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.