The Lincoln Highway Byway is just a part of the Iowa Byway program (www.iowabyways.org). There are eleven in total. Two are National Byways and nine are state Byways. The two National ones are the Loess Hills (along the Missouri River) and the Great River Road (along the Mississippi River). The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway connects with the two National Byways at Clinton (on the Mississippi River side) and in Missouri Valley to Council Bluffs (on the Missouri River side).
Two other byways connect to the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. The Iowa Scenic Valley shares LeGrand, Montour, Tama, Chelsea, and Belle Plaine with the Lincoln. Our road heads back north to Marion and Cedar Rapids and theirs heads south to Marengo and the Amanas.
Western Skies Scenic Byway also connects with the Lincoln in Missouri Valley and they both head north to Logan and Woodbine. The Lincoln keeps going north to Dunlap, but the Western Skies heads east to Harlan , Kimballton, a side trip to Elk Horn, then to Guthrie Center, Panora and south to Stuart.
The other byways are Historic Hills Scenic Byway in southeast Iowa, Glacial Trail Scenic Byway in northwest Iowa, Driftless Area Scenic Byway and River Bluffs Scenic Byway in northeast Iowa, and Delaware Crossing Scenic Byway and Grant Wood Scenic Byway in east central Iowa.
That makes eleven! Did you notice something about the names of the other byways? Yes, they all contain the word scenic. The Lincoln Highway is the only Heritage (historical) Byway. Our main importance is the road itself.
Now that’s not to say there isn’t anything scenic along the Lincoln Highway (there is!). But the Lincoln Highway was created as the first transcontinental road from TImes Square to San Francisco, thus making it a very historic road. Originally the road was marked with red/white/blue signs and a large “L” in the middle. The Department of Transportation has used that same design and added the Iowa Byway logo for the modern signage. Just hop on the route anywhere and follow the signs. Some places you might be on pavement and in other places you might be on gravel for a bit. (Like between Ames and Boone.)
I am learning about the Byway and all there is to do and see. We are currently conducting public meetings in communities along the byway and will create a new corridor management plan. It is really fascinating to meet and work with the people in these communities.
So far, some of my favorite places to see are the Des Moines River Valley between Boone and Ogden, the footprints left in the 1929 pavement in Ogden, the Meskwaki settlement near Tama, the Lincoln Bridge on E 5th St in Tama that has the words “Lincoln Highway” in the concrete side panels, the Reed/Niland Cafe in Colo, and old gas stations in Jefferson.
Travelers need to eat. Recently, I have eaten at the Reed/Niland cafe and explored the interpretive panels inside the cafe, eaten Iowa’s best tenderloin at the Lucky Pig in Ogden, had a King Club at King Tower in Tama, and tried the Lincoln Highway red wine at the Santa Maria Vineyard and Winery in Carroll . The newest edition of Edible Iowa has an article about food along the Lincoln Highway. I am sure I will be taste testing more along the Byway in the coming months.
Iowa’s festivals and fairs will begin in the next few months. Just to name a few I hope to attend are Tama’s Lincoln Bridge Festival, the Bell Tower Festival in Jefferson, and the Meskwaki Pow Wow near Tama. Let’s go explore and celebrate along the Lincoln Highway!