Iowa Part II: Elkader

We moved to the northeast part of Iowa for our second stop in the Hawkeye State. While Mike was investigating fishing opportunities in Iowa, he learned that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources operates the Big Spring Fish Hatchery which stocks the Turkey River and surrounding streams with trout three times per week between April and October. As soon as he learned that tidbit, our second Iowa stop was set in stone. He found The Deer Run Resort in the small town of Elkader and made us a reservation for one week.

The drive up from Des Moines was a routine trip. We rolled by endless scenes of flat farmland for about two-thirds of the trip until we got north of State Highway 20. That is when the landscape changed drastically. We were still in an agricultural environment, but the topography became very hilly and much more picturesque. We were in the Upper Mississippi River Valley and it was very beautiful. Farmland still dominated the scenery, but this time we were climbing and coasting along winding roads. Every time we would get to a high spot it seemed like we could see 50 miles into the distance. The crops etched out a patchwork of browns and greens depending on what portions of land had been plowed and/or planted. Farmhouses and red barns accentuated the view like details in a quilt produce a pattern that is uniquely creative.

Elkader was established in 1891 and is the County Seat of Clayton County. However, its population is less than 1,500. Despite its tiny size, the town had lots to offer. We walked wherever we wanted to go. The downtown was about three blocks in length and was surprisingly busy with retail shops, hair salons, a bakery, several banks, professional offices, a pharmacy, a hardware store, a grocery store and a handful of restaurants – all set along the backdrop of the swift moving Turkey River. The town boasts at least nine homes or commercial buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The residential streets were lined with sidewalks that passed in front of a classic inventory of homes built between the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Mike stayed busy fishing for trout and I  had so much fun enjoying this quintessential “Americana” – we only left once during the week we were there. That was to drive 30 minutes north to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and stock up on groceries and liquor at Walmart.

 

The Stemmer House is one of the many beautiful historic homes in Elkader. The original owner of this house was the local lumberman, which explains the elaborate woodwork on the front porch.

The Stemmer House is one of the many beautiful historic homes in Elkader. The original owner of this house was the local lumberman, which explains the elaborate woodwork on the front porch.

The Clayton County Courthouse is also listed on the National Register and sits high on a bluff above the Turkey River, so the ornate tower is visible from almost anywhere in town.

The Clayton County Courthouse is also listed on the National Register and sits high on a bluff above the Turkey River, so the ornate tower is visible from almost anywhere in town.

Our spot was #5 in the campground.

Our spot was #5 in the campground.

The Silo brought in trucks from across the county at all times of day and night. It buzzed and made a noise like the huge tank was filled with millions of bees.

The Silo brought in trucks from across the county at all times of day and night. It buzzed and made a noise like the huge tank was filled with millions of bees.

Mike caught three types of trout at this stop: rainbow, brown and speckled. These are a couple of brownies he brought home one afternoon.

Mike caught two types of trout at this stop: rainbow and brook. These are a couple of brookies he brought home one afternoon.

Piper investigating his human's daily catch.

Piper investigating his human’s daily catch.

Here is an example of the rolling landscape in Northeast Iowa.

Here is an example of the rolling landscape in Northeast Iowa.

The stocking of the river was pretty low tech: the process involved a human, a net, and a tank full of fish. He just dipped them out of the tank with his net and tossed them into the river.

The stocking of the river was pretty low tech: the process involved a human, a net, and a tank full of fish. He just dipped them out of the tank with his net and tossed them into the river.

The shortest way into downtown was through the town's cemetery.

The shortest way into downtown was through the town’s cemetery.

There was one bridge in Elkader that connected both sides of town separated by the Turkey River.

There was one bridge in Elkader that connected both sides of town separated by the Turkey River.

We went to church with the Catholics on this stop. There was no Methodist church in town. St. Joseph's was built between 1898 and 1900. The Priest traveled between this church and two other parishes to say mass each weekend.

We went to church with the Catholics on this stop. There was no Methodist church in town. St. Joseph’s was built between 1898 and 1900. The Priest traveled between this church and two other parishes to say mass each weekend.

Inside St. Joseph's. The lady that owned the bakery sat in front of us that Sunday... I knew this because I was a regular customer after we had been there almost one week!

Inside St. Joseph’s. The lady that owned the bakery sat in front of us that Sunday… I knew this because I was a regular customer after we had been there almost one week!

I should sit down and count the number of times we have crossed the Mississippi River since the Lower 48 in 48 Tour began. This time you are looking at Iowa on the left side of the photo and Wisconsin on the right.

I should sit down and count the number of times we have crossed the Mississippi River since the Lower 48 in 48 Tour began. This time you are looking at Iowa on the left side of the photo and Wisconsin on the right.

Looking at our campground from the cemetery at the top of the hill.

Looking at our campground from the cemetery at the top of the hill.

Mike was lucky enough to watch a couple of eagles flying over the Turkey River during one of his fishing expeditions.

Mike was lucky enough to watch a couple of eagles flying over the Turkey River during one of his fishing expeditions.

Mike's fishing spot on the Turkey River near the Fish Hatchery. It was about a 15 minute drive from our campground.

Mike’s fishing spot on the Turkey River near the Fish Hatchery. It was about a 15 minute drive from our campground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.