The Sawmill Museum-Clinton

The Sawmill Museum-Clinton 055OK ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for another impromptu Iowa geography/history lesson, courtesy of the Iowa Travel Advisor and the Sawmill Museum of Clinton Iowa. Iowa was once home to the largest lumber industry in the world.This may be something that your 8th grade teacher attempted to penetrate your consciousness as you struggled to fight the drowsiness and drool effect of 2 peanut butter/jelly sandwiches at lunch or were deeply immersed in a subversive note-passing operation.If that’s the case, then here is your second chance!

The Sawmill Museum-Clinton 023The lumber industry flourished in Clinton in the 1850’s as the result of several factors. The town’s geographic location on the mighty Mississippi River and its proximity to a growing railroad network,contributed to its success.As the demands of the Civil War and the ensuing “western ho!!” pattern of settlement occurred, the insatiable appetite for lumber followed and here were the Clinton entrepreneurs willing to build sawmills that would receive the huge log rafts of fallen timber from the forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin.Millions and millions of dollars ware made in this fair city as long as the lumber came floating downstream, but ,alas, in a recurring theme of industrial America,someone forgot to plant new trees up north and thus ended the lumber boom in Clinton!!

Fortunately we have museums and these museums exist to document our past history, boondoggles and all, and rekindle the memory of long ago occupations such as milling and lumberjacking!! The Sawmill Museum attempts to do just that.A specific effort has been made to appeal to the school age children and the museum has done a fine job.I myself was hoping to hear the sound of saws whirring,sawdust flying and the smell of fresh cut lumber and you can do that  here one Sunday a month, but for now my imagination was my guide back to yesteryear and you can bet I wasn’t “board”!!!


The Sawmill Museum-Clinton 035 - CopyThe Sawmill Museum-Clinton 057





Prairie Heritage Center-Sutherland

The Little Sioux River valley has a neat little educational resource perched on an  O’Brien County overlook just off the Peterson to Sutherland road and  appropriately named the Prairie Heritage  Center. The overall theme of the Center is to give the visitor a better historical and scientific understanding the surrounding “loess hills”environment   as well as providing a venue for periodic displays of native fauna and flora(you remember one these names means native animals and one means native vegetation)While I was there I privy to an exhibit of the internal working of the snake family entitled “Snake Rattles and Holes(you knew I would bite on that one!)

The Visitor Center was a nice cool relief  on a hot summer day and it also afforded an excellent view of the valley which was undergoing a retro facelift as more former cropland was being seeded and hopefully returned to its former prairie state. Combining a friendly staff with interactive display and excellent prairie trail loops and you have an opportunity to enjoy nature at its conservational best.

Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center-Pisgah

Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center

Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center


   Finally, the time came for me to visit my own hometown of Pisgah under the auspices of delivering and installing a sign at the aforementioned Gloryland Orchard. However I could not pass through town without stopping at  the Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center . I have discussed in this space, the relative recent notoriety that this unique geologic formation has received. However, no mention has been made of the growing state “forest” area located in these same hills. Since about the mid 1980’s, farmland has been acquired by the Iowa DNR from willing sellers, using money “coughed up” from the Iowa Lottery coffers. Ironic isn’t it, that the gamble of farming would ultimately end up in the hands of the state’s lottery money.

  Now this forest is the very same timber that I used to try to shoo cows back to the barnyard,drag home a cedar Christmas tree in the winter, or even more joyous,fill a sweatshirt with a mess of morel mushrooms. I never thought of this collection trees as special, but the folks at the DNR have a different perspective. In terms of long term preservation of the loess hills, it DOES seem to make sense that the public be in control of some land ownership, controversial as it may be.

  Well I have digressed slightly from the topic of visiting  the Loess Hills Forest Visitor Center,and I must say that the some of the state’s funds have been well spent at this location, providing the new visitor to the area a visual perspective of the”hills” and the indigenous fauna and vegetation.(see photos) If you know nothing about this area, you will know “loess” after your visit to Pisgah.

Loess is Always More in Pisgah

Loess is Always More in Pisgah



Picket Fence Creamery-Woodward

Picket Fence Creamery-Woodward Iowa

Picket Fence Creamery-Woodward Iowa


Picket Fence Creamery…..Now that has a down home ring to it doesn’t it? In fact the ringing was so loud, it prompted a visit from yours truly on my way home from a NW Iowa swing…As a kid, I grew up milking cows morning and night and I have to say that my affinity for that particular past-time had not strengthened over the years. In fact, remembering my encounters with a mud(?)-caked tail across the face while hand milking or attempting to extract a hoof from the bottom of a nearly full 5 gallon pail had downright “soured” me on the profession of milking. It seems things have changed though,at least at the Picket Fence Creamery, where the proprietors have made their daily work an educational opportunity for the general public. Here you can catch a glimpse of the entire dairy industry from hay and corn to milk and as the name “creamery” implies you can see all the dairy byproducts being manufactured. Guess what!! You may also purchase all these byproducts including some very tasty and many flavored ice creams in the adjacent general store area.A nice touch to this store is that a concerted effort has been made to include the wares of many “small” Iowa Food and Wine producers as a complement to the creamery’s own offerings.  (see Photos)

Some of the Local  Iowa Produced Wares For Sale

Some of the Local Iowa Produced Wares For Sale



Southern Loess Hills Center-Percival

Having grown up in the heart of the Loess Hills in and around Harrison and Monona counties it was easy to take them for granted. In fact it wasn’t until the last 25 years or so that I ever heard the word “loess” used to describe the area. Loess is a German word, I think describing wind blown soils, but we always referred to the geological formation as the”cat steps” or simply “the Hills.” At any rate , when visiting western Iowa I always envision the home area. But this time I decided to take a left turn on my trip west to Council Bluffs and headed south along the Missouri River “bottom land” toward the Missouri border. I decided to stop at the Iowa and Southern Loess Hills Welcome Center at the junction of I-29 and Iowa Highway 2.

I pretended I was from Missouri and posed the perfunctory remark,”Show me” to the hostess on duty who pretended not to notice my Iowa accent and proceeded with my personal tour.


The center does an excellent job of introducing the novice to the nature and history of the hills that are seen to the distant east. Ideally this center would be at the base of the hills , but that is not where the traffic is, so the the center brings the hills to  the  inquisitive motorists. This particular motorist was surprised at the sharp definition of the hills at this southern latitude,having a preconceived notion that hills flattened out here…. Actually they extend into Northern Missouri.. So if you are on I-29 heading toward Omaha or KC peek occasionally to the east to see a unique land formation found only here and in China, more or loess.100_3753