20 Of The Deadliest Tourist Destinations Across The United States

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America is home to some of the most iconic spots on the planet, attracting visitors from far and wide. But some of those locations are more dangerous than you might suspect. This list exposes 20 of the deadliest and most treacherous destinations across the States for you to venture to – if you dare, that is.

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20. Eagle’s Nest Cave

In the former city of Weeki Wachee, Florida, you’ll find a perfectly picturesque bed of water known as the Eagle’s Nest. Yet while at first glance the pool appears to be just like any other lagoon, there’s a dangerous secret hiding among the swells of its deeper water. Yes, the quaint little spot is actually home to an underwater cave some 300 feet beneath the surface.

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In fact, over the years, the Eagle’s Nest Cave has developed quite a reputation with divers, who commonly refer to it as their own “Mount Everest.” And like that mighty peak, the cave has tragically claimed the lives of some of those who dared to explore it – proof, perhaps, of just how treacherous the conditions there can become. Over the last 39 years or so, at least a dozen individuals are said to have passed away in the depths of the pool.

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19. Death Valley

If you’ve ever visited California or Nevada, there’s a good chance that you’re aware of Death Valley’s notoriety. This unforgiving stretch of land spans a staggering 3,000 square miles across the middle of the two states – but that’s not all. In addition to its size, tourists also have to contend with the dangerous, even record-breaking temperatures that are often recorded there.

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In fact, Death Valley’s temperature once hit 134 °F back in July 1913, and this hasn’t been topped anywhere since. And the searingly hot conditions have unfortunately led to the deaths of several visitors over the years, with 2019 proving to be especially lethal. That August, two lives were lost in just three days after a brutal heatwave descended on the valley.

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18. Lake Mead

The Lake Mead National Recreation Area is one of the most visually interesting tourist spots that America has to offer. Located between Nevada and Arizona, the park is home to a near 300-square-mile bed of water that is flanked by dramatically rugged and rocky terrain. But while this may make for some sweet panoramas, it’s not the safest place to visit.

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According to documents obtained by the Outside Online website, more than 250 people died in the park between 2006 and 2016. And in September 2017, one of the park’s representatives revealed a more shocking statistic still. Christie Vanover told KTNV-TV, “There’s been 11 fatalities related to drowning, and [in] each of those situations none of the victims were wearing a lifejacket.”

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17. The Space Needle

In Seattle, Washington, you’d be hard-pressed to name a more iconic landmark than the Space Needle. This stunning building was first constructed back in 1962, and at 600 feet tall, it’s pretty difficult to miss. But while it continues to dominate the city’s skyline today, the famous tower harbors a pretty dark past.

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For example, in 1974 two people committed suicide by jumping off the Space Needle. And while these tragedies ultimately led to the implementation of various precautions at the Needle, a woman still became the third to take her life at the famous spot four years later. After that, six more folks launched from the structure – albeit with parachutes.

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16. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Statistically speaking, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular attraction of its kind. Located in the middle of Tennessee and North Carolina, the area – along with its mind-blowing 355-mile network of hiking trails – welcomed over 11 million tourists back in 2017. But a trip to the Smokies isn’t always the easy-going adventure that it may seem.

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According to Outside Online, 60 visitors actually lost their lives in the park between 2006 and 2016; seven more people had been added to that grisly list by March 2017. To break things down further, four of those seven individuals died in car crashes while driving within the park. Of those other three tourists, two of them drowned and the third passed away after tumbling from a wall. So, the Smokies seem to be just as perilous whichever way they are explored.

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15. Angels Landing

It could be argued that Angels Landing is one of the most terrifying tourist spots on the planet, as the precarious trail can be found around 1,000 feet above ground in Utah’s Zion National Park. The incredibly slim space is made even more dangerous by the unsettling lack of guardrails around its edge.

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Perhaps because of this, a number of visitors have sadly died while trying to traverse Angels Landing. As of April 2019, the park’s website claimed that nine people had perished on the trail. However, this chilling statistic emerged prior to another tragedy hitting the headlines some eight months later. At that time, a teenager passed away after plummeting from the edge of the pathway.

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14. The Empire State Building

New York is home to some of the world’s more recognizable landmarks – including, of course, the Empire State Building. The historic skyscraper was completed back in 1931 and has loomed over the skyline of the Big Apple ever since. Sadly, though, five workers lost their lives during the build. And the death toll doesn’t end there, either.

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Yes, sadly, by December 2017 a reported 54 people had died in or at the Empire State Building. One of the biggest tragedies occurred in 1945, when a plane accidentally flew into the side of the tower. Sadly, 14 individuals perished that day, and many others have taken their own lives there since.

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13. Yosemite National Park

Famously located in California, Yosemite National Park is a beautiful spot for tourists who love the great outdoors. However, between 2006 and 2016, 150 people passed away in the park, according to Outside Online. Apparently, “natural causes” unfortunately claimed the lives of a number of visitors as they tried to explore Yosemite’s vast trails.

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Many other deaths have been connected, however, to Yosemite National Park’s centerpiece. Yes, it’s said that over 60 tourists have met their ends near the famous Half Dome rock formation. Scalable only via a cable footpath, the imposing structure stretches some 400 feet into the air.

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12. Volusia County

Florida is known for its stunning sands, and Volusia County boasts arguably some of the Sunshine State’s finest beaches. But while the waters there may look enticing, you may want to think twice before you paddle out, as the county’s coastal hotspots don’t offer the safest spaces in which to swim.

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You see, Volusia County has recorded a number of shark attacks in recent times. Back in 2017, for instance, nine people were confronted by these aquatic predators; another three went through the same ordeal in 2018. In fact, the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File suggests that this region of the state has seen more reported ambushes by the fearsome creatures than anywhere else.

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11. Colorado’s rivers

If you love rafting, the rivers of Colorado could be the perfect place to engage your passion. Incredibly, more than 550,000 people are reported to have traversed the state’s choppy waters in 2016 alone – proof of just how popular these rapids really are. That said, conditions can become quite treacherous on certain parts of the route, and this has led to tragedy in the past.

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Sadly, 14 visitors were killed in the unrelenting rapids of Colorado’s rivers back in 2014, with nine more people suffering the same fate just a year later. And that number went up again in 2016, when a further 11 individuals fell victim to the unforgiving currents. It’s believed that the melted snow brought by warmer weather may be upsetting the waves and so contributing to the levels of hazard.

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10. Natchez Trace Parkway

As a 444-mile road straddling three different states, the Natchez Trace Parkway is certainly one of the more unique tourist spots America has to offer. In total, it’s said that a single unbroken trip on this route would last for around ten hours, allowing you to visit Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee all in one journey.

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Yet despite the beautiful views and surroundings along the way, plenty of people have perished on the Natchez Trace Parkway. According to Outside Online, 56 individuals lost their lives there between 2006 and 2016, with most of those deaths occurring – perhaps unsurprisingly – in road accidents. And by March 2017, seven others had joined that unfortunate list.

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9. Acadia National Park

Located in Maine, the Acadia National Park is another picturesque spot for tourists to revel in. The area is home to the famous Precipice Trail, which tests even the more experienced and adventurous hikers. Owing to the hazardous terrain en route, though, one visitor sadly passed away there in 2012. Before that, 1985 had marked the last death on the path.

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And, tragically, more people have lost their lives in the park since the 2012 incident. One man died after he had completed a swim in a lake in July 2016; not long before that, another person had tumbled off a ledge while trying to snap a shot of the setting sun.

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8. Ellis Island

Across the water and away from the hustle and bustle of New York’s thriving city lie Ellis Island and Liberty Island. The latter of these locations is well known for its world-famous resident Lady Liberty; the former, however, harbors a dangerous past of its own that not many may know about.

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Aside from being the first port of call for more than 17 million foreign arrivals from 1892 up until 1954, Ellis Island also operated its own “Immigrant Hospital” between 1902 and 1930. And, reportedly, roughly 3,500 patients passed away at the medical facility during that nearly 30-year period.

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7. Action Park

Back in 1978, a new attraction called Action Park opened up in New Jersey. And as guests explored the water slides and wave pools, it didn’t take long for folks to start getting hurt. In fact, over the following 18 years, Action Park developed a reputation for being particularly perilous.

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Alarmingly, over 100 injuries were recorded in a single year at Action Park. Six guests also lost their lives at the location before it shut down in 1996. And while the site has since been rebranded as Mountain Creek Water Park, crazy stories about its past are told even today.

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6. Hawksbill Crag

In Newton County, Arkansas, tourists have the chance to visit one of the world’s most unique-looking cliff edges. The spot in question, known as Hawksbill Crag, juts out to overlook a luscious woodland area. And the outcrop is just as precarious as it sounds, with some people even tumbling off the rock – just like a woman named Andrea Norton did in April 2019.

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Sadly, Norton succumbed to her injuries after a 100-foot fall. And while speaking after the tragedy, the county sheriff shed some light on previous incidents at Hawksbill Crag. Glenn Wheeler informed KY3, “They’re not always fatal falls. But there are injuries in that area. It’s a beautiful, beautiful area, but it’s also kind of a treacherous area.”

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5. Yellowstone National Park

All two million acres of Yellowstone National Park opened to the public for the first time back in 1872. The visually striking landmark stretches across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, with just over four million people visiting in 2019. However, owing to the hazards in the park, a number of individuals have lost their lives there over the years.

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According to the Outside Online website, 93 people passed away at Yellowstone between 2006 and 2016, with more than 20 of those deaths coming as a result of the park’s infamous hot springs. And by March 2017 another 13 individuals had lost their lives there – proof, perhaps, that Yellowstone truly is as threatening as its fiery waters make it seem.

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4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

While active volcanoes are undoubtedly dangerous, taking a closer look at these geographical wonders in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may be hard to resist. And as the area contains such famous peaks as Mauna Loa and Kīlauea, unsurprisingly that makes it one of the more perilous locations on this list.

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From 1992 up until 2002, some 40 people tragically passed away while soaking up the scenes of Volcanoes National Park, while 45 others suffered serious physical ailments. Then, from 2007, three different bike riders perished in the area over the course of 12 months. As a result of these deaths – along with plenty of additional injuries – a bicycle tour taking place in the park was halted for a time in 2007.

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3. The Golden Gate Bridge

In San Francisco, California, you’d be hard-pressed to miss the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, this 1.7-mile-long landmark has been wowing tourists since it first opened back in 1937. But it should be known that the world’s most famous suspension bridge comes with a rather notorious statistic attached.

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Up until December 2017, it’s believed that over 1,600 people had taken to the bridge to jump to their deaths, with the first of those suicides occurring just three months on from the crossing’s grand opening. Over a 60-year period, a further 36 people also perished in road collisions there – proving, perhaps, that the bridge’s golden charm does not come without its risks.

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2. The Grand Canyon

When looking at some of the world’s landmarks, there are few that can match up to the Grand Canyon. The huge gorge is arguably among the most stunning sights on the planet and has enchanted tourists from across the globe. Sadly, though, after the park itself was officially opened to the public in 1919, a large number of visitors went on to die there.

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To explain more, a river guide from Arizona named Michael P. Ghiglieri spoke with the Los Angeles Times in March 2012. He revealed, “Some 683 people have died below the rims (thus ‘in’ the Grand Canyon) during the known history of the Grand Canyon after the early 1860s. Since the canyon became a national park in 1919, the number is 653 people.”

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1. Niagara Falls

Situated on the border of Canada and the United States, the Niagara Falls are a must for tourists visiting the state of New York. This magnificent cascade in fact consists of three different torrents of water: the American Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Behind its breathtaking beauty, though, the famous location does have a pretty dark past.

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From 1850 up until 2011, roughly 5,000 dead bodies were recovered from the depths there. And if that wasn’t enough, in 2009 the Niagara Falls Reporter suggested that 40 people died at the attraction every 12 months. These shocking figures prove that the beloved sight may not be as safe as you’d think.

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But the best-kept secrets of America’s most beloved landmarks do not always involve the hidden risks. While the careful study of some of the country’s greatest sites has certainly solved a few puzzles, other archaeological gems still baffle researchers with the enduring and intriguing mysteries that continue to enshroud them. For instance, how was the extraordinary Spider Rock in Arizona created? Here, we reveal the answers to this and many other enigmatic questions about stunning U.S. landmarks.

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20. Casa Grande Ruins

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Just north of the modern city of Coolidge, Arizona, there’s an ancient site known as the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The buildings date back to sometime around 1350, and archeological evidence shows that the ancestral Sonoran Desert people built these structures. Apparently, they lived in southern Arizona for around 1,000 years — until about 1450 — and built a sophisticated network of irrigation canals in the region that supported their agriculture.

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The centerpiece of the site is the Casa Grande – or Grand House. Italian Jesuit priest Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino gave it that name when he happened across it in 1694. The Grand House is built from caliche, which is a naturally occurring aggregate stone. And it’s certainly stood the test of time – as it’s still standing some 700 years after it was erected. The site is surrounded by low walls and includes the remains of various other structures. But what was the purpose of these structures? That remains an unsolved puzzle to this day.

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19. Georgia Guidestones

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The imposing granite slabs of the Georgia Guidestones stand nearly 20 feet tall and have loomed above Elbert County farmland since 1980. The monument consists of six blocks that collectively weigh an impressive 237,746 pounds. The stones are inscribed with various homilies. These range from an exhortation to limit world population to 500 million to a plea for “fair laws and just courts.” The inscriptions are engraved in eight different languages, too.

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The stones were commissioned from the Elberton Granite Finishing Company by someone calling themselves Robert C. Christian – although he admitted that this was a pseudonym. In 2009 Wired magazine quoted Elberton Granite’s Joe Fendley as saying that he thought Christian was a “nut.” So Granit had attempted to discourage Christian with a ridiculous quote – which Christian promptly accepted and built the structure. It was erected because the latter apparently wanted a monument that would provide guidelines for the human survivors of some future cataclysmic event.

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18. Hemet Maze Stone

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Hike through the San Jacinto Valley – a few miles west of the city of Hemet in California – and you’ll come across a massive boulder with an intriguing pattern carved into the stone. It’s known as the Hemet Maze Stone, and the motif does indeed portray a puzzle-like maze around two by two feet in size. It was only discovered as recently as 1914, yet it is more than 3,000 years old.

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The Hemet Maze is classed as a petroglyph – a stone carving which has usually been made in ancient times. Dating rock carvings is no easy task, but the examination of the encrustations that had gathered on this one’s surface through the centuries gave experts a clue. They think it’s between 3,000 and 4,000 years old. But we still don’t know who carved this enigmatic maze nor why they did so.

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17. Bighorn Medicine Wheel

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The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is located high in the mountains in the remote depths of Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest. It consists of a circle of white limestone rocks 80 feet across, and they’re laid out in lines that look like the spokes of a wheel. Amazingly, the structure is said to date back as far as 10,000 years or more.

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As for who made the intriguing design, experts think it may have been the Native Americans. And despite the fact that the structure has not been attributed to any single tribe, several do consider it to be sacred. According to a 1972 study by astronomer John Eddy, cairns around its perimeter align with sunset and sunrise at the summer solstice – and some line up with various celestial bodies. The Bighorn Medicine Wheel’s precise purpose remains a conundrum, however.

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16. Blythe Intaglios

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The Blythe Intaglios lie about 13 miles north-east of the city of Blythe in California – not far from U.S. Highway 95. Set at the foot of the Big Maria Mountains, the intaglios are huge images etched directly into the rocky ground. Works of this type are also known as geoglyphs, and the largest of the Blythe ones – representing a human figure – is 171 feet long.

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As well as human figures, then, the geoglyphs portray animals such as snakes, mountain lions and birds. Meanwhile, others feature unidentified creatures or geometric motifs. They were first discovered by a man called George Palmer when his plane flew over them in 1932.  There are six geoglyphs in the Blythe group – all within around 1,000 feet of each other. There is also no certainty as to who created these enigmatic images, and their meaning and original use remains unknown.

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15. Judaculla Rock

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Judaculla Rock is a large soapstone boulder with a flat side that is covered in enigmatic carvings. It’s located in remote, mountainous territory close to the banks of Caney Fork Creek in Jackson County, North Carolina. Etched into the malleable soapstone are an astonishing 1,548 symbols and patterns of various kinds. And the rock also bears evidence of quarrying activity and the carving out of bowls.

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The motifs engraved into the stone include stick figures, deer tracks, a winged symbol and a circle surrounding a cross. Archeological investigation has dated the marks left by cup-making to the Late Archaic era – which ran from around 8000 to 1000 B.C. The stone, it seems, had a special significance for the Cherokee people, and experts believe the carvings are a representation of their world.

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14. America’s Stonehenge

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America’s Stonehenge – previously known as Mystery Hill until its renaming in 1982 – consists of an array of large boulders and stones arranged into various types of structure. The site extends for some 30 acres and is set within the town boundaries of Salem, New Hampshire. It’s a popular tourist destination said to be particularly favored by New Agers, who are perhaps attracted by its resemblance to the real Stonehenge in England.

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Some have asserted that the slabs at America’s Stonehenge date back to pre-Columbian times, but this theory has been discounted by experts. So, it’s now generally believed that some of the structures at the site were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries by farmers. And many archeologists believe that one William Goodwin – who bought the site in 1932 – may have been the mystery builder.

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13. Miami Circle

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The Miami Circle is right in the downtown section of the Floridian city, and it is indeed a perfect circle spanning 38 feet across. There are 600 post holes and 24 depressions in the limestone rock. And it’s the only archeological site of its kind in the eastern states of the U.S.

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The circle is set at the mouth of the Miami River and was discovered during an archeological survey after an apartment building on the site was demolished in 1998. Using radiocarbon dating of wooden remnants at the site, researchers estimated that the site was built between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago. However, some academics have questioned the Miami Circle’s authenticity. And while other experts believe the site was created by the Tequesta tribe, its true purpose remains elusive.

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12. The Great Serpent Mound

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Set in Adams County by the Ohio Brush Creek, the Great Serpent Mound is a curving earthwork extending for 1,348 feet. Seen from above, its resemblance to a huge snake is unmistakable. The mounds are between one and three feet in height and up to 25 feet across. Unfortunately, though, identifying the mound’s builders remains a challenge, as no archeological artifacts have ever been discovered at the site.

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Nevertheless, experts have proposed two theories as to the Great Serpent Mound’s origins. The first is that it may have been built by the Adena people around 320 B.C. And the second proposition has it that people from the Fort Ancient Culture created the mounds much later in about 1070 A.D. Indeed, a fierce debate within the world of archeology continues to this day as to the origins of these mysterious earthworks.

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11. Mesa Verde Cliff Palace

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The Cliff Palace is located in the Mesa Verde National Park, and it’s a quite extraordinary series of structures built into the contours of monumental rock formations. The National Park – covering more than 50,000 acres – is home to over 5,000 archeological sites, and of those, the Cliff Palace is the most well-known. The Ancestral Puebloan people built and lived in these buildings – some 600 of which exist today.

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The Ancestral Puebloans constructed the dwellings from around 1190 A.D. probably as protection from increasing hostilities between different tribes in the region. Experts believe most of the structures were built over a period lasting just a couple of decades. But for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the Ancestral Puebloans deserted these homes in around 1300. Researchers have speculated that various factors may have been involved in the abandonment: including over-population, changes in climate and conflict with other tribes.

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10. Waffle Rock

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Waffle Rock is set in West Virginia’s Randolph County by the shores of Jennings Randolph Lake – a manmade reservoir. When the Potomac River was dammed in the 1930s, the rock was saved from the rising waters and moved to its present position. And you only need to look at the strange pattern on this unusual rock to understand why it got its name. The criss-cross lines make it look much like a waffle you’d eat for breakfast, you see.

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So what caused the decidedly weird patterns on the face of this rock? Conspiracy theorists have had a field day with it, claiming that the boulder was created by everything from giant lizards to aliens. Others have theorized that Native Americans carved the markings on the boulder. But the truth is a little less exotic; geologists assert that natural processes starting as long ago as 300 million years created the strange pattern.

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9. Horseshoe Canyon

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Horseshoe Canyon is set in a far-flung district of Utah, and it’s renowned for the intriguing images that are painted on the rock walls there. The most outstanding examples of these pictographs – painted in a style known as Barrier Canyon – are found in what is called the Great Gallery. And researchers have discovered other such images in Colorado and Arizona as well as in Utah.

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Experts believe that it was the nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Desert Archaic culture who created these beguiling images at the Great Gallery. A number of experts have dated these pictographs to between 400 and 1100 A.D., although evidence of Paleo-Indian occupation of Horseshoe Canyon goes as far back as 9000 B.C. Some believe the Great Gallery images may actually be around 7,000 years old, but the exact dates of creation remain a matter of debate. And the significance or meaning of the artworks is unknown, too.

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8. Winnemucca Petroglyphs

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The Winnemucca Petroglyphs were revealed to the modern world when Winnemucca Lake dried up in the 1930s. The rock carvings are in the north-west of Nevada on the borders of Pershing and Washoe counties – within the bounds of the Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation. And many boulders at the western end of the lake bed feature ancient carvings.

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These Winnemucca Petroglyphs include geometric motifs, carvings that look like trees and flowers, and in one example, a complex diamond design. They range from around eight inches to three feet across. Analysis using radiocarbon dating has confirmed that the lake’s water level between 14,800 and 10,500 years ago was low enough to allow carving. This makes these petroglyphs the most ancient discovered in North America, but their meaning remains unknown.

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7. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

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Just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, you’ll find the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. This pre-Columbian land covers an area of some 2,200 acres and includes around 80 separate mounds. These are the remains of an ancient city whose boundaries meant it was larger than the site that remains today. And in ancient times, the city apparently covered almost 4,000 acres and included around 120 mounds.

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These man-made mounds are all that remains of this large conurbation which was built and occupied from about 1050 A.D. However, evidence of human occupation of the site dates back as far as 1200 B.C. The city consisted of a sophisticated network of public spaces, homes and ceremonial areas connected by paths. The metropolis was populated by a people that modern researchers call Mississippians who lived across wide swathes of North America. But the site was abandoned in about 1300 A.D. for reasons that are still open to speculation.

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6. Fort Mountain Wall

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Set in Georgia’s Fort Mountain State Park, this ruined wall was built with rough stones blocks and extends for some 855 feet along the heights of Fort Mountain. The wall has a zigzag formation, and there’s a tumbledown gateway. The stones that were used to build it were obtained from the surrounding landscapes. What’s more, some weird and wonderful tales swirl around this ancient stone wall.

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One story even claims that it was built by Madoc – a Welshman who allegedly sailed to the United States in 1170 and built a series of fortifications. However, a 1956 study by University of Georgia archeologists came to the more realistic conclusion that the wall “represents a prehistoric aboriginal construction whose precise age and nature cannot yet be safely hazarded…” To date, no one has been able to come up with a clear explanation of who built the wall and the reason they felt the need to do so.

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5. Aztalan Mounds

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These mounds form part of the Aztalan State Park in Wisconsin’s Jefferson County and are the remains of a great city from 1,000 years ago. People of the Mississippian culture founded this city in around 1000 A.D., and its main remaining features are the monumental mounds that dot the site. The city’s builders were part of a widespread trading civilization that apparently stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes.

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The Mississippians built their homes around wide plazas which probably had some kind of ceremonial purpose. The large mounds have a flat-topped pyramid form and likely served as both ritual and defensive structures. After hundreds of years of occupation, though, the city fell into decline sometime during the 13th century and was abandoned. No one is certain about why this happened, but possible explanations have included environmental degradation and warfare.

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4. New England Stone Chambers

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You’ll find mysterious stone structures right across New England – with one estimate putting their number at around 800. There’s controversy about the true history of these chambers with many competing theories. Some say that the stone structures were built by some of the first Europeans to settle in New England and used for storage.

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Other experts assert that these stone buildings were erected by Native Americans before New England was settled by Europeans. And yet others believe that the structures were built by mooted European travelers to America as far back as the Bronze Age. However, experts generally regard that last theory as being extremely unlikely. This, therefore, leaves the competing ideas that the chambers were built by early European settlers or Native Americans. However, it seems that the jury remains out on that controversy.

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3. Chaco Canyon

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Chaco Canyon is the centerpiece of New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The location is home to the most extensive set of pre-Columbian buildings north of Mexico and includes 15 different archeological sites. Incredibly, some of the buildings at Chaco Canyon remained the largest ever erected in North America right up to the 19th century. And as for their purpose, some experts believe that the buildings may have been used for ritual purposes only rather than as everyday dwellings.

Image: John Wiley/CC BY 3.0

The Ancestral Puebloans built these structures, and it was a major site for this group of people from around 900 to 1150 A.D. Experts have noted that many of the buildings are aligned with astronomical cycles – suggesting they may have had a devotional purpose. For unclear reasons – although drought may have played a part – the Ancestral Puebloans had abandoned the Chaco Canyon site by about 1150.

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Image: Bart Everson/CC BY 2.0

2. Poverty Point

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Poverty Point World Heritage Site is located in the north-east of Louisiana – not far from the village of Epps and adjacent to the banks of the Bayou Macon. The site includes a series of earthworks in the shape of mounds and ridges set round a large public space and extending over some 345 acres. For reference, the prehistoric structures were built from around 1700 to 1100 B.C.

Image: Jennifer R. Trotter/CC BY-SA 4.0

People from what is now known as the Poverty Point culture built these monumental mounds as long as 3,700 years ago. But what was the purpose of these impressive earthworks? This is a question that has exercised archeologists for years. And experts are unsure if these mounds were a permanent city or whether they were perhaps only used on ceremonial, perhaps religious, occasions.

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Image: llflan/Getty Images

1. Spider Rock

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Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument is home to Spider Rock – a peculiar feature that soars some 750 feet skywards from the ancient landscape. The land around the sandstone rock belongs to the Navajo people, and this territory has been occupied by various tribes for around 5,000 years. But the question is: how was this extraordinary geologic formation created? Well, in 2017 the Arizona Highways website put that very question to geologist Harold Pranger of the National Park Service.

Image: Outdoor Craziness/CC BY-SA 3.0

Pranger explained, “Spider Rock at one time – many thousands to perhaps even hundreds of thousands of years – was connected to the ridge between the main Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. The hillslope and stream erosion processes worked at different rates along that ridge, obviously at a slower rate right at Spider Rock. The differential erosion left this tower that is now called Spider Rock behind.” So, there’s your answer.

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