Destination Iowa: McGregor and the Mighty Mississippi River

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McGregor, Iowa — It’s a feature of Iowa that some may take for granted, but others come from all over to visit — the Mississippi River.

People come from around the world to see the Mississippi river here.

“I lIke to meet the people, I ask the people where they’re from,” said Gerry Weis, a Captain on Maiden Voyage Tours, in Marquette. The people come from around the world to see the Mississippi river here.”

Weis leads tours on the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife Refuge, part of the River going past Marquette. The land years ago was actually farmland until it was made America’s first wildlife refuge. Now, Weis drives a tour boat through some small backwaters, in search of bald eagles, and other wildlife. He also loves to talk about history.

“We’ll go back to the year 1805,” said Weis. “Thomas Jefferson wanted Zebulon Pike to find the headwaters of the Mississippi River and look for a place for a fort.”

Pike first discovered what is now Pike’s Peak State Park. He later also discovered a mountain in Colorado, which now bears his name.

“We know he was up there, because in his log he said this high point on the Mississippi River is flat and has a freshwater spring, it would be a good place for a fort,” said Weis.

His tour boat sails from a dock under the Mississippi River in Marquette.

Marquette and Nearby McGregor have shops to hit as well, including an old school in Marquette, which serves as a consignment shop.

There is also an ancient Native-American burial site, dating from 400 AD to 1200 AD. Effigy Mounds National Monument is located just north of Marquette.

“This is a very special indigenous ceremonial and burial site which incorporates cultural expression of the indigenous people,” said David Barland-Liles, a law enforcement officer for the National Park Service.

“The mounds evolved into an effigy mound, the shape of something, here they tend to be in the shape of bears or birds,” said Barland-Liles.

A visit to McGregor is also a good time to check out Spook Cave. This was a local interest as a strange “spooky” sound was coming from a hole in the side of the hill. To explain the strange noise the wall was opened up with dynamite, to reveal the noise was water running over a rock.

Now tours are given of Spook Cave with a boat in 2 feet of water. Visitors need to duck somewhat due to a low ceiling.

The Burger Barn sells ice cream and burgers, it’s on the way home just off Highway 13 in Elkader.

To explore more things to see in that part of the state check Travel Iowa.

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