Last week we spent a few days over by the Mississippi River, enjoying the sights and sounds of spring. The views of the River were spectacular, the weather was ideal. We drove along the Great River Road ~ a 3000 mile road all along the Mississippi ~ parks and overlooks are plentiful.
One day we hiked in Wyalusing State Park south of Prairie du Chien. The trails along the ridge overlook the confluence of the Wisconsin River and the Mississippi River. In 1673 Explorer Louis Joliet and Father James Marquette were the first white men to see this area.
Another day we hiked along the highest peak over the Mississippi in Pikes Peak State Park in Iowa. In 1805 Zebulon Pike explored this area of the Louisiana Purchase , scoping out locations for Forts in the area for the US government. We also hiked in Effigy Mounds National Monument, enjoying the various conical, linear, bear and bird mounds. There are 191 of them in his park alone. Lots of interesting history of the people who lived in the area over 1000 years ago.
Along the banks of the River from Rock Island, IL to Wabasha, MN there is a 240,000 acre Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. There are wooded islands, sloughs, and hardwood forests full of birds, small animals, and fish. We saw mink, beaver (complete with lodge), blue heron, osprey, and many bald eagles.
We actually drove up to the National Eagle Center in MN on our way home. It's in a wonderful building in Wabasha, MN. MN is the state with the most eagles in the lower 48 (FL and WI follow close behind). We just missed seeing dozens of eagles sitting on ice flows on the river ~ as late as last week. Most of them are nesting and new eagles should be hatching this week. We did attend a seminar about eagles. They actually feed an eagle as part of the presentation. Angel ate a rabbit, tearing the fur with her beak and eating the meat whole. Very interesting!
One afternoon I convinced Andy to drive out to Postville, IA. I had read a book (Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America) about the difficulties the city experienced when a large community of Hasidic Jews purchased a slaughterhouse in this predominantly German and Norwegian area in 1987. There have been many difficulties with the company over the years ~ and many changes in the city. Eventually a large influx of Hispanics came for work, many of them illegal immigrants. In 2008 the Federal Government raided the plant. The city sign calls Postville "Hometown of the World". I went to the town library and asked the woman working there, "What is it like to live in Postville now?" Her ancestors helped establish the town and her family has lived there for generations. She is very sad about what has happened since 1987. The town has changed dramatically. For a small rural town, the crime rate is very high...she would not walk the streets at night. People are unhappy, schools have had great problems socially and academically. There is a multicultural center and a Diversity Counsel in town. She thanked me for coming and for asking the question. She didn't have much chance to talk about her views with people locally ~ it was therapeutic for her to be able to share how she felt.