Hello Travel Fans!
It’s time for our next installment of travel in Iowa! This month Michelle is describing some of the beautiful, natural places to explore in Iowa – it’s not all corn fields here! Over to you Michelle.
Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames – Part of Iowa State University in Ames, Reiman Gardens is a serene space that offers 17 acres of outdoor gardens, an indoor butterfly garden, tropical plant conservatory and endless learning opportunities. Did I forget to mention it is also the home of Elwood, the world’s largest concrete gnome? The gardens also feature periodic exhibitions and this summer’s exhibition is “Toys & Games,” in which toys inspired by nature are sprinkled throughout the gardens. The gardens are open daily and offer something for everyone!
Effigy Mounds near Harpers Ferry – Effigy Mounds National Monument is a perfect day trip in the far northeastern part of the state. The free trails allows visitors to hike near the animal shaped mounds constructed during the Late Woodland Period (between 800 and 1600 years ago). According to the National Park Service, these mounds were a regional cultural phenomenon. Mounds of earth in the shapes of birds, deer, bison lynx and turtle abound. Some archeologists believe the mounds were built to mark celestial events or seasonal occurrences. Others speculate the as boundaries between or markers between groups, but it is unclear exactly what was the purpose of the Mounds. Hiking up to the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River gives a beautiful view of the surrounding area. Also, near Harpers Ferry are the picturesque towns of Marquette, McGregor and Pikes Pike State Park, which is also a great place to see views of the river.
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge – The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is just south of Des Moines near the Colfax and Mingo exit in Prairie City. Visit the extensive learning center and walk the number of trails that offer a variety of easy hikes. To see the bison and elk you will drive through their habitat and be prepared to see them up close – or not, depending on the day. Even if you do not see as many bison or elk as you would like from your car, the learning center has binoculars in order to spot the herds up close.
Makes you want to jump in your car and explore these beautiful places, doesn’t it? I especially love the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. You can almost imagine what the Great Plains must have been like before cars and wagon trains.
What about you – what’s your favorite outdoor area to visit in Iowa?