Scenic Drive in Iowa: Great River Road


© Sam and Dave Merrill

Not sure where to begin? Consider taking this Lansing to Guttenberg tour of Iowa's Great River Road.

Lansing: The tour begins in Lansing, home of Mount Hosmer Park. Also of interest is the Fish Farm Mound (an Indian burial site) and the nearby Our Lady of the Wayside Shrine.

Harpers Ferry: The next stop, Harpers Ferry, is 15 miles past Lansing. The town is built on a concentrated area of Native American mounds and was an important river town after the introduction of the steamboat. The Mississippi backwaters behind the town still attract hunters, trappers, and commercial fishing.

Yellow River Forest State Recreation Area: Just south of Harpers Ferry lies the Yellow River Forest State Recreation Area. This 8,000-acre forest contains some of Iowa's greatest terrain, with high scenic bluffs and cold streams. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources harvests the Yellow River Forest timber for use all over the state. The Paint Creek unit of the forest houses most recreational opportunities, including camping, canoeing, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, and hiking trails.

Effigy Mounds National Monument: Effigy Mounds National Monument, the next stop, is just two miles south of Yellow River Forest. Prehistoric mounds are common from the plains of the Midwest to the Atlantic seaboard, but only in this area were some of them constructed in an effigy outline of mammals, birds, or reptiles. Eastern Woodland Indian cultures built these mounds from about 500 B.C. to A.D. 1300. Natural features in the monument include forests, tallgrass prairies, wetlands, and rivers.

Marquette: The Effigy Mounds National Monument Visitor Center, located in Marquette, includes displays of local Woodland and Mississippian cultures, artifacts, and a herbarium. Riverboat casino gambling is available on the Miss Marquette Riverboat Casino.

Pikes Peak State Park: Pikes Peak State Park is five miles south of Marquette. This park boasts one of Iowa's most spectacular views across the Mississippi on the highest bluff along the river. It was named for Zebulon Pike, who was sent in 1805 to scout placement of military posts along the river. A fort was never built on this land, and it went into private ownership. Because settlers were not able to build on this property, the peak remains as Zebulon Pike saw it 200 years ago.

Guttenberg: The tour terminates in Guttenberg, 15 miles south of Pikes Peak State Park. Guttenberg boasts two scenic overlooks and a mile-long landscaped park along the river. A copy of the Gutenberg Bible is on display at the local newspaper. The city offers blocks and blocks of historic buildings.

Iowa's portion of the Great River Road offers a variety of historical sights, recreation areas, and charming towns to visit along your way.

©Publications International, Ltd.