Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

Enjoy the End of Summer on the Byway!

by Iowa’s Heritage and Scenic Byway Coordinators

Can you believe that summer is already coming to a close? There’s no better way to end the season than with a tour around the most scenic overlooks and hiking spots all throughout the state of Iowa. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends or by yourself – these are locations you won’t want to skip! 

In addition, the Iowa State Fair is set to begin on August 12 and run through the month, but there are several other events happening on and around each of the Scenic Byways in Iowa, too. Pick an event, pick a byway or pick a destination… you won’t be disappointed. 

Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park Boone, Iowa

Overlooks & Scenic Views

From east to west and north to south, our state is filled with the most beautiful locations and hidden gems. Take a look at each of these featured spots along all of the Iowa byways. Where are you going next?
Click Here for August’s Featured Locations!

There’s town celebrations, farmers markets, and fun scheduled all month long. Take a look at the calendar of events for what’s coming in August. Click Here for August Events!

Come Explore on the Lincoln Highway!

Come Explore on the Lincoln Highway!

One month in and 2021 is looking very promising for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway! The Iowa Scenic Byways Passport Program rolled out on January 5th. Our Byway office in Ames is one of the stops and people are visiting us and picking up our free travel information. It’s great to see travelers out enjoying Iowa, even in the winter months. Go to Iowa Scenic Byway Passport (traveliowa.com) and join the nearly 2,500 that have already entered the program. By checking into each new location on your cell phone, you are entered into a drawing for a gift basket worth hundreds of dollars from one of the Byways. Our gift basket month is April.

And why April, you ask? Well, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway turns 15-years old on March 31st so we will spend the month of April celebrating our birthday. We hope to know by then if we are selected to be a National Scenic Byway and then we’ll have even more to celebrate.

Speaking of celebrations, we are planning unveiling ceremonies for all of our newly installed interpretive panels. Two panels are completed and waiting for spring to arrive and installation to occur. They are at Preston’s Station Historic District in Belle Plaine and the Missouri and Mississippi Divide pull-off near Arcadia. Four more are in the design phase. 1. Yellow Smoke Park near Denison about the Bowstring Bridge, 2. Eureka Bridge near Jefferson, 3. Marshall County Courthouse in Marshalltown, and 4. Woodbine about their town and brick streets. We are waiting to hear on funding for a 4-panel installation in Clinton. We should know by May and get those designed and installed as well.

Mary Preston and her husband, Garry Hevalow, accepting the interpretive panel for Preston’s Station Historic District in Belle Plaine. Installation will be Spring 2021.

We’d like to thank the Union Pacific Railroad Community Ties Giving program, Humanities Iowa, Burke Heritage Fund, Woodbine Main Street, Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce Tourism, and Rotary Club of Denison for their grants and donations towards this project.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway is rolling with COVID-19 and its challenges. We are promoting locations that allow for social distancing and zero touch-points. Go to our webpage and under “Take a Road Trip” http://Take a Road Trip! – Prairie Rivers of Iowa (prrcd.org) you will find our brochures to help plan your trip across Iowa on the Lincoln Highway. We have an Info Guide (an overall brochure of things to see and do), Recreational and Camping brochure, Junior Explorer booklet (for kids), 1919 Army Convoy brochure, and our most recent- Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries in Eastern Iowa. Whatever your interest, you should find something either educational, entertaining, or relaxing on the Lincoln Highway. We’ll see you on the Byway!

When planning a trip along the Lincoln Highway, use our brochures as guides.
The Junior Explorer booklet has games for kids to play in the car.

Corridor Management Plan Update

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway is a little over halfway through our 3-year process to create a new Corridor Management Plan for the Byway. The Byway travels through 13 counties and 43 communities in the central part of Iowa. By holding community input meetings in each county, we have included residents in this process. We have asked them to consider the 6 intrinsic qualities that make a Byway: historical, cultural, natural, scenic, recreational, and archaeological. What did they have in their community, what do they currently have in their community and what do they wish to see in their community in relation to these qualities?

Historical is the most prominent quality of the Lincoln Highway. In Iowa, the train came through first and the Lincoln Highway followed the rail line going east and west across the state. They had already found, through trial and tribulations, the driest and flattest areas to lay their tracks and the best places build bridges to cross rivers and streams. Iowa was known for its MUD and the road we take for granted now, did not exist. Road improvements took some time and many conversations were held as to who should maintain and eventually pave main roads. Some felt it was a local responsibility, some felt it was a county’s, and some felt it should be the state’s. Today we see all of these variations depending on what type of road it has become. (Some “loops” of the original route are still gravel!) The Lincoln Highway, itself, is historical, but so are some of the bridges and buildings along the route in the counties the Highway travels through.

Iowans are people from many different cultures. The Meskwaki Nation settled in Iowa after the Louisiana Purchase opened up the territory. Other settlers moved westward and whole towns could be made up of German, Norwegian or Czech immigrants- just to name a few. All along the Byway, each town holds some kind of a summer celebration and offers up their special local foods and shares their customs and uniqueness with visitors.

Some might say Iowa is not that scenic or have many natural features, but just travel the Lincoln Highway and see the changes in the landscape! The Lincoln Highway crosses two major rivers – the Mississippi and Missouri, and other larger rivers- the Cedar, Iowa, Des Moines, and Boyer and  some smaller rivers and streams- the Wapsipinicon, Skunk, North Raccoon, Squaw Creek and Indian Creek, to name a few. Iowa might not have mountains, but the Loess Hills along the Missouri River or the Bohemian Alps, as the locals call them, to the east of Tama, sure show Iowa’s change in elevation. The M and M Divide outside of Carroll has rivers to the east traveling southeast to eventually flow into the the Mississippi and the rivers to the west, traveling southwest flowing into the Missouri River.

Along these rivers, streams, hills, wetlands, prairie potholes, and restored prairies there is a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Visitors and residents can bird watch, canoe, water ski, downhill ski, ice fish, hike, and hunting and fish. There are bike trails, horse trails, off-road vehicle trails, and walking trails.

The State Office of Archaeology has been a great resource for important digs along the Byway. Most sites are kept confidential, but much of Iowa has documented evidence that cultures living here long ago left proof of their existence. As new roads are built and riverbanks are cut away due to flooding and flow of water, new artifacts are bound to be uncovered.

Using all of the information collected in the community meetings and from other sources, we will develop a plan to preserve, restore, and create new opportunities for the communities along the Byway to develop and grow.  At its inception from Times Square to San Francisco, the Lincoln Highway was a way for “common” folks to purchase a car and travel from town to town, county to county, state to state, and see America. The traveler needed to find amenities in each community whether it be a gas station, car repair shop, restaurant, hotel/motel, or campground. This brought economic development to these communities and it was a great honor to be named as a town along the route. Over time, perhaps a newer bridge was built or a road was improved and that caused the route to be moved slightly and those have been developed into “loops”. But for the most part, the route has stayed within the original communities on the proclamation route. How can we measure the impact the Byway has on these 43 communities?

One way is through the Economic Impact study we are conducting as a baseline to determine what impact the Byway has on its Corridor today. Visitor surveys are in 11 locations along the Byway: Sawmill Museum in Clinton, Lincoln Cafe and Wine Bar in Mount Vernon, Belle Plaine Museum in Belle Plaine, King Tower in Tama, John Ernest Vineyard and Winery outside of Tama, Reed- Niland Cafe in Colo, Greene County LHA Museum in Grand Junction, Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson, Cronk’s in Denison, Harrison County Welcome Center in Missouri Valley, and the Union Pacific Museum in Council Bluffs. If you are out traveling along the Byway and are 25 miles from your residence, stop into one of these locations and fill out a survey.

The plan is to gather this information and develop it into a working document next year. In the meantime, we welcome comments, concerns, or general stories you might have about the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. Comment on this blog or contact Jan Gammon, Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway coordinator, at jgammon@prrcd.org.