Damage to either the fimbria-fornix or to the hippocampus can produce a deficit in spatial behavior and change in locomotor activity but the extent to which the two kinds of damage are comparable is not known. Here we contrasted the effects of cathodal sections of the fimbria-fornix with ibotenic acid lesions of the cells of the hippocampus (Ammon's horn and the dentate gyrus) on place learning in a swimming pool and on circadian activity. Rats in both ablation groups were impaired relative to control rats in learning a single place response but they did acquire the response as measured by swim latencies, errors, and by enhanced searching on probe trials. They were also more active than the control group on the test of activity. Nevertheless, the fimbria-fornix group was initially more impaired on learning and was more active than the hippocampal group. Analysis of the strategies used in learning indicated that the lesion groups were very similar to each other but different from the control group especially in that at asymptotic performance, rats in both lesion groups made rather tight loops as they swam toward the platform. This strategy likely contributed to the greater proportion of time they spent swimming in the correct quadrant on the subsequent probe trial. These findings confirm that rats with fimbria-fornix or hippocampal damage display impairments in place learning and are hyperactive but also show that there are lesion differences. The results are discussed with respect to the relative effectiveness of the lesions and the possibility that fibers in the fimbria-fornix may mediate some functions that are not attributable to the hippocampus.