With just one stop travelers can now experience the genuine Loess Hills, the original Lincoln Highway, the Harrison County Historical Museum, and make travel plans at an Iowa Welcome Center.
Iowa’s Loess Hills and the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road, intersect at the Harrison County Historical Museum and Welcome Center near Missouri Valley. The intersection has spawned a very creative and fun interpretive center that is now open for visitors.
The journey begins with two short films on the Loess Hills and Lincoln Highway. Upon entering the outdoor exhibit area, travelers will be able to stretch their legs as they learn the stories of transportation and the hills.
Along the handicapped accessible sidewalks are interpretive storyboards about the Loess Hills and the Lincoln Highway. As the sidewalk continues there is a large map of the United States that illustrates the Lincoln Highway route.
Travelers can bring their coolers and enjoy a break in picnic shelters styled after the canopy gas stations and cabin courts routinely built along the Lincoln Highway.
Travelers can tell their kids to “go play in the street,” which is great fun for the kids (and adults!) in the Children’s Transportation Play Space. Everyone can actually run in the street (no cars allowed), play traffic, climb through the culvert, walk the miniature bridge, cruise by the Burma Shave signs and learn how far it is to San Francisco or New York City.
Located on a segment of the ORIGINAL Lincoln Highway is a highway surface demonstration exhibit that has sections of trail, dirt, rock, brick, asphalt and concrete. Each section is walkable and touchable and tells the story of highway development. Also on the grounds is an original Lincoln Highway post in its original location, which was probably installed by the local boy scouts.
Just a few steps up a Loess Hill is an observation deck overlooking multiple transportation corridors and visible from Highway 30. The five railings on the deck are made of pattern-cut reinforced steel with a “Lincoln” copper penny finish.
For walkers and hikers they are carving out a one mile lighted walking trail through 14 acres of re-established Loess Hills prairie. There will be interpretive signs along the way to tell the stories about the native prairie.
Even if you don’t need a break, take time on your next Western Iowa trip to visit this multi-faceted outdoor interpretive center. You’ll be glad you did.
LuAnn Reinders, Iowa Tourism Office