Virtually drive a boat down the Mississippi, watch a live snake feed, learn the wonderful story of mussels and their economic contributions to the button industry, find out what karst topography is, and share a land with pioneers, explorers, and the Late Woodland People.
Though I had just been in Lansing the week of RAGBRAI, when I learned the grand opening of the Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center was going to be on a Saturday, I knew I had to return. What a little treasure for Lansing and the region.
You are met at the door by a giant snapping turtle. Don’t worry, it’s a replica. You won’t be its dinner.
Inside, you will be met by a flying turkey and a climbing bear. Again, no worries. They have already had their date with the taxidermist.
There’s plenty of time to enjoy the feast of discovery and learning inside the center so you might want to rush through to the external balcony and enjoy the stunning views of the Mississippi.
The Driftless Area is a geological formation that covers parts of the four-corners area of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Decorah-produced Inspire(d) Driftless Magazine keeps a pulse on the area from cultural and community perspectives.
The center has the expected staples of artifacts, themed exhibits, even live animals, and a large, three-dimensional map of the Driftless region.
It is a great launching point for discovering the area. And you – my friend – are going to need days to even put a small dent in all the discoveries you can make and adventures you can take. So book a room or prop your tent.
As an exhibit in the center says, “We have always been drawn to this place. For Late Woodland cultures and the Oneota, these bluffs were sacred. For European fur traders, these forests were sources of plenty. For those who live here today, the river still gives sustenance.” And as this exhibit asks, “What will your Driftless story be?”
Over 400 people toured the facility at its grand opening. Let’s hope thousands and thousands more soon see this wonderful new treasure.
Emily Pyrek gives a great write-up of the center here.
While you are in Lansing, you cannot miss the Easker Art Studio and Gallery, where Fred Easker paints astonishing views of the Driftless region and Virgina Easker assembles found materials, like coffee cups, into equally astonishing traditional forms, like the quilt.
Short on time? What better way to get a feel for the spirit of the region than to climb the trails of Effigy Mounds National Monument. Heart-pumping exercise and brain-dazzling scenery abound.
If the Driftless Area is not a favorite Iowa journey for you, I suspect it soon will be.
*Photo by Patrick Muller: Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center, Lansing, Allamakee County, Iowa, grand opening, August 12, 2017.