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.


Fall on the Byway

The calendar says FALL, but the weather has been summer-like for the most part. Even though, Mother Nature knows when to change the outdoor color scheme from a variety of greens to collections of golds, reds, and oranges. As we travel the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, the green fields of corn have all turned gold and farmers are busy in the fields. Harvest time. I love harvest time! Just watch for slow moving vehicles and give the large equipment room to maneuver on the road.

The kids might be back in school, but on the weekends there are many things to do. Several people have posted on Facebook that they are taking the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad to see the beautiful views of the Des Moines River Valley near Boone. This is on my list of things to do this fall.

There are many Pumpkin Patches along the route for families to visit and to ride hayrack rides out to fields to select their own jack-o-lanterns. Many orchards also have apples ripe for the picking and my apples are going towards making apple crisp- it’s my favorite dish this time of year. My favorite orchard is the Berry Patch, just outside of Nevada (where I live), but there is also Allen’s Orchard in Marion, Buffalo Ridge Apple Orchard and Gardens to the east of Cedar Rapids, Deal’s Orchard outside of Jefferson, William Orchard near Denison, and Dittmer’s Orchard and Welch’s Orchard outside of Council Bluffs. There may be more near you-just use google and get directions and hours for each.

Along with the Halloween theme are haunted houses or haunted forests. The Carroll County Arts Council/Community Theatre is hosting a Scream Forest on Saturday and Sunday, Oct 23, 24 and Oct 30, 31 from 7-10PM. Meet at Swan Lake Park at the East shelter. They advertise it as over a mile long walk of FEAR. Sounds really scary!! Find them on Facebook and learn more.

Ames holds their Haunted Forest at S 4th St. Admission is $14 for Oct 16, 17, 18 and $15 for October 23, 24, 25, 29, 30, and 31. More information at

The Periwinkle Place Manor in Chelsea holds Murder Mystery Dinners every Saturday and some Friday nights. Check out their website at for more information.

If you enjoy scary events, just google to find more events in your area. I know we are not listing everything available.

If real paranormal activity is more your “speed” (a little Byway humor), stop by the Niland’s Corner in Colo and talk to Sandii about the group that came to record activity at that location. It is quite interesting and might put a chill up your spine!

Whatever your favorite fall activity might be, get out on the Byway and enjoy yourself! This is Iowa and all too soon we will be into another season. Enjoy the Fall while you can and I’ll see you along the Byway.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway

The Lincoln Highway Byway is just a part of the Iowa Byway program ( 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!

Lincoln Highway’s Corridor Management Plan

As you may know, Prairie Rivers of Iowa manages the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, one of 11 byways in Iowa (a byway is a road specially designated by the United States or by the State of Iowa for its distinctive qualities).  Part of our work along the byway is telling the story of the people and places of the Lincoln Highway, by working to preserve its history, by promoting local businesses and events, and by working with communities and statewide organizations to recognize its unique character.  If you’ve seen us at a motor tour stop, presenting to a community group, or read a Lincoln Highway brochure, you’ve seen some of our work on the byway.

Lincoln Highway Marker with an Abraham Lincoln Medallion and red, white, and blue Lincoln Highway logo

A Lincoln Highway Marker in Story County. Photo © Tom Apgar, Apgar Studios.

Beginning this spring, we are launching a three-year initiative: creating a new Corridor Management Plan for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway.  A Corridor Management Plan, or CMP, is a document that both reveals the assets of the Lincoln Highway and creates a plan for preserving and strengthening them within the byway’s corridor, or nearby area.

These assets might include the historical features of the byway, including buildings, Lincoln Highway markers, or segments of roadway.  They also might include the significant natural and environmental areas around the roadway, businesses and attractions in byway towns, and community groups that support byway travelers and local residents.

Preserving and strengthening these assets might include developing new plans for interpreting key Lincoln Highway locations for travelers, building up our tools for connecting the Lincoln Highway with Iowa students and teachers, especially focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, planning to enhance the byway traveler’s experience statewide, identifying creative Lincoln Highway projects in communities, and more.

You’ll notice I’ve said “might” several times.  The key part about creating a CMP is that it is truly a community-based plan.  Later this year, we will be beginning a series of public conversations across the state with people like you, people who care about the Lincoln Highway and its communities.  Together, we’ll decide on the important assets for each segment of the Lincoln Highway and the strategies for strengthening those assets.  You can learn more about the CMP process on Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s website.

Since this is the beginning of a conversation, let’s start talking.  I invite you to sign up for our mailing list so you can learn about the latest CMP news and find out about meetings and presentations in your community.  Please also consider contacting me to discuss the CMP in more detail or to learn how you might get more involved, especially as a volunteer or community leader.  You can reach me at or 515-216-4005.  Together, we can help build a Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway for the next 100 years!