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Caddo Mounds State Historic Site

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c. 800–c. 1300. 1649 TX 21 W

Three low mounds rise in a meadow on the edge of the eastern bluff of the Neches River. The site includes two ceremonial mounds and one burial mound, built more than 1,200 years ago by the Hasinai group of the Caddoan Mississippi Culture. This site, along with the one in Nacogdoches, is the southernmost for this cultural group. The group abandoned the site around 1300, as local resources became depleted and neighboring villages became more independent. Hasinai bands continued to occupy other sites in the area until the late 1830s, when they moved west to the Brazos River to avoid incoming Anglo-American settlers. In 1859 the U.S. government moved them to Indian Territory (present-day Binger, Oklahoma). The Caddo Nation still has a spiritual connection to this land, holding a yearly gathering of tribal members from Oklahoma.

The numerous pathways that the Spanish consolidated as El Camino Real run along the north edge of the site. A deep swale was cut into the riverbank by thousands of feet, hooves, and wheels making the low water crossing of the Neches River. This is one of only two places in the state where such a swale exists. If immigrants did not come to Texas by sea (to Indianola or Galveston), they came along El Camino Real, as did Stephen F. Austin, David Crockett, and Sam Houston.

As a natural open area within the surrounding forests, the site was heavily farmed through the nineteenth century and was planted with a peach orchard before coming into state possession in 1974. Modest excavations throughout the twentieth century were hampered by the considerable agricultural disturbance of the site.

The visitors’ center (2014, Bailey Architects), destroyed by an EF-3 tornado on April 13, 2019 in the midst of the annual Caddo Culture Day, was a teaching experience rather than a museum. Daily life in the Hasinai village was explained through interactive exhibits before visitors trekked the site. The center’s multicolored brick walls referred to the layers of colored earth used by the Hasinai to build the mounds, which are now obscured by the protective grass of the meadow. The circular bench at the entrance was the size of a typical round Caddo house, and the shed-roofed canopies recalled the Caddo shelters used for outdoor work. The Texas Historical Commission will rebuild this important site to continue the essential interpretation of the Caddo culture.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Caddo Mounds State Historic Site", [Alto, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 38-39.

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