to all the signage at Aztalan State Park
At Aztalan they have two miles of marked hiking trails. Most of these weave through the open prairie and along the Crawfish River. The mowed prairie trails follow the official trails on the map. In addition, there are several other mowed trails winding through the park. The hiking trails give visitors great views of the reconstructed stockade and mounds.
The Crawfish River runs along Aztalan State Park. The river provided access for the Indian people to get to the Mississippi River via the Crawfish and then the Rock River. Today you can access a small boat ramp for paddle craft and lighter boats. Park in the lot farthest from the entrance of the park. The path is smooth and mowed with a gentle slope down. The portage is perhaps 100 yards from the parking area to the river.
Playgrounds and Picnic Areas
There are three areas with picnic tables and some grills available. They are located near each of the parking areas. There are no playgrounds at Aztalan park. The last time I was there, a group of kids was having a great time rolling down the mounds.
Trails are not groomed in the winter. You are allowed to hike, ski, or snowshoe through the area. I know it may be tempting, but no sledding is allowed on the mounds.
Aztalan does not offer…
No camping, biking, horse riding, playground, rock climbing, observation towers,
Nearby Parks and Activities
The closest state park or nature area is the Kettle Moraine Forest Southern unit is only 40 minutes southeast. Lake Kegonsa State Park is 35 minutes west. Governor Nelson State Park and Capital Springs State park are both about 40 minutes West
If you are looking for a swim, check out Sandy Beach in nearby Lake Mills. For a playground, you can check out Wallace Park in Lake Mills. There are LOTS of things to do in Madison including a children’s museum, the free Henry Villas Zoo, shopping on State Street, and more! Milwaukee is a bit farther but is another city full of possibility.
Aztalan Inn Bar& Grill is the closest restaurant. This small-town pub serves burgers, steak, and a Friday fish fry. Just under 15 minutes away is the Pine Cone Restaurant. It has 4.5 stars with nearly 6,000 reviews in small-town Wisconsin! For a hamburger in the warmer months, check out Wedls Hamburger Stand-voted best hamburger in the area for 10 years. If you want more options for food, Madison is just over 30 minutes away and has an excellent selection of restaurants. If you need some help deciding where to go, check out Madison Eats Food Tours. They do not disappoint.
While Aztalan is a small park, it has a unique history and there is a lot to learn here. Like the other parks in Wisconsin, it is beautiful and peaceful. All things considered, it is worth a quick stop for a couple of hours.