Take a Trip
into into our Rural Culture

Take a
into our Rural Culture

Public Art

Public art makes art accessible to the people. Murals, sculptures, and other art pieces abound throughout the region, by both nationally recognized and local artists. While Council Bluffs has a great representation of public art pieces, the arts are not forgotten in the smaller outlying communities. Annual competitions, organized tours and artists’ lofts help the arts thrive in the Loess Hills Missouri River Region.

Malvern Mural

Dodge House

Museums & Historical Groups

Each county in southwest Iowa has at least one museum that includes information and artifacts about local history. Museums can be found on the map of “Things to Do”.

Local county genealogical groups can be found at the IAGenWeb Project website. 

Be sure to check local libraries for more local history books. Many communities and churches have their own history books, often published during a centennial or other anniversary.

Many historical resources are available through the University of Iowa’s Institutional Repository. Search a keyword such as a county or community name to learn more about that place. 

Galleries & Studios

Art can be a visual element that provides identity for a community or can be the stories told around morning coffee by local farmers. It is a mural reclaiming attention of an old building and giving it new, visual purpose.  It’s the hymns pouring out of a small country church and it is the folksy, bluegrass refrain shaking the windows in a main street dive. Art is all around us. Some intentional and finely crafted – some cobbled together out of agricultural heritage and rural ingenuity.

While art takes on many forms in the lives of rural southwest Iowans, art galleries and studios still have a place. Many rural artists make their studios in unique locations, such as an old church or connected to a coffee shop.  Galleries have popped up in small towns, a collective effort by artists to reach a larger population base.

Penny’s Visions in Neola

Historic Routes

Lewis & Clark 

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their crew set out from St. Louis up the Missouri River to explore the new Louisiana Purchase. They passed through the area that is now western Iowa, documenting their journey along the way. The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition can be viewed online. The Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail passes through the region, as does the Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail.

Native Americans

Rivers and footpaths were the first streets and highways in southwest Iowa. While we do not have a lot of written or mapped documentation of early land routes, we know that waterways were commonly traveled. The 1837 Ioway Map, shown above, is one of the earliest maps that includes our region, including the Missouri and Nishnabotna (both indigenous words). General Land Office survey show some of the pre-European-settlement routes. 

Early Explorers

While Lewis & Clark are the most well-known explorers in the area, many others traversed the region. 

  • Stephen Long and the Yellowstone Expedition also explored the Missouri River. They stayed at Engineer Cantonment near Harrison County for several months, where they studied and documented the local biology and geology.
  • Charles Larpenteur was an early fur trader who settled near Little Sioux in Harrison County. His journals are now a biographical memoir, Forty Years a Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri. 
  • Stephen Kearny traveled from Council Bluffs to Minnesota via the Little Sioux and Boyer River valleys in Harrison County. 
  • Prince Maximilian of Wied-Nuwied and painter Karl Bodmer traveled up the Missouri River in this area, documenting their trip in Journey to Inner North America in the Years 1832 to 1834. 
  • John E. Weaver, one of the most well-known experts on tallgrass prairies, spent time studying in this area. One of his papers, Native Grassland of Southwestern Iowa, focuses specifically on local prairies.

Mormon Trail

The National Park Service’s Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail Auto Tour Route traverses our region. A few notable sites include the Nishnabotna rock cut crossing near Macedonia and the Grand Encampment near Council Bluffs. Many communities, especially in the Loess Hills, were initially settled by Mormons. Dugouts can still be seen in some locations.

Underground Railroad

Southwest Iowa was an important area in the fight for abolition of slavery. The Underground Railroad included several “stations” in Mills and Pottawattamie counties. Although just across the county line and officially outside our region, the Todd House and Antislavery Historic District in Tabor and the Hitchcock House near Lewis are excellent sites to visit to learn about this abolitionist history. The Underground Railroad routes crossed through Mills and Pottawattamie between these two important sites.

Historic Sites

National Register

The National Register of Historic Places has an interactive map of all sites across the country. 

Schools

The Des Moines Register’s Iowa’s Lost Schools page has information about one-room schoolhouses and former schools across the state. If features an interactive map showing all the former schools. A few still standing include Newtown in Avoca, Hunter and Anderson schools in Fremont County, Some places, including Shelby and Fremont counties, have signs located where many one-room schools once stood.

Barns

The mission of the Iowa Barn Foundation is to educate the public about the significance and importance of Iowa’s barns through the Iowa Barn Foundation Magazine and our Barn Tours.

Bridges

The Iowa DOT’s Historic Bridge of Iowa page includes information and photographs of historic bridges across the state. 

Celebrations and Festivals

Most of the communities in the three-county region have at least one annual celebration. These community festivals are an excellent way to experience the local culture while celebrating the community’s past, present, and future. Each community and celebration is unique, so check out as many as you can!

Malvern Concert Series

FOLLOW US!

WanderLoess is coordinated by ​Golden Hills RC&D, a grassroots nonprofit based in Oakland, Iowa, as part of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. Funding for coordination is provided by Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties and Iowa West Foundation. With the help of our many partners making this destination dream a reality.

Our Partners

 
 

WanderLoess is coordinated by ​Golden Hills RC&D, a grassroots nonprofit based in Oakland, Iowa, as part of the Loess Hills Missouri River Region Parks to People plan. Funding for coordination is provided by Harrison, Pottawattamie, and Mills counties and Iowa West Foundation. With the help of our many partners making this destination dream a reality.

Our Partners

 
 

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