Day Trips: Caddo Mounds Historic Site, Alto

New grass house shows how the old ways provided shelter

photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site outside of Alto is sporting a new beehive hairdo. Actually, it is a two-story, conical-shaped grass house replica of the type used by the Caddo people at the site until the 13th century.

From the time the state park opened until around 1995, a grass hut had illustrated how the Caddo lived. Made with pine, willow, and cedar poles covered in layers of switchgrass, the houses were warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Unfortunately, the dwellings are not meant to last, and after 15 years the replica was removed.

After months of backbreaking work by volunteers, a new copy of the round beehive-shaped home opened to visitors late last year. At its zenith, a village of 140 of these houses surrounded three ceremonial mounds.

The Caddo were once the dominant force in an area from East Texas into southern Missouri. They thrived on trade and agriculture rather than war. As the southwesternmost ceremonial center for the tribe, Caddo Mounds was an important religious, governmental, and burial place for 500 years. The residents dispersed when the settlement's political influence waned.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site is six miles southwest of Alto and 26 miles west of Nacogdoches. The site's museum does an excellent job telling the story of the Caddo and how the huts were built. For information, go to caddo-mounds-state-historic-site.

The Caddo Nation lived in East Texas for centuries until they were forcibly removed to western Oklahoma in the 1840s. The tribe now lives outside of Binger, Okla. On April 8, tribal members will perform a traditional blessing ceremony at Caddo Mounds for the beehive-shaped house.

1,337th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol.2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX 78704.

Follow "Day Trips & Beyond," a travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips: The Power Plant Texas Grill, Seguin
Day Trips: The Power Plant Texas Grill, Seguin
Comfort food in a comforting place

Gerald E. McLeod, April 16, 2021

Day Trips: Junction, Texas
Day Trips: Junction, Texas
Explore the eastern edge of West Texas at Junction

Gerald E. McLeod, April 9, 2021


Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Alto Texas, Caddo tribe

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle