The Lincoln Highway Bridge Over Mud Creek in Tama in Need of Repair

The Lincoln Highway Bridge Over Mud Creek in Tama in Need of Repair

One of the most iconic bridges in the 3,389 mile length of the historic transcontinental Lincoln Highway is in Tama, Iowa, and its structural integrity is in need of repair. As manager of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, Prairie Rivers of Iowa has been working with the City of Tama to restore and protect the bridge, but process delays and COVID have slowed progress to a near standstill.

Tama Bridge showing state of disrepair
Military Vehicle Preservation Association crossing Tama Bridge in 2019

The Tama Lincoln Highway bridge holds an important place in the history of transportation in our country. It was constructed in 1915 when Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States and before we got tangled up in World War I. It was the year Babe Ruth hit his first career home run. Half of the US population lived on the farm, and most transportation was still by foot or horse. The Model T was popular and promised increased mobility but roads could be treacherous, especially after a rain. 

The idea for the first improved transcontinental highway generated support across the country and gave birth to the Lincoln Highway Association. Towns along the roadway’s charted path were grateful for the honor, anticipating an influx of travelers and hence growth in commerce.

Tama’s now-famous bridge was constructed to attract interest and burnish the town’s image as a destination. Designed by Iowa Highway Commission architect Paul N. Kingsley, the Lincoln Highway Bridge is distinctive for spelling out the name of the roadway in its railings. Concrete lampposts topped by globe lights decorated the bridge’s four corners, adding to its graceful charm.

The Tama bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, nominated by the Tama Bicentennial Commission. The nomination included a quote from the July 1919 Lincoln Highway Forum, a publication of the Lincoln Highway Association, asserting that the bridge is “a good example of up-to-date highway advertising. Tourists over this section of the famous road cannot fail to be impressed with the advertising values as well as the pleasing and distinctive appearance of this unique feature of bridge construction.”

While the bridge has continued to attract admirers over the years, time has taken its toll. Prairie Rivers of Iowa has worked with the City of Tama to assess the integrity and safety of the bridge and put together a plan for its restoration. In 2018 PRI applied for and received a grant from the state Historical Resource Development Program of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to help cover the costs. Additional support and funding has come from the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, the Mansfield Foundation, and other donors, but a series of delays and the advent of COVID have held up progress. In October of this year, the Iowa DOT informed Tama that Iowa Code necessitates yet another delay to gather additional information and rebid the work. Meanwhile, the original cost estimate of $115,000 has mushroomed to over $300,000.

The Tama-Toledo News Chronicle reported in October that the City of Tama is planning to re-bid the project and complete the repair by August 2022, but the situation is being closely monitored by PRI, the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association, and history buffs across the nation.

 

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!

Iowa’s Lincoln Highway Is Now a National Scenic Byway!

Iowa’s Lincoln Highway Is Now a National Scenic Byway!

The long awaited announcement came the morning of February 16th, 2021 that the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway has been given the designation of a National Scenic Byway!
This was a long-awaited award and work towards it began in 2016 when working on the Corridor Management Plan (CMP)and talked about even prior to that.

The Lincoln Highway, although the first improved transcontinental road in the nation, is a fairly newer byway in Iowa. The Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byway program is over 20 years old. The Lincoln Highway was nominated by the Iowa Lincoln Highway Association and brought into the fold as a state byway in 2006 (making it 15 years in 2021).

Woodbine’s bricked Lincoln Highway

A byway is made up of 6 intrinsic qualities: archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic. The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway’s main quality is historic and we focus on that aspect in many of our programs and marketing materials. To be a National Scenic Byway one of these qualities needs to be of high value and the route has to already be recognized as a state byway through their DOT.

The Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway Corridor Management Plan (CMP).

As part of Prairie Rivers of Iowa’s agreement with the Iowa DOT to manage this byway, we created a CMP using criteria set out by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). We held community meetings and visited with residents, government officials (local, county, and state) and other organizations to see what amenities existed in each of the intrinsic qualities. Our plan gathered ideas and feelings of the 13 counties and 43 communities our byway ties together as we prepared our to-do lists of projects. One of the topics, and identified as a state-wide project, was for the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway to apply to be a National Scenic Byway.

There was only one small problem. The National Scenic Byway program was sitting on FHWA’s shelf. It was still a program, but was not active and not being funded. It wasn’t revived until 2020 when the program welcomed new designations (no funding included). The stars had aligned for us- the Scenic Byway program was revived and taking applications, we had a completed our CMP, we also had an Interpretive Master Plan, and we had overwhelming support of our communities to make this application. See https://www.prrcd.org/lincoln-highway-corridor-management-plan/for the full CMP.

Once the work began in earnest on the multi-page application, we needed to identify 8 important locations that supported our chosen “Historic” quality. It was difficult to narrow the choices down to just 8 and even them out across Iowa to show an accurate impression of the Lincoln Highway route in Iowa.

The locations chosen were:

  • The Sawmill Museum, Clinton
  • Youngville Cafe, rural Benton County
  • Preston’s Station Historic District, Belle Plaine
  • Lincoln Highway Bridge, Tama
  • Reed-Niland Corner, Colo
  • Carroll Railroad Depot, Carroll
  • Brick Street, Woodbine
  • Harrison County Historical Village and Welcome Center, Missouri Valley
Youngville Cafe, rural Benton County, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built by Joe Young in his pasture for his widowed daughter to operate the gas station, cafe, and cabins. She and her children lived upstairs.

Also included in the application was a route map and a turn-by-turn description of the 460+ mile Iowa Byway route, traveler information about nearby airports and interstates/highways, restroom availability, brochures and marketing materials that are available, etc. It was a very intensive application and took a team to write it and to create the map.

Our application was reviewed and submitted in June 2020 by the Iowa DOT and then the waiting began. FHWA said in late summer 2020 that they had made their recommendations to the Office of Administration and Office of Transportation for them to review and approve the list. Approval finally happened on January 19, 2021 but the announcement not made until February 16th.

We are so excited to embark on this new journey as a National Scenic Byway and the exposure we will receive now on a national level. Even during a pandemic, we have been delighted to see visitors check-in to locations in our new passport program with Travel Iowa. This program rolled out in January 2020 and will run for a year. All eight of the above locations are, or will be, a part of this passport program. It’s another way we encourage people to travel and learn more about this historic road.

We’ll see you on the Byway – now a NATIONAL Scenic Byway!

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.


Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries Oh My!

Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries Oh My!

What do you do during a pandemic? And while you’re at it, throw in a derecho too! Well, the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway created two videos and a brochure about Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries in Eastern Iowa along the Lincoln Highway. It was a fun, challenging, and in the end – a very rewarding experience.

View of the Mississippi River from the deck at Wide River Winery north of Clinton.
Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery entrance at Swisher, Iowa.

Getting Started

Notification of partial funding for the Lincoln Highway project came from Iowa Tourism in November 2019 and we spent the winter months contacting and working with the four supporting businesses who are featured in the videos. Spring and the start of the growing season would work best for filming and then BOOM! Mid-March came with a pandemic and everything came to a screeching halt. Breweries, distilleries, and wineries were ordered closed and everyone was told to stay home. If you went out in public, you were asked to wear a mask. Schools and universities closed or went on-line. Oh, no! We were working with the University of Iowa’s Cinematic Arts Department and the Office of Outreach and Engagement and were counting on graduate students to do the filming and editing. Putting the videos on a temporary hold, we turned our attention to the accompanying tri-fold brochure that we hoped to debut at the Byways booth at the Iowa State Fair. Well, you all know how that went with the fair…… At times, we wondered if this project would ever get off the ground, but it did!

Work Gets Underway

Trevon Coleman, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduate student at the U of I, and Philip Rabalais, a recent MFA graduate, agreed to do the filming and editing. During mid-to-late summer, some restrictions were lifted allowing for partial business openings. We had the opportunity to film and we jumped at it. For safety precautions, we were masked the entire time. Patrons at the establishments wore masks except for when they were eating or drinking. At times it felt very surreal. But people were looking for a safe escape from their homes. One couple from Illinois rode a motorcycle down the Iowa side of the river to celebrate the wife’s birthday and stopped at the Mississippi River Distilling Company. Wide River Winery had two RV’ers stop in. One is featured in the film. She is from Virginia, retired, and decided to rent out her house and take off across America. She hasn’t been home for over a year.

Trevon Coleman interviewing Jeff Quint at Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery in Swisher. Philip Rabalais on the floor working the sound equipment.
Trevon Coleman (foreground) and Philip Rabalais, U of I graduate students, prepare their equipment at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City.


Most patrons were willing to share their experiences. At Cedar Ridge, 4-5 groups were enjoying the spacious outdoor seating. Big Grove Brewery just added to their outdoor seating and it was being put to good use as well. Many people were tired of being at home and as long as they could travel at their own speed and social distance, they were having a great time. As said in one of the films, people need to “get off the couch and into the car.”


The four locations: Mississippi River Distilling Company (LeClaire), Wide River Winery (Clinton), Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery (Swisher), and Big Grove Brewery (Iowa City) all were very accommodating and these videos show the owners’ passion for their business and products. Doing our part, we did taste test a few brews, spirits, and wines and brought some back to share with others…. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

Garrett Burchett moving newly delivered empty barrels to make room for the film shoot at the Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire.

That’s a Wrap

Even throwing a derecho at us in August, did not deter Trevon and Philip from completing the filming. Once power was restored and businesses were open again, they forged on. We are so excited to share the end product with the public and we will see you on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway as you patronize these 4 locations and the others in eastern Iowa. And have fun. “There’s always got to be fun!”

Big Grove created a’ “Beer Interrupted” named for the derecho hitting and a power outage interrupting the brew process. Big Grove leaves no brew behind so the hazy DIPA was aggressively hopped with El Dorado and Lotus.

The uploaded videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV4zTBb73nM&t=9s (Big Grove- Cedar Ridge) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skoaBsqtbn0 (Mississippi River-Wide River).

Also available is the accompanying brochure about the history of breweries, distilleries, and wineries in Iowa and a map of their locations in eastern Iowa. Please find it on our Byway page at https://www.prrcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ILHA-Brochure-2.pdf