Endless Prairie & Loess Hills – Southern Iowa

“After ascending and passing through a narrow strip of woodland, came suddenly into an open and bound less Prairie. This prospect So Sudden and entertaining that I forgot the object of my prosute and turned my attention to the Variety which presented themselves to my view” July 19th, 1804 Journal of William Clark 

Prairie grass

 It must have been quite the view. 

When I set foot on new ground I often have the passing fancy I’m the first person to do so, and I get transported back to what it might have been like for the early explorers doing exactly that. It’s been a few hundred years since Lewis and Clark walked these grounds, even longer since the Pottawatomie Indians were here and ~12,000 years since the glaciers retreated from the land and revealed the silted Loess Hills. It’s quite a thing when you think of what’s passed before you on that very spot. 

These days, however, most of the native prairie-land is gone. Around the 1800’s most of the mid-west was wild prairie (grasses and forbs) maintained by grazing herds of Buffalo and natural cycles of fire and growth. Intensive farming and encroaching woodland destroyed all but 0.1% of the original grasses.  What little remains is preserved in the State Parks and by volunteers. 

As for me, I’ll imagine myself viewing the splendor of that first moment. It’s one of the perks of being a traveller. 

The view in the 1800's would have been boundless Prairie
Trails of grass in Waubonsie State Park
The Loess Hills
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Leslie says

    You’re now in my home state of MO. Please don’t miss Southwest MO and Northern Arkansas, especially Eureka Springs – you’ll love it.

  2. Lauren Brown says

    I encountered these same Iowa Loess hills on my recent cross-country bicycle ride. No matter whether I was going west-to-east or traveling on the south-to-north roads I seemed to encounter hills with the same frequency. I experienced some of the highest daily total vertical climb of the whole trips because of their frequency. Only later did I learn these hills were stabilized soil/sand dunes formed when westerly winds blew the glacially-formed ‘glacial fllour’ or sediment that was washed into the Missouri flood plains. Picturesque but a bear to bicycle across! Thanks for your beautiful pics that capture the scenery so well.


    • libertatemamo says

      I can imagine how tiring they must have been. These hills are deceptively frequent across this area. I always thought it would be mostly flat here, but that’s not the case at all. You certainly would have felt the full impact on the bike :)

  3. gldickson01 says

    Ahh, the lovely Loess Hills. They’re truly a unique and (mostly) undiscovered area of natural beauty along Iowa’s west coast. I live in the northern reaches of the Loess Hills in Sioux City, IA and have been traveling and photographing them whenever I can. Great photos, by the way, Nina. I’ll keep following the notes of your journey.

    • libertatemamo says

      Gary. Yeah, we really discovered some unexpected beauty in our trip through the Loess Hills. It was a part of the country we’d never seen (and might never have seen if we weren’t RVing), but I am so glad we did. Some real hidden gems in that area. I really enjoyed the discovery! Nina

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