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Going Solo on Iowa's Historic Hills Scenic Byway
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Going Solo on Iowa's Historic Hills Scenic Byway

Visiting historic river towns on a sunny day isn't something I ever imagined I'd do for work - but I’m not complaining. Beginning in Bloomfield after visiting a very helpful Welcome Center, I started out on my solo drive. Taking Highway 1 east to start my adventure I was excited to see some of these historic places I had never been to. Passing through the very small town of Troy which really only has a large grain elevator, I began to really see some pretty sites.

Next, I came to Keosauqua, a small town right next to the Des Moines River. I stopped at a park right before you cross the river, and took some pictures of the view from the park looking at the bridge and the surrounding scenery. While I wasn’t able to eat there, I hear Misty’s Malt Shop is the place to stop for a sweet treat. Right next to the river, you’ll find a building that is aging gracefully. It's reminiscent of a river boat. Hotel Manning is still standing after many years, open for guests to stay in and enjoy the easy going small town life. The park right in front of the hotel would’ve been a great place to stop with my daughter. Baby K, while only 8 months old, loves a good road trip and a swing set.

A short drive up the road from Keosauqua, is Bentonsport, which sits parallel with the Des Moines river. A cute downtown along the water offers a historic perspective on the surrounding communities with several attractions to take you back in time, such as a black smith shop called Iron and Lace. I took some time to check out the Historic Greef General Store which held a lot of antiques and local historical finds. This left me about ready for lunch, so I headed up the road to Bonaparte to eat at the Historic Bonaparte Retreat.

The road up to Bonaparte eventually took you parallel to the river again and I got some glimpses of some kayakers headed to the town. If I was fond of water, it might be something I would be interested in. However, I’m not one for smelling like fish for a day. Finally reaching the historic retreat, I took notice of the old brick buildings lining the river, this being one of them. This restaurant actually used to be a Grist Mill back in the booming days of Bonaparte. They’ve made the old mill into a restaurant, having kept most of the inside of the mill the similar to what is was long ago. I ordered a chicken sandwich while looking out toward the slow moving river and enjoyed my solo lunch.

After my lunch, I headed out to join with Highway 2. Living in an Amish/Mennonite community myself, I’m always hearing about a huge Mennonite store in Cantril. It's called Dutchman's Store, and has bulk food and anything else you might need. The rumors are true. They have everything from canning supplies to an array of fabrics and of course bulk foods. They even have ice cream cones for a couple of quarters if you need to keep your kids busy while you’re oogling at all of the goods in this mile-long store. After being over-stimulated from all the homemaking goods one could ever need in one location, I headed back west toward the place I call home. The Historic Hills Scenic Byway was a route I had never been on before. I’m so glad I was actually assigned to go check out all of that beauty. If you’re looking for an easy-going drive, great scenery, history, and incredible food, put this route on your Iowa to-do list.

Check out this link for more information on the Historic Hills Scenic Byway!



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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
    We're so glad we get to live vicariously through your Iowa summer adventure! Thanks for contributing to the Travel Iowa Blog! We hope to read more from you soon.
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