Iowa to Wisconsin Via Field of Dreams

August 23, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Before leaving Amana Colonies we took a quick tour of the area nearby and came across several "small-town America" spots on the map. 

 

Norway, IA - Falling BarnNorway, IA - Falling BarnFalling barn near Norway, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Any bets on how much longer this barn near Norway, IA will stand? 


Blairstowne, IA - Shack And Tracks.Blairstowne, IA - Shack And Tracks.Shack and tracks near Blairstown, Iowa.

 

Shack and tracks near Blairstown, IA
 

Watkins, IA - Business BldgWatkins, IA - Business BldgThe unincorporated town of Watkins has had a post office since 1873. Today the population of this small farming community is 118 (give or take a couple). Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

The unincorporated town of Watkins has had a post office since 1873. Today the population of this small farming community is 118 (give or take a couple).


Watkins, IA - Main StWatkins, IA - Main StThe unincorporated town of Watkins, Iowa has had a post office since 1873. Today the population of this small farming community is 118 (give or take a couple).

 

Watkins, IA - Savings BankWatkins, IA - Savings BankThe unincorporated town of Watkins has had a post office since 1873. Today the population of this small farming community is 118 (give or take a couple).

Watkins, IA - Catholic ChurchWatkins, IA - Catholic ChurchThe unincorporated town of Watkins has had a post office since 1873. Today the population of this small farming community is 118 (give or take a couple).

 

 

Belle Plaine, IA - Patriotic BarnBelle Plaine, IA - Patriotic BarnPatriotic barn near Belle Plaine, Iowa.

 

Patriotic barn near Belle Plaine, IA
 

 

Belle Plaine, IA - DepotBelle Plaine, IA - DepotBelle Plaine was established in 1862 as a railroad town. It's also on the historic Lincoln Highway.

 

Belle Plaine was established in 1862 as a railroad town. It's also on the historic Lincoln Highway.


Belle Plaine, IA - Depot - 2Belle Plaine, IA - Depot - 2Belle Plaine was established in 1862 as a railroad town. It's also on the historic Lincoln Highway.

 

 

Belle Plaine, IA - Main StBelle Plaine, IA - Main StBelle Plaine was established in 1862 as a railroad town. It's also on the historic Lincoln Highway.

 

 

Belle Plain, IA - TheatreBelle Plain, IA - TheatreBelle Plaine was established in 1862 as a railroad town. It's also on the historic Lincoln Highway. The old King Theatre appears to still be open. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The old King Theatre in Belle Plain appears to still be in operation. 

 

Koszta, IA - ChurchKoszta, IA - ChurchKoszta is another pre-1900 town and this church caught our eye on the way through. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Koszta is another pre-1900 Iowa town and this church caught our eye on the way through. 
 

After leaving Amana Colonies, Kathy and I made our way to Pikes Peak State Park, on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. But first, we had a quirky side trip to Dyersville and the nearby Field of Dreams Movie Site.

 

Dyersville, IA -  Field of Dreams SignDyersville, IA - Field of Dreams SignThe Field of Dreams Movie Site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa was created for the now-classic Kevin Costner movie in 1988 on farmland owned by the Lansing family since 1906.<br/> <br/> It was so dry that year they had to dam a creek to irrigate the land. They also had to bring in seven trucks worth of sod to create the field.<br/> The Lansing home was remodeled with walls removed to make more space for filming while the family was moved on the other side of the house into a camper trailer.<br/> <br/> Today you can visit the site for free and enjoy the same rich green ball field as seen in the movie.<br/> <br/> Photo by <a href="https://www.legendsofamerica.com/about-us/" target="_self">Kathy Weiser-Alexander.</a> This image is under restricted use and not for commercial purposes.

 

The Field of Dreams Movie Site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa was created for the now-classic Kevin Costner movie in 1988 on farmland owned by the Lansing family since 1906. Surely most of you have seen the film? Kevin Costner, the cornfield turned into a ball field to bring back a bunch of dead famous Baseball players. Great movie, I don't think I ever pass it up when scrolling through the TV menu. What's really cool about this, however, is what they had to go through getting this to work.

 

Dyersville, IA - Field of DreamsDyersville, IA - Field of DreamsThe Field of Dreams Movie Site just outside of Dyersville, Iowa was created for the now classic Kevin Costner movie in 1988 on farm land owned by the Lansing family since 1906. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. This image is under restricted use and not for commercial purposes.

 

Director Phil Robinson came to the Dubuque area in early Spring 1988, to make a decision on one of hundreds of farmsteads under consideration. While on his tour they came upon a farm owned by Don and Becky Lansing. According to information at the site, when Robinson spied it, he immediately shouted "That's it! That's my farm!." So in no time they worked with Lansing, moved them to a camper on the other side of the house, and remodeled the home to accommodate filming. Everything going well, except for one major detail. Corn.


Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 2Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 2Field of Dreams bleachers. This image is under restricted use and not for commercial purposes.

 

It was one of the driest years since the 1930s dust bowl, and they just couldn't get it to grow. Ingenuity paid off though, and after getting approval from local agencies, they dammed a creek that runs through the farm and irrigated the field. It worked so well that the corn grew higher than expected, forcing them to use a foot-high platform for Costner to walk on while filming in the crop.
 

 

Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 3Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 3Field of Dreams house. This image is under restricted use and not for commercial purposes.

 

Building the ball field was also a large task. It would take seven semi-truck loads of sod, along with mixed-up busted brick, dye, and dirt to create the infield, but in just four days it was ready.

 

Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 4Dyersville, IA - Field of Dreams - 4The Field of Dreams House and Ballfield.

This image is under restricted use and not for commercial purposes.

 

There were some interesting "Did You Know" facts on the billboard at the movie site. Like the fact that Moonlight Graham, played by Lancaster, was actually a real person, and holds the shortest major league career on record. And the identity of the "voice" in the movie is a closely guarded secret, listed in the credits as "himself".
 

 

Dyersville, IA - Kathy and Player Fade Away at Field of DreamsKathy having fun in the corn at the Field of Dreams near Dyersville, Iowa

 

The field is still just as green as in the movie, and you really get the thrill of being there, sitting on the bench where the little girl falls and Burt Lancaster has to save her. Then standing on the mound where Costner first made his pitch to Ray Liotta. And of course having fun with a local star/extra, who played one of the ballplayers in the movie, Kathy doing her fade out into the corn with him. It was a great stop and one we recommend, especially this time of year. Corn looked just about ready to harvest, at least to this geek.

 

Back to History on the Mississippi River

After arriving at Pikes Pike State Park on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, we awoke the next morning to rain but made the best of the morning we could and headed through historic McGregor, IA, over the river across two bridges, and into historic Prairie Du Chien, the oldest settlement on the Upper Mississippi River, and the second oldest city in the state of Wisconsin, with roots dating back to the late 1600s and the French-Canadian Fur Trade. 

 

Prairie du Chien, WI - Villa Louis Block HousePrairie du Chien, WI - Villa Louis Block HousePrairie Du Chien, the oldest settlement on the Upper Mississippi River, and the second oldest city in the state of Wisconsin, has roots dating back to the late 1600's and the French-Canadian Fur Trade.

One of the big attractions on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien is Villa Louis, a Victorian country estate established in the 1840's by Hercules Dousman, a local fur trader and entrepreneur. The house that still stands here was built by his son Louis in 1870, and is open to the public for tours under the management of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

With over 90 percent of its original furnishings, and a recent restoration to recreate its 1890's appearance, Villa Louis is one of the Midwest's great house museums (open early May through late October).

Photo by
Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

This is the Block House at Villa Louis Estate.  A Victorian country estate established in the 1840s by Hercules Dousman, a local fur trader, and entrepreneur, the house that still stands here was built by his son Louis in 1870 and is open to the public for tours under the management of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  With over 90 percent of its original furnishings, and a recent restoration to recreate its 1890's appearance, Villa Louis is one of the Midwest's great house museums (open early May through late October).
 

 

Prairie du Chien, WI - St. Feriole Island Depot BarPrairie du Chien, WI - St. Feriole Island Depot BarSt. Feriole Island was the city's earliest hub of activity, and was also the site of the Battle of Prairie du Chien in 1814, Wisconsin's only battle in the War of 1812.

After the war, the government built Fort Crawford here as part of a chain of forts to secure the U.S. Frontier, and it would become the site of many treaties with Native Americans. It would later be relocated off the Island.

Photo by
Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

St. Feriole Island was the city's earliest hub of activity and was also the site of the Battle of Prairie du Chien in 1814, Wisconsin's only battle in the War of 1812.


Prairie du Chien, WI - St. Feriole Island BldgPrairie du Chien, WI - St. Feriole Island BldgThe Dousman Hotel, built 1864-65, is associated with Prairie du Chien's role in post-Civil War transportation on the upper Mississippi. When its builder,
The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad, extended a line to Prairie du Chien's "Lower Town" in 1857, it marked the beginning of a prosperous relationship with steamboat, barge and packet companies that plied the river from St. Louis to St. Paul.

Photo by
Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

The Dousman Hotel, built in 1864-65, is associated with Prairie du Chien's role in post-Civil War transportation on the upper Mississippi. When its builder, The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad, extended a line to Prairie du Chien's "Lower Town" in 1857, it marked the beginning of a prosperous relationship with steamboat, barge, and packet companies that plied the river from St. Louis to St. Paul.
 

Just down the way from St. Friole Island sits historic Fort Crawford.

 

Prairie du Chien, WI - Ft. Crawford HospitalPrairie du Chien, WI - Ft. Crawford HospitalPrairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, the oldest settlement on the Upper Mississippi River, and the second oldest city in the state of Wisconsin, has roots dating back to the late 1600's and the French-Canadian Fur Trade.

After the War of 1812, the government built Fort Crawford here as part of a chain of forts to secure the U.S. Frontier, and it would become the site of many treaties with Native Americans.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, the oldest settlement on the Upper Mississippi River, and the second oldest city in the state of Wisconsin, has roots dating back to the late 1600s and the French-Canadian Fur Trade. After the War of 1812, the government built Fort Crawford here as part of a chain of forts to secure the U.S. Frontier, and it would become the site of many treaties with Native Americans.

Other sites on the island include the Fur Trade Museum in the 1850 Stone Brisbois Store, the 1837 Brisbois House, and the Dousman House Hotel. Plan a day here to see the sites and tour the historic buildings.

See our story on Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin – Fur Trading Mecca

 

Also See: 

The Great Fur Trade Companies

 

Prairie du Chien, WI - River FogPrairie du Chien, WI - River FogPrairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, the oldest settlement on the Upper Mississippi River, and the second oldest city in the state of Wisconsin, has roots dating back to the late 1600's and the French-Canadian Fur Trade on the Mississippi River. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

A fog hung over us as we crossed back over the Mississippi River into Iowa.

 

 

Pikes Peak State Park, IA - Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers MeetPikes Peak State Park, IA - Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers MeetPikes Peak State Park, Iowa, features a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River opposite the confluence of the Wisconsin River.

It gets its name from the Iowa incarnation of Pikes Peak, a particularly high point overlooking the gorge of the Upper Mississippi, and like Pikes Peak in Colorado, is named for Zebulon Pike.

Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Pikes Peak State Park sits at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi River on the Iowa side and provides visitors and campers with a gorgeous overlook view of the river valley below. The campground for RVs and tents is in the midst of pines, providing a forest experience nature lovers adore, complete with a hiking trail just beyond the river overlook to Bridal Falls.
 

Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa, features a 500-foot bluff overlooking the Upper Mississippi River opposite the confluence of the Wisconsin River. It gets its name from the Iowa incarnation of Pikes Peak, a particularly high point overlooking the gorge of the Upper Mississippi, and like Pikes Peak in Colorado, is named for Zebulon Pike.

 

McGregor 

McGregor, IA - DowntownMcGregor, IA - DowntownFounded as MacGregor's Landing in 1847, the area was original settled by Alexander MacGregor, a direct decedent of Rob Roy MacGregor of Scotland, who had operated a ferry here a decade before the town as established in 1857 as McGregor.

During its height, McGregor had over 5,000 residents, with many working for the railroad. They would dis-assemble trains and ferry them across the Mississippi into Prairie du Chien.

to by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Founded as MacGregor's Landing in 1847, the area was originally settled by Alexander MacGregor, a direct decedent of Rob Roy MacGregor of Scotland. McGregor had already been operating a ferry across the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, WI for 10 years when he planned the new city. It was incorporated as McGregor in 1857, and it quickly became a major commercial center after the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad established a line to Prairie du Chien, connecting Lake Michigan to the mighty river by rail. Other railroads were built from McGregor west, with North McGregor (now Marquette) acting as the rail terminus.  When reaching McGregor from the west, trains were taken apart, ferried across the river, then put back together to make their way to Lake Michigan. 

 

 

McGregor, IA - Alexander HotelMcGregor, IA - Alexander HotelFounded as MacGregor's Landing in 1847, the area was original settled by Alexander MacGregor, a direct decedent of Rob Roy MacGregor of Scotland, who had operated a ferry here a decade before the town as established. The town was incorporated as McGregor in 1857.

The Alexander Hotel, originally the Lewis Hotel, was built in 1899. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

The Alexander Hotel, originally the Lewis Hotel, was built in 1899.

 

Marquette, IA - Bridge To WisconsinMarquette, IA - Bridge To WisconsinMarquette, originally named North McGregor, acted as the rail hub to dis-assemble trains for the ferry.

During the city's peak, the population exploded to over 5,500 and was the busiest shipping port west of Chicago during the 1870's. However the city would decline just about as fast as it grew when a permanent pontoon bridge was built to connect McGregor and Prairie du Chien, eliminating the need to disassemble the trains, and thus many of the jobs. Today, McGregor and Marquette have kept their historic charm, but the city has a population of less than a thousand.

Photo by
Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

During the city's peak, the population exploded to over 5,500 and was the busiest shipping port west of Chicago during the 1870s. However, the city would decline just about as fast as it grew when a permanent pontoon bridge was built to connect McGregor and Prairie du Chien, eliminating the need to disassemble the trains, and thus many of the jobs.  

 

 

Marquette, IA - Cafe & BarMarquette, IA - Cafe & BarCafe and bar in Marquette, Iowa. to by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Today, McGregor and Marquette (formally North McGregor) have kept their historic charm, but the city has a population of less than a thousand. 
 

Great River Road
 

Great River Road, IA - North of McGregorGreat River Road, IA - North of McGregorThe Great River Road north of McGregor, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

The Great River Road north of McGregor
 

 

Great River Road, IA - Down By RiverGreat River Road, IA - Down By RiverDown by the Mississippi on the Great River Road between McGregor and Lansing, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Down by the Mississippi on the Great River Road between McGregor and Lansing, IA, we found trailer houses on stilts. 
 

 

Harpers Ferry, IA - WelcomeHarpers Ferry, IA - WelcomeWlcome to Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Harpers Ferry Iowa, not to be confused with historic Harpers Ferry West Virginia, but old nonetheless. 
 

 

Harpers Ferry, IA - Wood Front Pop MachineHarpers Ferry, IA - Wood Front Pop MachineA pop machine with a wooden front in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Kathy giggled when we pulled into a gas station in Harpers Ferry and saw this wooden Pop machine. 

 

Lansing, IA - ViewLansing, IA - ViewView of Lansing, Iowa and the Mississippi River. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Lansing, Iowa is named after the guy who founded the settlement in 1851, who just happened to be from Lansing, Michigan. 
 

 

Lansing, IA - Mississippi River BargeLansing, IA - Mississippi River BargePhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

 

Lansing, IA - 1862 Stone SchoolLansing, IA - 1862 Stone School1862 stone school house in Lansing, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

1864 stone schoolhouse in Lansing.

 

Lansing, IA - DowntownLansing, IA - DowntownDowntown business district in Lansing, Iowa. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

The downtown business district in Lansing, IA
 

 

Lansing, IA - Danger ZoneLansing, IA - Danger ZoneKathy can't get over how close the tracks are to the road that runs with it. In fact, it appeared that the tracks were part of the road in parts. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Kathy can't get over how close the tracks are to the road that runs with them. In fact, it appeared that the tracks were part of the road.
 

 

Lansing, IA - 1931 Blackhawk Bridge to WisconsinLansing, IA - 1931 Blackhawk Bridge to Wisconsin1931 Blackhawk Bridge to Wisconsin from Lansing, Iowa.

 

The metal Blackhawk Bridge out of Lansing, Iowa, and into Wisconsin was built in 1931. 
 

 

Ferryville, WI - Mississippi River (Lake)Ferryville, WI - Mississippi River (Lake)Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

It was a very scenic drive up to Lansing and back down to Praire du Chien, with the road following closely to the river in Wisconsin.

 

Great River Road, WI - South of FerryvilleGreat River Road, WI - South of FerryvilleGreat River Road south of Ferryville, Wisconsin. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Great River Road south of Ferryville

 

Great River Road, WI - South of LynxvilleGreat River Road, WI - South of LynxvilleGreat River Road south of Lynxville, Wisconsin. Photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

 

Great River Road south of Lynxville, WI
 

See our story on Alexander MacGregor & the Historic Rivertowns of McGregor/Marquette

 

And Browse our Great River Road Photo Print Gallery

 

 

Our campground at Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa was gorgeous, however, be aware that during our visit (2014) our AT&T cell coverage was almost non-existent.  Couldn't even do voice. 

 

 


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