Iowa’s most impressive vistas can be found along the Mississippi River, which forms the state’s eastern border. A National Scenic Byway, the 326-mile Iowa Great River Road passes limestone bluffs hundreds of feet high, which were cut by melting glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Bird lovers may spy eagles and migrating waterfowl over Iowa’s rolling farmland.
In the northeast, Pikes Peak State Park offer extraordinary views of the Mississippi Rover and its islands. Like the much taller mountain in Colorado, Iowa’s 500-foot Pike’s Peak was named for Zebulon Pike, who was sent to explore the Mississippi Valley after the United States made the Louisiana Purchase. Hiking over forested bluffs toward Bridal Veil Falls, sharp-eyed explorers might find fossils of ancient invertebrates.
Native Americans living in the Mississippi Valley centuries before the arrival of Europeans built thousands of ceremonial mounds shaped like bears and birds. Today, 206 of them are preserved in Effigy Mounds National Monument.
Adjacent to the Effigy Mounds is the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge, home to the threatened northern monkshood flower and the endangered Iowa pleistocene snail, a living fossil that has remained unchanged for over 400,000 years.