This State Archaeological Park is dedicated to the preservation, protection, study and interpretation to the public of this significant survival of ancient culture. The park offers educational and entertaining programs, which increase understanding of the Old Stone Fort, archaeology, and Native American cultures. The museum includes exhibits that orientate the visitor to the Old Stone Fort and its setting, the hilltop enclosure mound site’s broader significance and the culture of its builders. The 876-acre park also offers a variety of activities including fishing, camping and hiking.
The Old Stone Fort is a 2000 year-old American Indian ceremonial site. It consists of mounds and walls that combine with cliffs and rivers to form an enclosure measuring 1-1/4 miles around. The 50-acre hilltop enclosure mound site is believed to have served as a central ceremonial gathering place for some 500 years. It has been identified as, perhaps, the most spectacularly sited sacred area of its period in the United States and the largest and most complex hilltop enclosure in the south. Settlers tended to name such enclosures “forts.”
The spectacular setting occurs where two rivers drop off the plateau of the Highland Rim in Middle Tennessee and plunge to the level of the Central Basin of Tennessee. As the forks of the Duck River cut down from the plateau level they isolate a promontory between them before they join. This promontory was further set apart by the construction of long, wall-like mounds during the Woodland prehistoric period.
At the narrow neck of land between the two rivers there is a set of parallel mound walls oriented to within one degree of the summer solstice sunrise. It was typical of ancient societies to recognize this significant farthest north sunrise and to hold reenactments of creation myths at such times. Mound sites such as the 50-acre Old Stone Fort provided modified landscapes for ceremonies that may have represented in some way the culture’s concept of their place in the cosmos and a separation of the sacred and mundane or pure and impure.
Old Stone Fort State Park offers 51 campsites with water and electrical hookups, grills, picnic tables and hard-surface pads that can accommodate a unit up to 50 feet in length. A dump station is open year around. One of the two restroom facilities includes showers, however that building is not open during the off-season, thus showers are not available at that time. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only and the stay limit is two weeks. A group tent primitive camping area is also available for use by scheduled, organized groups only, such as boy scouts.
There’s a lot to do and see at Old Stone Fort State Park! Good fishing is available along the scenic course of the Bark Camp and Barren forks of the Duck River, as well as the Duck River itself. Non-motorized boats and canoes are welcome on Old Stone Fort State Park’s one-mile long linear lake. A museum provides interpretation and orientation to the site, and programs can be scheduled for school and other groups that provide insight into the significance of Old Stone Fort, the culture or lifestyles of Woodland Indians, and the goals and techniques of archaeology.