Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Nation Rich in Rivers

Along the Upper Mississippi every hour brings something new. There are crowds of odd islands, bluffs, prairies. hills, woods, and villages -- everything one could desire to amuse children.
Mark Twain
Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1886

Here at Pike's Peak State Park in Iowa exactly 129 years later these children are having a great time.


This is our first Iowa State Park and we are IMPRESSED. CCC stonemasons finished the native Dolomite in a close fit, urban style, but each block whispers clues of the eons of compression and upheaval that formed it.


The CCC work must have included an Overlook structure, but when it was re-done in modern times, the park honored the past with the same stonework in a graceful steel sculpted wing shape.


Wings are a theme here. From this 500' bluff, we watched Eagles coasting among the islands far below and, just then, another riding the ridgeline thermal barely 30' overhead.

The small campground is thoughtfully laid out without being over-engineered. The shower house is spectacular, the grounds are returning to pristine after the thrashing winds of last week. More importantly, the personnel are friendly, outgoing and knowledgable.

We hiked short trails to waterfalls down elaborate staircases and along ridgeline trails to some of the effigy mounds found in the park.


Effigy mounds are burial or ceremonial mounds shaped into recognizable forms by Native Americans in the late Woodland period. The Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves mounds from earlier periods as well as striking examples of Effigy Mounds. The hiking trails are excellent, but frankly, the visitor would be underwhelmed by low grassy humps amid second growth timber if it were not for the superb interpretive work of the resident rangers.

We nearly struck out on our own, but joined a small group on a scheduled hike.

We were joined by a father and two young daughters out for a summer adventure that already touched more National Parks than we have visited. Their thoughtful questions and obvious curiosity kept the hike lively; Ranger Michael's wide range of thoughtful commentary enriched us all.

The Monument encompasses those "bluffs, prairies, hills and woods" that Mr Twain mentions , a rich variety of trails and environments to explore. As to the "Villages", there are a trio of river towns to explore and seek refreshment. McGregor and Marquette Iowa and Prairie du Chien Wisconsin offer small town historic areas and a variety of dining opportunities. We plan our days to take advantage.


There are, of course, activities to "amuse children", like bike riding with "Our Sister Beth" who joined us while still rehabbing Pat's knee.



Our totally theraputic and heartily recommended ride through the Upper Mississippi River Refuge south of Savanna IL was a mixture of wide riverscapes of marsh and islands with green-shaded tunnels along dikes. Excellent facilities for bird watching, shore fishing and biking make this a showplace. Knee rehabilitation is serious business; there might have been some giggles along the way.



Our River Road adventure has been fun, and who knows, there may be more, but we were struck by this quote displayed prominently at the Dubuque Aquarium and offer it for your consideration.

Rivers run through our history and folklore, and link us as a people. They nourish and refresh us and provide a home for dazzling varieties of fish and wildlife and trees and plants of every sort.
We are a nation rich in rivers.
Charles Karault








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