Across the Ocmulgee River, well signed from I-16 exit 4, two miles east of Macon along the Emory Highway (US-23/80), the settlement now preserved as the Ocmulgee National Monument was a center of preconquest Native American culture. By the mid-1500s, when DeSoto and the first European colonists arrived, Ocmulgee had already been inhabited for over 800 years, with some remains dating from AD 900.
From the small WPA-era visitors center (478/752-8257, ext. 222, daily, free), where you can watch a short film and admire pieces of elaborate pottery found on the site, a short trail leads to a restored earthen lodge (complete with thinly disguised air-conditioning ducts!), where you walk through a narrow tunnel to the center of the circular kiva-like interior. The trail continues past the excavated remains of a Creek trading post, then crosses a set of railroad tracks before climbing a 45-foot-high Great Temple Mound, where you can see downtown Macon across the rumbling I-16 freeway—2,000 years of culture in one pleasant half-mile walk.