Loess Hills Scenic Byway

Iowa Culture
4 min readOct 24, 2016

Fall is a beautiful time of year to discover the Iowa Byways. Take a fall drive through the Loess Hills — a unique land formation found only in Western Iowa and China. Discover the area with historic and natural locations on this tour.

Download the Iowa Culture mobile app or use the online version and select Featured to find arts, historical and cultural sites all along the byway.

Here are some highlights of what you’ll find along the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway:

Rev. John Todd House and Tabor Anti-Slavery Historic District


The town of Tabor was a hub of activity during the western antislavery movement of the 1850s. It became a staging area for Kansas-bound Free Soil settlers during the Bleeding Kansas conflict, serving as a place to store arms and provisions. Rev. John Todd’s house was used to aid escapees on their journey and to store arms that were later used in John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The town square became an important meeting place for local abolitionists and was also used as a training camp by local militiamen. Tabor continued to be known as an antislavery stronghold and a stop on the Underground Railroad for freedom seekers coming from Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska.

Chautauqua Pavilion


Chautauqua movement was established in New York in 1874 and quickly became a major cultural influence in the Midwest. A Chautauqua Assembly brought in entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. The Riverton Pavilion was built in 1897 for the newly formed Patriots of America group and a few years later hosted Chautauqua assemblies and other local events. It is one of only a few remaining Chautauqua pavilions remaining in Iowa.

Davis Oriole Earthlodge Site


Stop by the Davis Oriole Earthlodge Site for a rare look at a prehistoric lodge that was inhabited by Native Americans living on the east and west sides of the Missouri River basin between 1050–1300 A.D. This reconstruction reflects the architecture of more than 130 lodges have been partially or completely excavated in the Glenwood region over the years. An earth lodge is characterized by its square shape with rounded corners, central posts down the center, wall posts along the interior edge and a covering of earth.

Loess Hill Scenic Overlook


Enjoy one of the best views of the Loess Hills from this forest overlook nicknamed “The Spot” by Walter Ordway Jr. An Iowa native, Ordway was an accomplished artist and organic farmer, who for years traveled the world before returning to Iowa. He was instrumental in developing the Loess Hills Scenic Byway which was awarded National Scenic Byways status in 2000. The Loess Hills are a unique land form created 14,000 years ago by strong winds that deposited silt from the Missouri River Valley flood plain into clouds of dust, depositing them into rugged bluffs.

Sergeant Floyd Monument

Sioux City

A 100-foot obelisk of heavy Kettle River sandstone marks the final resting place of Sergeant Charles Floyd, Jr., the only member of Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition to die on the journey. He died on August 20, 1804, during the Expedition’s journey west. He died of a ruptured appendix just three months after the explorers set out. The Corps of Discovery held a funeral for Floyd and buried him on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. They named the location Floyd’s Bluff. The monument is one of 25 National Historic Landmarks in Iowa.

Originally published at https://iowaculture.gov on October 24, 2016.



Iowa Culture

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs empowers Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to resources. iowaculture.gov