New Day for National Scenic Byway Designations!

The world of Byways changed on September 22, 2019 when “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019” was signed into law. It passed out of the U.S House of Representatives on a vote of 404-19 earlier this year and then was passed unanimously in the Senate.  The President signed it on 9/22/19. The bill directs the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to restart the nomination process for National Scenic Byway status within 90 days of enactment, and to make a round of designations within one year.We are very grateful to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) for their leadership on the bill in the Senate and to Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) for their leadership in the House. See what other groups have to say about the passage of this bill and what it means for America at result for image of congress

We, at the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, are patiently waiting to see what the guidelines and nomination requirements are for this re-energized program. Only in Illinois is the Lincoln Highway a National Scenic Byway. The route in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and half of Pennsylvania are state byways. The other states (New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California) have not designated their portion of the historic route as a byway. One must first be a state byway before becoming a national byway.

In Iowa, we have two National Scenic Byways- the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway and the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. The Loess Hills runs along the western edge of the state and the Great River Road is along the Mississippi River on the eastern edge of Iowa. The Lincoln Highway connects to both of them.

Now keep in mind that no funding was attached to this bill. This is only to take nominations and approve byways for this distinction. That does not mean that funding couldn’t happen in the future, but it was not part of this bill.

A Corridor Management Plan has been a requirement in the past. We completed ours in late 2016 and have been working hard to implement the projects identified in that process. Twenty interpretive panels in 8 communities have been created and we have plans for several more.  The route has also been promoted  in brochures, presentations, and at the Iowa State Fair. We have partnered with universities, government entities, other non-profits, and citizens to retain this historic road and its varied resources.

As we keep the momentum going, writing grants and planning projects, we desire to become a National Scenic Byway one day. We see the possibility on the horizon.


Can Summer 2019 Really Be Over?

Can Summer 2019 Really Be Over?

Can summer really be over? It seems every year it goes faster and faster. We, here at the Byway office, seemed to have packed quite a bit into our last 3 months. Five communities celebrated 150 years this summer- Carroll, Dow City, Grand Junction, Scranton, and Westside. We entered a car into several of the parades and had Bob and Joyce Ausberger, Lincoln Highway Association members, help toss candy out to the crowd in Grand Junction. What a great way to share in the fun!

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway took 4 of the 11 days at the Iowa Byways booth under the grandstand at the Iowa State Fair (Aug 8-18) and talked to fair-goers about the unique Byway routes in Iowa. We shared some history in a trivia spinning-wheel game. Everyone, of course, got a prize!

This year our new featured booklet at the fair was about the original 1919 Army Convoy, the Lincoln Highway, Henry Ostermann (the idea man behind the convoy and a man we have written about before), Dwight Eisenhower (who was on the original convoy), and Dwight’s wife, Mamie, (who was born in Boone, Iowa). These booklets are available at some state Welcome Centers and select locations along the Byway route. And of course, you can always request copies from our office at

On August 15th, we unveiled an interpretive panel in the City of Montour’s Maple Hill Cemetery. This panel serves as a long overdue memorial to Henry Ostermann, who served the Lincoln Highway Association as their first Field Secretary and knew the road and the route better than anyone. He had been piloting convoys up and down the east coast in 1917 and came up with the idea to test men, equipment, and roads by taking a convoy across the nation- on the Lincoln Highway. His idea was a reality in 1919. In 1920, on his 21st trip across the nation (and his honeymoon), he lost his life in an accident east of Montour, near the cemetery. In the August-September 1920 Iowa Highway Commission Service Bulletin, the IHC called for a memorial to be placed near the accident site.

In 2019, it became a reality (99 years later). About 25 people gathered to witness this installation. A small program consisted of several speakers: Reed Riskedahl (Prairie Rivers of Iowa Board); Mary Preston (Iowa Lincoln Highway Association President); Dotti Thompson (Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa/Tama County Community Foundation); Rev. John Christianson (Living Faith Methodist Church of Montour), Sue Eberhart (Montour City Council); and Jan Gammon (Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Coordinator). Gammon also reads words from Rep. Dean Fisher of Montour. Sue Eberhart and Vicky Garske, Montour City Council members, unveiled the panel for all to see. During the program, a few sprinkles fell from the sky. In retrospect, maybe it was Mr. Ostermann verifying his overdue acknowledgement.

A few days later, we celebrated Mr. Ostermann once again as the Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) retraced the route of the original 1919 Convoy. The original convoy traveled about 6 mph and this modern day group, with vintage vehicles, averaged 35 mph. There was a link to live tracking, so a person could follow the convoy as it made its way across America. Our Byway staff caught up with the convoy in Belle Plaine, Iowa and then saw them again in Tama, Marshalltown, and Nevada. The convoy was impressed by the amount of people who came out to see them- whether on a city street or at the end of their rural lane. Byway staff had helped promote this event in Iowa- sending out press releases, sharing our booklet, and doing interviews with KROS Radio in Clinton and also with RadioIowa. We are most appreciative to the public for their response.

The Lincoln Highway Association will also bring a convoy of classic and contemporary cars, retracing the same route. They will be in Iowa September 6th and 7th, overnighting in Marshalltown and Council Bluffs. They will go a little faster!

Now with fall approaching, its time to regroup and look for funding for future projects. We have some already being planned, so stay tuned!


Lake Appreciation Month – Cairo Lake

“None of the lakes hereabout are very deep. They are all marsh-like, only distinguished from a thousand marshes by the courtesy of the pioneer who called them lakes to suit his fancy, recognizing their greater width and possibly, in some cases their bluffy shores.”

-Thomas H. McBride, Geology of Hamilton and Wright Counties (1910)

Two of the four lakes shown in the 1875 map (by A.T. Andreas) have been drained.


The governor has proclaimed July as Lake Appreciation Month. We’ve got a few lakes in the South Skunk River basin that we appreciate for different reasons.

  • Hickory Grove Lake is a 100-acre impoundment that we appreciate for swimming and fishing. The effort involved in constructing it and now restoring it is a testament to how much Story County residents value our lakes.
  • Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake is a 137-acre former gravel pit that we appreciate for paddle sports, fishing, and admiring from the trails.
  • Little Wall Lake is a 249-acre natural lake that we appreciate most for swimming and motorized sports.
  • Cairo Lake is a 1300-acre former lake that we now appreciate as corn ground.

Did you know about that last one?  Located between Jewell and Kamrar, it was drained starting in 1895 by a system of ditches (71 and Rahto Branch) and tiles, but you can still see the shoreline on aerial photos. “Lost Lake Farm,” a dairy on the north “shore”, is named as a nod to that history.


The scale of the work involved is impressive, especially given the technology available at the time, and was just one of many such alterations that built up Iowa’s agricultural economy. In this case it made farmable over 1000 acres of Blue Earth muck loams with a corn suitability rating of 63 to 66.

The work could not have happened without statutes adopted by the Iowa Legislature around 1890 that allowed for the formation of drainage districts, and reinforced by an amendment to the Iowa Constitution in 1908 to provide drainage districts with additional authority.

Today we have plenty of good farm ground but few clean lakes.  We’ve got amazing yields but not reliable profits. We’ve got too little carbon in the soil and too much in the atmosphere.  We’ve got too much nitrogen washing off our fields toward the Gulf.  The environmental challenges are daunting, but when I look at old maps, it makes me wonder what today’s Iowans could accomplish, if we had the legal framework and economic incentives to make it possible.

Learning and Sharing About the Byway

The Corridor Management Plan is coming along nicely. From our community input meetings, reviewing city comprehensive plans, and discussions with officials in communities and counties along the Byway we certainly have an exhaustive amount of information and ideas to make a very detailed living document.

I have kept my nose to the grindstone for a while now and did come up for air last week when I took a few days off. The second day back, I attended the Travel Federation of Iowa’s Legislative Showcase at the State Fairgrounds. This was the first event I attended last year when I began as the coordinator of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. I know SO much more about the Lincoln Highway and Byways in general than I did last year at this time. I was able to talk about the Lincoln Highway and the Iowa Byway program to the legislators as they passed by the Iowa Byways’ booth and encouraged them to continue their support of tourism.

This event is also a great way to network with chambers and attractions along the Byway. I chatted with Alan from the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, Mark from Council Bluffs Convention and Visitors Center, Taylor from the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and many others. I also had a chance to talk with my fellow Byway coordinators about projects, successes, and challenges.

An upcoming event will be hosted by the Iowa Byways. The Heartland Byway Conference will be April 4th-6th in Council Bluffs and we are very excited to have attendees learn more about Western Iowa including the Loess Hills Scenic Byway, Western Skies Scenic Byway, and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Scenic Byway. These three Byways intersect and conjoin for a bit at the Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center in Missouri Valley, just north of Council Bluffs. One afternoon, we will take a tour of the Loess Hills and this will be one of the stops.

Key note speakers at the conference will be Michelle Matt, Chuck Offenburger, and the Path Less Peddled. Breakout sessions will include topics such as working with volunteers, GIS, interpretive plans, marketing, infrastructure, corridor management planning, team work, and creating an authentic experience. Anyone interested in Byways and tourism or involved with chambers, visitor bureaus, or serves on an advisory board or volunteers at an attraction is welcome to attend.

I am so excited to be a part of this event! Besides increasing my knowledge and networking with fellow professionals, there will be great food and that bus trip through the Loess Hills! I am looking forward to spending time on this side of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway and experience the Loess Hills, Hitchcock Nature Center, and the communities along the route. I am also excited to reconnect with the other Lincoln Highway Byway coordinators from Indiana, Ohio, and Nebraska. We met at the National Scenic Byway training last summer in Ohio and made plans to meet again in Council Bluffs!

If you want to attend, please register at The conference will be held at the Holiday Inn & Suites, 2202 River Road in Council Bluffs. I will tell you all about it in future posts. Be sure to check our Facebook page for photos!

Winter and the Byway

In my first year as the coordinator, I have enjoyed traveling on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway and seeing the seasons change. I remember how wonderful it was to see the green grass emerge and the trees starting to bud. Then later in summer, due to timely rains, the grass remained green and the crops were maturing. This fall, everything seemed to be a golden color as crops were harvested and tree leaves began change color and drop.

Today the sun is out, but the wind is howling and tomorrow’s forecast is for SNOW! We all knew it would happen sometime and I guess we should be happy we have avoided it so far. I know as an Iowan, snow is inevitable. This forecast has me thinking.

Restored Barn on LH near 330 by Carl Kurtz

© Carl Kurtz

Yesterday, I was asked to submit winter photos along the Byway for a marketing program. As I looked at the photos we have on file, I began to make peace with the approaching season. Winter can be truly beautiful. There was the photo of a cottonwood stand against a winter blue sky and the crisp new white snow. Reminded me of my childhood home and the cottonwoods in our yard and along the creek.

IMG_3954 copy Lincoln HWY HB Iowa Mount Crescent Ski Area by Mike Whye

© Mike Whye

In another picture, an older barn and the newly fallen snow looked so quiet and peaceful. I could almost hear the crunch of the snow under my feet, if I were to walk towards the barn. Compare that to the photo of people skiing at Seven Oaks near Boone. There were people in the ski lifts and parents, children, and  teenagers enjoying the day. Lots of voices, laughing, and shouts to each other would fill the air. I can imagine they will be sad when that season ends and the snow melts away.

Even the photo of a random snowbank makes you stop and think how does Mother Nature make such interesting sculptures with just moisture, cold, and wind? Compare that to the photo of the snowplow blowing through large drifts on the roadway. We rely on these public servants to keep us safe while we travel whether for business or pleasure.

And the photo of the Reed-Niland Corner, still open for business. Carrying on. Won’t let a little snow stop them from serving great food and sharing the story of the Lincoln Highway with visitors.


© City of Colo

Snow is coming. It will happen. How will I enjoy it? You know, years ago I tried cross-country skiing in Canada. I really enjoyed it. I always thought I’ d like to try it here in Iowa. Hmm. This might be the year. I know of many county and city parks around me where skiing might be possible. I just might head to the outdoor store and get setup to do that!

Let me know how you are going to enjoy this season along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. Whether it might be ice fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or even joining me in some cross country skiing, share your experiences on our Facebook page. This Byway can be enjoyed anytime of year! It has so much to offer.