Junction Earthworks

Protecting Junction Earthworks and Steel Earthworks

The new Archaeological Park and Nature Preserve, Junction Earthworks, is open to the public 365 days of the year from 9 am to sunset at no charge. The park features two 2000 year old American Indian earthwork complexes, four nature trails providing over five miles of hiking, and a 70 acre native prairie providing spectacular summer wildflowers and rare grassland birds.

Junction’s Nine Earthwork Features

Junction is composed of nine ceremonial earthworks constructed by the Hopewell Culture roughly 2000 years ago. In their original form, the ceremonial enclosures were outlined with raised earthen walls and ringed with ditches, together covering 20 acres of land. Even though the earthworks were no longer visible to the eye when the site was purchased, with the modern technology of magnetic surveying and interpretive mowing, the earthworks are once again being revealed. Of special significance is one of the earthwork enclosures that is shaped like a four leaf clover, called the Quatrefoil. This geometric shape has never been found in any other Hopewell earthworks. No one knew Quatrefoil existed until the 2006 magnetic survey revealed its presence. Squier & Davis had surveyed the shape erroneously as a circle back in the 1840s, and the error was perpetuated for over a hundred and fifty years.

Saving Junction from the auction block.

In March 2014 the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System worked with a coalition of non-profits – The Archaeological Conservancy, Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, and Rivers Unlimited – to successfully purchase Junction Earthworks off the auction block in a dramatic three week span of time. Click on More Information to read articles telling the many stories connected with this heady three week long campaign. Click on A Gallery of Givers to see just a few of the many people who made Junction’s save possible.

Junction’s sister earthworks – Steel Earthworks

Steel Earthworks lies just up upstream from Junction on the North Fork tributary of Paint Creek. Steel was also part of the Hopewell Culture’s sacred ceremonial landscape and was likely contemporaneous with Junction. The two sites are now connected with a public hiking path creating ONE united preserve – a first-ever for Ohio. Steel is in even better archaeological condition than Junction, with a visible circular earthwork. Both Junction and Steel are owned and operated by the Arc of Appalachia.

Steel Earthworks

Steel Works is located on the North Branch of Paint Creek and features even more separate mounds in its complex than Junction – 12 altogether. Dramatically, a large circle earthworks is still visible to the eye, even though its height has been greatly softened after years of being plowed for agricultural purposes. A one-mile long hiking trail following an abandoned railroad corridor to connect Steel with Junction is now open. The trail leads to the Steel Earthworks prairie loop trail which goes through the circle earthworks, many hundreds of feet in diameter, and out to the views of the North Branch of Paint Creek.

Junction Earthworks Preserve is a natural treasure too!

Junction and Steel have both aquatic and terrestrial treasures. Because of Paint Creek’s exceptional water quality and wildlife habitat, the section of Paint Creek that borders Junction Earthworks Preserve is rich in fish, aquatic insects and fresh water mussels. On Junction’s land base, 73 acres that was previously a soybean field was planted by Arc staff and volunteers with prairie seeds designed to attract birds and insect pollinators. Hikers can enjoy successions of outstanding floral showcases from June through August, as well as sightings of rare grassland birds which have already returned and are successfully breeding in what is called Dickcissel Prairie. See Natural History.

Ancient Peoples’ Heartland – the Hopewell Culture

If there were a ceremonial epicenter to the Hopewell Heartland, it would have been at Chillicothe – today the county seat of Ross County and the place where the great waterways of the Paint and the Scioto find their confluence. In Ross County alone, approximately two dozen ceremonial earthwork complexes were built on the floodplains – fully two thirds of all the major Hopewell earthworks ever constructed. Two of these are Junction Earthworks and adjacent Steel Earthworks. While much is still unknown about why or how the American Indians constructed these structures, Junction’s earthworks offer a glimpse into the Hopewell Culture’s 2000 year old past, and inspire awe and wonder in all who visit this remarkable and stunningly beautiful site.

Junction Endowment  Fund – Donations Invited

When Junction Earthworks was purchased on the auction block in 2014, one of the three Sellers, Barbara Herlihy, was inspired to help ensure that Junction Earthworks would be supported into perpetuity. She founded the new The Junction Earthworks Fund at the Columbus Foundation and seeded the account with an exceptionally generous donation of $50,000. Barbara, now deceased, always hoped that many others who love Junction will follow in her footsteps. 

A gift to the endowment fund is a gift forever. Your gift remains permanently in the fund to produce annual interest income which supports Junction’s park operations. Our long term goal is to raise $500,000 in the Junction Stewardship Fund, producing enough income to sustainably run the modest but necessary operations of the park.  Click here to read Barbara’s inspiring announcement of the fund, a short speech which drew a standing ovation from the 200 attendees at the 2014 Arc Donor Gathering. To make a donation, click here and specify your wish for your gift to go to the Junction Endowment Fund.

Photograph courtesy of RP Gough

Map showing Junction Earthworks (center), and Steel Earthworks (top left).

Photograph courtesy of RP Gough

The open floodplain terrace that contains Junction Earthworks.

Earthwork Survey of Junction by Squier & Davis in the 1840's


Earthworks Revealed! Magnetic Survey of Junction in 2006

Magnetic survey data from the Steel Earthworks site. Research data shared courtesy of Archaeologist Jarrod Burks

Magnetic Survey of Steel Earthworks performed in 2017