Traveling in Iowa
Midwestern Iowa was one of my final destinations in my quest to visit all 50 states. As someone who is native to Virginia, Iowa seems to do a good job of staying under the radar. Other than being first state to vote during the presidential primaries, I seriously can’t think of anything else the state would be known for! I expected Iowa to essentially be a giant farm with a few small towns sprawled here and there. This is mostly true, but I was surprised by size of the capital Des Moines, and once I opened my mind to the great prairies, I realized how unique this ecosystem is in the country, and they quickly became a favorite place in Iowa.
Iowa’s capital of Des Moines is the largest city in the state with less than 200,000 people. A recent economic boom led to increased population, and even got Des Moines to be rated as one of the top 10 cities in America for business. The city is full of art and city parks as well as plenty of places to explore in the historic or court districts. Some other things to do in Des Moines include shopping, going to the casinos, or visiting Gray’s Lake and its beautiful Kruidenier Trail Bridge.
Tallgrass prairie once covered 85% of Iowa’s landscape, but sadly today that number has been reduced to only 0.1%. The wildlife refuge here has attempted to reintroduce buffalo, elk and other plants and animals in order to try to rebuild some of the unique ecosystem. Hiking trails wind through the prairie offering a chance to see what all of Iowa once looked like. Also don’t overlook the macro world, which is full of unique insects that pollinate the prairie and help sustain this ecosystem.
In many ways the Council Bluffs is simply a suburb of Omaha Nebraska, as only the Missouri River separates the two cities. But this small city is famous historically as the starting point of the Mormon trail, and as a segment of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Along the city’s riverbanks you’ll find casinos, restaurants, and even some great hiking and mountain bike trails.
This small picturesque town has its own city center, complete with a courthouse, church, and several small shops. Although there are many other towns like this in Iowa, Winterset is special as its the birthplace of John Wayne. The late actor’s house still stands and has been converted to a memorial and a museum.