East Iowa · Family Adventures · Outdoors All Year · The Mud Belt-Traveling the Mississippi

Pirates of the Mississippi!-Discovering Iowa’s Only Island Community and a Journey Through the Woods for BBQ….

Sabula, IA: Jackson County (Our 5th County!)

Clinton, IA: Clinton County (Our 6th County!)

Thar be a legend of a territory’s loan isle along Captain de Soto’s path to the gulf. Now, mates! Ready the mast and fortify the hull! Secure the powder kegs and provisions! Prepare our heading for………..Sabula! Drink up me hearties yo ho!

A common Iowa welcome sign with the common Iowa watertower. But this is not a typical Iowa town. This is Sabula!
A common Iowa welcome sign with the common Iowa watertower. But this is not a typical Iowa town. This is Sabula!
Stone house
Many of the Islands historic homes are made from this stonework. In Sabula, IA.
The Castle Bed and Breakfast overlooks the Mississippi on historic River Street in Sabula, IA.
The Castle Bed and Breakfast overlooks the Mississippi on historic River Street in Sabula, IA.
One of the bridges that leads into Sabula, IA. The mighty Mississippi on both sides.
One of the bridges that leads into Sabula, IA. The mighty Mississippi on both sides.
Lonely dock along the Mississippi River in Sabula, IA.
Lonely dock along the Mississippi River in Sabula, IA.

10:30am and we are way behind schedule. I wouldn’t have lasted one day on Hernando de Soto’s expedition of the Mississippi River. But I’m willing to be a modern ambassador of the area and get Team Goodvin rallied for our first trip to Iowa’s only island town. We headed north from Iowa City and weaved through the green county fields of late summer Iowa when we spotted a very important landmark nearly camouflaged by the fertile landscape just past the Scott County line. On behalf of every stinky car and full service car wash that up-sells the fine products that are manufactured right here in DeWitt, IA……We thank thee for your Little Tree Air Fresheners! The movie “Tommy Boy” would have had a huge hole in its story if it had not featured Chris Farley rubbing your scent all over his sweaty armpits.

We made a beeline to Sabula and only had to stop once on they way due to my son’s flip-flop blowout. Thank you Walgreens summer clearance bin! The county road was close to the water as it soon surrounded us driving into Sabula. Loud motorcycles roared by while more of them were parked on Driscoll’s Island just before you hit town. I like to always buy a lottery ticket whenever we go on road trips so our first stop, on the Isle of Sabula, was the Hop N’ Shop convenience store. And I’m glad we did! One of the areas finest ambassadors worked the register that day and directed us to all the great spots Sabula has to offer. Keshia, Sabula’s unofficial guide to everything awesome and fun to do on the island, wasted no time with directions to the hotspots as she helped her customers and rang-up our supplies. You could tell that she genuinely loved Sabula. An incredible asset to any area especially for a town thats not as well known along Iowa’s river road. Her kindness is one of the many reasons we’ll be coming back. Did I mention we like Keshia? We had our water bottles, snacks and one lottery ticket purchased and we were ready for a swim!

Our swimming hole! Seriously its like a big bowl.
Our swimming hole! Seriously its like a big bowl.

We parked our car and wasted no time getting to the beach. The kids were like three looney tunes characters with dust behind them and a trail of towels, sandals and shirts leading to the water. They all stopped at the shoreline to look what lay ahead. Mud. And lots of it. Bonus round!

Testing the waters. Sabula, IA
Testing the waters. Sabula, IA

The narrow beach nestled right up to the campground where campers joined in with our splashing. Every 10 minutes or so the sounds of our laughter and passing jet skis were muffled due to the railroad that lay ahead near the beach creating a truly unique landscape to the area.

Charlie received a skin rejuvenating mud treatment from the assistance of his sisters. He opted to pass on the haircut and upper lip wax. Sabula, IA.
Charlie received a skin rejuvenating mud treatment from the assistance of his sisters. He opted to pass on the haircut and upper lip wax. Sabula, IA.
The campground on South Sabula Lake is positioned right on the beach with bluffs in the foreground. Sabula, IA.
The campground on South Sabula Lake is positioned right on the beach with bluffs in the foreground. Sabula, IA.
Bridge
The old railroad bride going across the Mississippi into nearby Illinois. Sabula, IA

After a couple hours of swimming and friendly mud slinging, we got changed and explored the island. The first place we were going was the place Keshia said that we had to check out. A hippies paradise….Bombfire Pizza! We cruised down the dirt road of Sabula’s main drag and the local pizzeria caught our eye instantly. We weren’t able to order any food yet because they were closed. But it gives us another reason to make another appearance.

On the main street dirt road is one of Sabula's greatest landmarks. Bombfire Pizza. One of its many decorations is a very friendly but lazy dog laying down at the entrance. Sabula, IA.
On the main street dirt road is one of Sabula’s greatest landmarks. Bombfire Pizza. One of its many decorations is a very friendly but lazy dog laying down at the entrance. Sabula, IA.
Bombfire's interior. I think you'll be entertained. Bombfire Pizza in Sabula, IA.
Bombfire’s interior. I think you’ll be entertained. Bombfire Pizza in Sabula, IA.
Don't feel like leaving the campsite? Bombfire delivers! Bombfire Pizza in Sabula, IA.
Don’t feel like leaving the campsite? Bombfire delivers! Bombfire Pizza in Sabula, IA.

We want food! Local food! Keshia, where can we go at this hour? The local ice cream shop. Duh! We are very good at taking direction especially when we’re given explicit orders to destroy dairy products. The Korner Stop Ice Cream Shop, like everything in Sabula, wasn’t hard to find. You see their iconic signs as you roll into town and you no you’re not leaving without making a stop.
Ice Cream!

More Ice Cream!
This young man has the international facial expression of pure banana split bliss. At the Korner Stop Ice Cream Shop in Sabula, IA.

It was time to go. The kids didn’t want to and neither did I. The promise of a few more stops along the way made it easier, however. We got into the car and I checked my wallet to see how much cash I had left. It seemed a little light. Almost like something was missing. My lottery ticket! That would be the one. The jackpot could have been mine but its floating down the Mississippi. Or on the floor at the Bombfire. Or….still at the Hop N’ Shop! We walked back over to the gas station that welcomed us in to town and there was Keshia waiting for our return. My lottery ticket taped to the chewing tobacco shelf with my name on it. Small town customer service at its finest! I hit up the ATM and left Sabula. Just outside of town was an amazing post full of information. Fashioned from a renovated old schoolhouse was the Jackson County Welcome Center.

Schoolhouse
Class is in session and you’re about to schooled in everything Jackson County, y’all! At the Jackson County Welcome Center near Sabula, IA.

Schoolbell

Taking a break at the antique school desks. Jackson County Welcome Center near Sabula, IA.
Taking a break at the antique school desks. Jackson County Welcome Center near Sabula, IA.

After a swift lesson at the coolest welcome center I’ve ever seen, we made our way back to Iowa City. As we drove closer to Clinton we stared noticing colorful little roadside signs directing us to a BBQ joint. When you’re on a road trip you must and I mean MUST take the opportunity to get off the beaten track and partake in some local delights. And Uncle Pat’s Backyard BBQ is without a doubt off the beaten track and worth the detour! It was about a half mile down a rural dirt road when I realized I was going to love Uncle Pat’s and the excuse to go back to Sabula was just a motor to visit this hidden smoky Iowa treasure again and again. Backyard BBQ in the backwoods of Clinton County!
BBQ awaits!

While navigating through the woods we came to a fork in the road. To the left was Wild River Winery and to the left was Uncle Pat’s Backyard BBQ. The winery would need to wait for the next visit. I smell meat!

Welcome!
Its not the official welcome center of Clinton County but it ought to be! This is Uncle Pat’s Backyard BBQ! 1800 East Deer Creek Rd in Clinton, IA.

Pat and his wife run this gem and they couldn’t be more welcoming. Pat slow smokes his pork, chicken, ribs and beef brisket to a classic BBQ perfection. He even makes his own variety of sauces. I prefer the Carolina BBQ sauce. It’s vinegary flavor was perfect with my pulled pork sandwich! This is truly a BBQ lovers oasis and a Clinton County must-see. The view of the river and the property that surrounds Uncle Pat’s gives you plenty of reason to make the trip! Please visit there Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Uncle-Pats-Backyard-BBQ/792896424054367

The old man and the pulled pork sandwich. Enjoying BBQ perfection near the Mississippi River at Uncle Pat's Backyard BBQ near Clinton, IA.
The old man and the pulled pork sandwich. Enjoying BBQ perfection near the Mississippi River at Uncle Pat’s Backyard BBQ near Clinton, IA.
The master smoker and his loving wife! You better be planning your trip! At Uncle Pat's Backyard BBQ near Clinton, IA.
The master smoker and his loving wife! You better be planning your trip! At Uncle Pat’s Backyard BBQ near Clinton, IA.

The trip to Sabula was an amazing experience. All the folks we met on the island and our new friends at Uncle Pat’s are the reason why I love traveling through my home state. The countless county roads may stretch for miles but they always lead to somewhere memorable. I think Captain de Soto would be proud of Team Goodvin. Especially if we had won the lottery. Thanks anyway, Keshia!

Thanks for reading! -Team Goodvin

 

31 thoughts on “Pirates of the Mississippi!-Discovering Iowa’s Only Island Community and a Journey Through the Woods for BBQ….

  1. Glad you enjoyed our little island I call home “Sabula”. I’ve lived several places in my lifetime, however the river & bluffs always have remained in my heart. Next time your in our neck of the woods, stop by Flippers Island Bar, for a cold brew!

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  2. Keisha is my youngest sister and she is a beauty!!!!! so happy you met her bubbly personality!! We come from a family of 7 and we all love to be polite and helpful!! Glad you enjoyed paradise island of Iowa!!!!!!

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      1. Thanks for the great article. I do love sabula with all my heart. I even got a call from my boss thanking me. Hope to see you again!

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  3. I have a friend in Sabula that under her house the pirates would pull into their caves with doors on them right off the Mississippi, she has that under her house.She lives right next to the park and her name is Mary Shear.Also there was a button factory at one time in Sabula and they would punch the buttons out of the clashes that you can still find on the edges of the Mississippi there too.Beautiful buttons!

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    1. Hi, there! We are coming back to Sabula and we’re bringing a film crew! Would you be able to let you friend Mary know that we are interested in seeing the caves! She can contact me through the our contact info on our contact page or personally message us on our facebook page. She can email at jayjay@theiowagallivant as well. Thank you!

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