Iowa is one of the ten states that shares the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Approximately 325 of the 3,000 total miles meander through Iowa's river cities, which include Dubuque, Davenport, Muscatine, Clinton, Bellvue and Bettendorf . . . our home base for the weekend.
Having done the Great River Road through a significant portion of Wisconsin this past fall, I was very interested to see how the towns compared. I think I liked the ones we passed through in Iowa a little more. They seemed to be more picturesque of what I envision as Mark Twain's Americana.
Since we stayed in Bettendorf and took the Great River Road north when heading home to Wisconsin on Sunday, I only got a 100 mile snapshot of Iowa's side of the river. That said, it was really very nice and a trip I'd love to do when I had more time to explore.
The first real city we encountered after Bettendorf was Clinton. I had heard lots about "Clinton, Iowa" from someone I knew in soccer. His wife was from Clinton and he always made it sound like she was from little place out in the sticks. Now that I've been to Clinton, I don't know what he had to crow about, being raised in Monroe, Wisconsin. My goodness, Clinton was a rather large "little city" . . . very similar to Monroe.
Clinton seems to have a lot to offer visitors looking for a historical perspective on life on the river. There are a couple of museums worth noting; the Clinton Historical Society Museum and the Sawmill Museum. For folks looking for entertainment during the summer months, check out the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre. Staged in a restored paddle wheel boat, enjoy dinner and a show while cruising the Mississippi River.
North of Clinton is Bellvue, Iowa which is the location of Mississippi River Lock #12. As we drove through this town, we noticed several eagles seemingly floating in the winds above. Russ just had to stop to take more photos. Me? I was warm and comfy in the truck, not to mention, I did not have enough lens to photograph them so I stayed and chatted with Jan.
The road continued to wind north, generally following the river although at one spot, we took a noticeable turn to the left (west) away from the river. In this area were several large rock bluffs, similar again to what I had previously seen along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border up around LaCrosse, WI.
It was in this area that we saw a car driven by a young girl, accompanied by two friends, off the road in a rather deep ditch. We had gotten some snow overnight, which had the road icy in spots. It appeared as though they lost control on the shoulder and got sideways around the curve . . . and into the ditch they went. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and the local county sheriff was there with a tow truck to winch them out of the ditch.
The last river city we drove through in Iowa was Dubuque. Having driving the Milwaukee to Ames (IA) route many times, I was very familiar with Dubuque. It is home to many attractions including the National Mississippi River Museum, Crystal Lake Cave, Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens and Diamond Jo Casino & Hotel. Additionally, there is one US National Park Service site, the Effigy Mounds National Monument, approximately 65 miles north of Dubuque.
If you're going to be traveling in this area, I would encourage you to consider a side trip off the main highways to explore a little of this beautiful farmland that is also rich in history.