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Road Trippin': Yellow River and Effigy Mounds Allamakee County

Effigy Mounds Junior Ranger Badge, (CBS2/FOX28)

Iowa is known for its agricultural landscape but in the hills of Allamakee County you can lose sight of the corn and beans trade them in for trees and trails.

Yellow River State Forest provides a wilderness experience unlike anywhere else in Iowa

“It's the largest contiguous hardwood forest in Iowa,” says Rylan Retallick, State Park Ranger, Yellow River State Forest.

The park spans nearly 9 thousand acres offering visitors an escape.

“There's hiking, there's overnight backpacking sites, there's horse riders, mountain bikers, you name it, there's a lot to do here,” says Retallick.

Its winding trails provide one of Iowa’s only true backpacking opportunities.

“It's 25 miles of backpacking trail with four backpacking camp sites so it's a very special place for that type of activity,” adds Retallick.

The forest boasts quiet campgrounds, rushing waters and a noticeable lack of cell phone service that makes getting away from it all a little easier.

Just a few miles away this rugged rural county holds some of Iowa’s earliest history.

“American Indian people have been coming here for 2,500 years and we truly believe that they were drawn by the power of this driftless landscape, this rugged piece of Iowa along the Mississippi river,” says Effigy Mounds National Monument Park Ranger, Michael Douglass.

Effigy Mounds is the state’s only National Monument and a burial place still held sacred.

“American Indian people of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and Otoe in Iowa and Missouri and Dakota still come here to remember the ancient ones,” says Douglass.

The burial mounds built in the shape of birds and beasts line the bluffs as Iowa’s first great monuments.

“The concentration of effigy mounds here is the greatest concentration left in existence,” adds Douglass.

The miles of trail take you deep into history, offering an interesting interpretive information for people of every age.

Families with children can stop and pick up an interactive activity book to complete while on the trails.

“They come they pick up a free activity book they hike with their families and they earned a very coveted junior ranger badge. which is a great deal of fun,” says Douglass.

Whether learning the landscape or just taking in its beauty Effigy Mounds is truly a special place.

“Watching the leaves come out in the spring, watching it blossom in the summer turn into fall and then ease into winter is one of the most glorious things I can imagine,” muses Douglass.

Each year more than 80,000 visitors make Effigy Mounds a destination for hiking history and experiencing the outdoors.

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