National Parks and Monuments in Iowa
Did you know that Iowa is home to not just one or two, but four national parks and monuments? Scattered through the beautiful scenic farmlands of Iowa, these four parks and monuments are tributes to the past. Read below to learn more about these national historical sites and then plan a summer road trip to visit one or all of these incredible national parks and monuments in Iowa.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Address: 151 Hwy 76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146
Located in Northeastern Iowa, Harpers Ferry is home to the Effigy Mounds National Monument. Spread over nearly 4 square miles, the Effigy Mounds are ancient Native American burial and ceremonial mounds. Effigy mounds can often be conical in shape but may also be found in the form of birds, bears, deer, buffalo, or snakes. There are over 200 burial mounds that comprise the Effigy Mounds. Approximately 30 of the known mounds in Iowa are in the shape of birds and bears. The vast Effigy Mounds span not only Northeast Iowa, but also into Southern Wisconsin as well as small portions of Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.
The Effigy Mounds National Monument has a visitor center for guests and has on display several archaeological and natural specimens. There is also an auditorium onsite as well as a bookstore. Visitors can spend an afternoon hiking nearly 14 miles of trails with guided hikes available during the summer months. The park is open daily from sunrise-sunset with a few holiday exceptions as outlined on the National Park Service website. The visitor’s center is open Thursday-Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Access to the Effigy Mounds visitor center and trails are free of charge to guests.
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Address: 110 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA 52358
As the 31st president of the United States, Herbert Hoover was a self-made man achieving his first million dollars by age 40. He dedicated his life to public service and humanitarianism. Yet this future great was born in a small, two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa which still stands today and can be viewed by visitors. Having spent the first eleven years of his life in West Branch, The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site commemorates the late president’s life and covers approximately 186 acres of ground.
When you visit the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, you’ll want to begin at the visitor center to pick up a map and guide. Make sure to leave yourself at least 30-60 minutes at the visitor center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, so that you can enjoy and take in all the exhibits. After you pick up a map, make your way around to the Birthplace Cottage, Blacksmith Shop, One-room Schoolhouse, President Hoover’s gravesite, and more. National Park Service rangers recommend at least a half day to explore the full site. Entrance to the Visitor Center and several of the locations is free. For guests who choose to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, there is an admission fee ($10 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children, and 5 and under free).
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Spanning 16 states at nearly 4,900 miles long, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail commemorates the Lewis and Clark expedition of the famed duo from 1803-1806. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark along with the legendary Sacagawea traveled the uncharted territory and documented their findings. Each state has unique historic sites and to travel the full trail would be an incredible adventure itself.
Iowa has several tourist destinations along the route which stretches down the Western border. Along the bank of the Missouri River located in Sioux City, adventure-seekers can visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. At 20,000 square feet, the Interpretive Center contains exhibits focusing on the expedition, tours, and other programs. The Interpretive Center and connected Betty Strong Encounter Center, an added center filled with art, photos, and more, are both open Tuesday-Friday from 9 am-5 pm, and Saturday-Sunday from 12 pm-5 pm. Admission for all ages is free.
Approximately 40 miles South of Sioux City, adventure-seekers can travel to the Lewis and Clark State Park. Each June the park is home to the Lewis and Clark Festival which features movies, historical actors, bluegrass music, and more.
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail
In the mid-1800s, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled across America before settling in Salt Lake City, Utah after fleeing their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois. This 1,300-mile trail is known today as the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail and extends through five states including Iowa.
There are several stops along the part of the trail that passes through Iowa. Upon leaving Nauvoo, one of the first places the travelers stopped to make camp was at a spot known as Richardson’s Point on the Eastern border near the Van Buren and Davis County lines. Today this spot is marked as a certified site in Milton, Iowa where visitors can take in scenic views or have an afternoon picnic.
Also, along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail sits the Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon, Iowa. The museum displays exhibits featuring the Mormon Anthem “Come, Come, Ye Saints” and outlaw Jesse Jackson. The museum is open to visitors from mid-May through mid-October, Tuesdays-Sundays; there is a modest admission upon arrival.