Three for the price of one - Thursday, August 14
We spent the night camped in Stone State Park which is located in western Iowa’s ‘loess hills’. Loess (pronounced ‘luss’) is a fine silt, created by glaciers pulverizing the stuff they roll over. Loess appears all over the world, especially near rivers. Some 40 percent of Iowa’s agricultural land is made of such silt, but the thing that makes this area unique is the tremendous depth of the formations.
When the glaciers of the Wisconsin Ice Age retreated, wind piled the silt into formations as deep as 200 feet. The only other place in the world that has formations this deep is the Yellow River area in China. The silt piled up on the west side of the rivers, creating a 210 mile strip of high, dune like hills along the Iowa side of the Big Sioux and the Missouri Rivers. The range extends into northern Missouri.
We broke camp and drove to an overlook where we could see the Big Sioux and Missouri River Valleys and one of the towns of Sioux City - but which one? There are three Sioux Cities here, and which one you’re looking at depends upon where you’re standing and which direction you’re facing. Sioux City proper is the one in Iowa, which is on the east side of both rivers. On the other side of the rivers stand the other two Sioux Cities. North Sioux City is in South Dakota on the northeast side of the Missouri River, and South Sioux City is in Nebraska on the southwest side of the Missouri River. Got it?
The Sioux City we were looking at from the overlook was North Sioux City, South Dakota. From there we went to the park’s Nature Center. Park conservation efforts are not only concerned with the loess deposits, but with restoring the prairie covering to it’s original state. Over 300 types of native grasses and wildflowers once thrived here, and park staff is working hard to return the hilltops and valleys to the way they once looked.
From the Nature Center we drove into Sioux City (Iowa) and stopped first at a memorial to an Indian Chief named War Eagle. Despite his name War Eagle sought peace, and he was a good friend to the white man. His daughters married white men and there is an imposing monument to him on a high promontory overlooking the confluence of the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers, not to mention the I-29 freeway.
Continuing on into downtown Sioux City we went next to the Sioux City Art Center where they have a mural painted by Grant Wood. The mural was one of four commissioned by a wealthy businessman to decorate the dining and meeting rooms of several hotels. It was subsequently papered over and painted over as well. A few years ago someone discovered it and another wealthy man bought it and donated it to the Art Museum. It has been restored as much as possible, but it is still faded almost beyond recognition. Still, you can tell from the warm colors that it must have been a beauty in it’s day.
The Art Center had several other fine exhibits, and of special interest was one where they asked members of the center’s board and staff to each select two or three of their favorite pieces from the permanent collection, and then write a brief statement of why they chose the pieces and what the work means to them. It was a wonderful exhibit and a fascinating peek into the thoughts and tastes of the center’s staff.
By the time we got out of the museum we were hungry and fortunately there was a barbeque joint across the street. It goes by the name of Famous Dave’s and after eating there it is easy to see why Dave is so well known. The atmosphere emphasized the fun in f-u-n-k-y, and the food was superb. Another place we’ll remember and look forward to coming back to some day.
Down on the riverfront we spent an hour at the Sergeant Floyd Welcome Center before they closed. Sergeant Floyd was a valued member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery and he was the only man to die on the expedition. He died here of appendicitis, and he is buried here with a fitting monument. The Welcome Center is housed in a boat that once plied the Missouri bringing supplies to the early settlers of Sioux City. The boat was named for Sgt. Floyd and it enjoyed a long and honorable career.
The Welcome Center staff recommended a campground across the river in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and since we want to return tomorrow to visit the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center we crossed the river and scored a campsite. From our campsite we can see the Missouri which is 100 feet away. Across the river a floating casino is made in the shape of a river boat. This is our first trip into Nebraska, which is now the 45th state we’ve visited.