Make your 'Staycation' in Lee County, Iowa
Mon, 19 Jul 2010 04:08:16 GMT —
Looking for a place to vacation a little closer to home this summer? No matter how long you've lived in Lee County, there are probably a few sights you haven't seen. KHQA scouted out some of Keokuk's greatest treasures, for every type of adventurer.
"If you're wanting to do something besides a vacation, you might consider coming here for two to three days," said Cretia Hessey, caretaker of the Grand Anne bed and Breakfast.
Start your day off hunting for buried treasures, known in Keokuk as geode hunting. Geodes are the state rock of Iowa and can only be found within a 70 mile radius of Keokuk. From sun up to sun down, make your way to Jacob's Geode Farm, where you'll find hundreds of examples of the crystalized rock.
"Some of them are just really pretty. And they have all kinds of different mineral inclusions in them," said Gary Jacobs, owner of Jacob's Geode Farm. "I get a lot of families just for the first time they've ever done anything. We loan them the tools and buckets and they come back here and get Geodes."
"The thing about it is, is you're never going to know what it looks like in the inside until you open them up," said Kirk Brandenberger, the executive director of Keokuk's Convention and Tourism Bureau.
Next on the to-do list: Keokuk's Lock and Dam #19, the first and largest dam built on the Mississippi, completed in 1913.
As you walk along the observation deck of the Old Railroad Bridge, watch as barges make their way through the 12-hundred foot lock.
"The boats have to be raised or lowered 38 feet to go through the lock system," said Brandenberger. "The fact that the barges have to pass through these locks is quite an attraction for Keokuk. When people stand and watch it, for the first time, they're mesmerized really."
The total process takes about thirty minutes for each barge.
For the true history buffs, take a walk down Grand Avenue and you'll find homes filled with centuries worth of history.
One house you'll find is the Grand Anne, a 22-room bed and breakfast situated just along the river, built back in 1897.
"This area right here on Grand Ave is called Millionaire Mile," said Cretia Hessey. "In the late 1800's early 1900's it boasted more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. So if you visit here and you drive down Grand Avenue, as well as adjacent streets, what you'll see are many mansions."
Today, you can take tours throughout the Millionaire Mile and the city, while taking up stay in one of the city's top rated bed and breakfast's right on the river. Don't go too far. Each summer, Keokuk is home to "Rollin' on the River," a local blues festival that attracts hundreds to victory park. This year marks the 22nd year for event, which will roll in Friday and Saturday, August 20th and 21st. It's the longest running blues festival in the Tri-State area.
"The challenge is to come to Keokuk, give it a chance, and you might find something you really enjoy, right in your own backyard," said Brandenberger.
If you live closer to the Fort Madison area and haven't yet visited the Old Fort, it's a must. Fort Madison became the first United States military post on the upper Mississippi River in 1808. Since 2008, the Old Fort has played host to reenactments of actual events that occurred at the fort in celebration of its 200th Anniversary. In September, the Old Fort will recreate the siege of Fort Madison with battle re-enactments and encampments of its soldiers.