by Gerald Dlubala
Introduction to Southwest Iowa
Featuring a unique topographic layout that offers vast prairies and beautiful savannas in the Loess Hills, with contrasting wetlands and deciduous forests positioned along the Missouri River, Southwest Iowa offers some of the most diverse outdoor experiences and unmatched scenic backdrops for all your planned activities.
After those activities, you’ll want to visit the region’s craft beverage producers to relax and recount the fun you’ve had, and in genuinely welcoming fashion, they’ll be ready for your visit.
Southwest Region Details
The start of many emigration trails can be traced to the Southwest Iowa region and, more specifically, to the Council Bluffs area in Pottawattamie County. Previously known as Hart’s Bluff, Miller’s Hollow, and then Kanesville until around 1853, Council Bluffs is the most populous city in Southwestern Iowa. It became advantageous for emigration purposes because of its easy accessibility to steam-powered ferries that carried goods and groups of people back and forth across the Missouri River.
The first transcontinental railroad, sprawling westward to California, was connected in Council Bluffs to the existing U.S. railroad network in 1869. Abraham Lincoln named Council Bluffs the transcontinental railroad’s official starting point, with the official “Mile 0” marker located at 21st Street and 9th Avenue. The landmark is represented to this day by a gold railroad spike.
Farming and agriculture have always been an important part of the Iowa lifestyle, and this region is no different. The landscape is built for mechanized agriculture due to its loess-derived soil. Made up of silt-sized grains loosely held together to remain highly porous, it features exceptional aeration characteristics, an abundance of available water and nutrients, and can be easily cultivated. You’ll no doubt be in awe of the beautiful vistas and unmatched scenery that you’ll encounter as you travel through the region.
When exploring Southwest Iowa, you’ll experience life in these counties:
Why Visit Southwest Iowa?
Travelers through the region can expect to experience golden, natural hills that only time can form, elegant savannas and prairies that seemingly go on forever, and the beauty of the forests and wetlands that lead you towards the Missouri River on Iowa’s western border. The beauty of the Southwest region’s parks and naturally terraced hills surround visitor-friendly cities and towns that feature unique shopping, local dining, and fun-filled activities.
Take things at your pace. There’s no rush in these parts. Southwest Iowa will fill your itinerary as it touches upon all your senses while displaying the advantages of a long-forgotten, straightforward, and slower-paced lifestyle.
Top Craft Beverage Destinations
Keg Creek Brewing Company:
Located in Glenwood, it is as authentic of a craft brewery as you’ll find. Started by homebrewers that decided to try and make beer they enjoyed, it wasn’t long before they discovered that other beer drinkers liked their products as much as they did.
A couple of national awards later, Keg Creek Brewing Company offers more than 30 varieties of hop goodness, occasionally rounded out with a selection of local wines and ciders, all within the welcoming, small-town hospitality of their patio and taproom. Food can be brought in or enjoyed from food trucks.
In 2016, Keg Creek Brewing Company moved to a new 15-barrel location south of Glenwood that has allowed them to increase production dramatically. Keg Creek Brewing Company currently distributes eight canned beer varieties in more than 100 outlets throughout the Midwest!
In 2017, the Brewers Association named Keg Creek Brewing Company #18 among the 50 fastest-growing small and independent craft breweries in the United States.
In 2020, Keg Creek Brewing Company participated in the U.S. Open Beer Championship for the first time and two of their eight submissions were awarded Bronze medals in their respective categories. The Bronze finishers were Deviant of the Depths in the Rum Barrel-Aged Beer category and Old Marathon in the Barrel-Aged Barley Wine category.
Nearby Local Attractions
Southwest Iowa continues to offer big city excitement with a small-town feel. Whether visitors are searching for the freedom of outdoor activities or the focus of a true crime detective, Iowa’s Southwest region will fill your days with enjoyment and put a smile on your face.
• Mills County Historical Museum, Earth Lodge, Davies Amphitheater: American Indian Earth Lodge and collection of artifacts from the Earth Lodge People, who lived in the area between 800 and 1200 A.D. Museum features a hall of antique agricultural equipment, one-room country school, restored century barn, military display and two-cell brick jail. Glenwood Lake Park features the Davies Outdoor Amphitheater, with family entertainment offered June-August.
Council Bluffs, IA
• Horseshoe Council Bluffs: Provides a Casino that features sports betting, over 1,600 slot machines, game tables, and more, offering a place for gambling and gaming entertainment in Council Bluffs, Iowa. There is a World Series of Poker poker room and approximately 68,000 square feet of gaming space. The casino is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. They also include three different restaurants, providing visitors with a choice of upscale, casual, or buffet dining!
• Mid-America Center: Consists of exhibit and convention space, as well as an arena, for conventions, sporting events, concerts, and more. With almost 64,000 square feet of space, the Center features a 30,000-square-foot arena with two party rooms and twelve luxury suites, an Exhibition Hall, Convention Center, meeting rooms, and other space for events. The Center regularly provides entertainment and special events such as community events, USHL hockey games, family shows, rock shows, and concerts by the music industry’s top names among many other events.
• Union Pacific Railroad Museum: Located in the downtown of Council Bluffs, explore 150 years of railroad history through informative and interactive digital displays, photographs, unique artifacts, and more. Exhibits range from the origins of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the United States back in 1862, Abraham Lincoln and the more advanced technology of the railroading industry of modern day.
Missouri Valley, IA
• Harrison County Historical Village & Iowa Welcome Center: Featuring Lincoln Highway/Loess Hills Interpretive Center with films, road demonstration area with Smartphone interpretation, trail and scenic overlook; five-building historical complex including an original log cabin and one-room school; transportation-themed playground, and more! Check out the Iowa-themed gift shop while enjoying a sample of cherry drink that’s been mixed and bottled at the facility since the 1930’s.
• Wilson Island State Recreation Area: Covers 544 acres of cottonwood stands along the Missouri River. The park provides a quiet retreat with campsites, hiking trails and picnicking areas. The open spaces welcome wildlife, and visitors may see deer grazing in the fields, flocks of geese, or even Bald Eagles perched on the cottonwoods. Early American history shows that Lewis and Clark camped on this area of the river in 1804.
To learn more about things to do and where to stay in Southeast Iowa or elsewhere in the state, check out the official Travel Iowa website www.traveliowa.com and browse our guide Iowa Trails & Tales for fun trip ideas and inspiration or visit our website www.trails-tales.net