2021 T-Bone Trail · Museums and History · Unincorporated Iowa · West Central Iowa

Harrison County: The Unofficial Byways Capital of Iowa

*There’s plenty of ways to see Iowa while you’re randomly road tripping. It may seem obvious to say that our byways are some of the best ways to view the Hawkeye State. However, there’s a way to hop on these roads in an amazingly convenient way when you’re in Western Iowa. Our trip was sponsored by the Harrison County Development Corporation. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

You can only be in one place when you see this sign!

Harrison County, Iowa (Our 83rd County)

If you were to meet me on the corner of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway, Western Skies Scenic Byway, and Loess Hills National Scenic Byway then it might just be near the town of Missouri Valley, Iowa. After this scenic rendezvous we can drive a short way and travel on the Lewis and Clark National Trail near the river. In other words…Welcome to Harrison County! By the way…This is our first Gallivant in this amazing county! There’s plenty of time for the at summer road trip that’s ithchin’ at’ya……..

There’s a popular road in most communities and Harrison County has several with very scenic paths you can drive on. I suggest you wander and wander through all these byways! Harrison County could be a major hub for a major road trip.

It’s like being served up several courses in one road trip when you arrive to Harrison County. Western Skies Scenic Byway covers a wide swath of Western Iowa that goes from Guthrie County all the way to the town of Missouri Valley in Harrison County. That’s one heck of a way to see the rural rolling hills of Western Iowa turn into the geographical majesty that is the Loess Hills. This byway provides rollercoaster hills to some of the Midwest’s most beautiful and magnificent views. It’s time to dive into another scenic endeavor that’s been a constant and very good friend to us on the T-Bone Trail. The Loess Hills are calling again…

Stay Active

The many faces of the Loess Hills. Murray Hill Overlook for a prairie filled view of Harrison County.

I love Iowa for a lot of reasons. One of them is for the unexpected trails that we find during our travels. I knew that the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway would supply tons of ways to observe Western Iowa’s everchanging regions. Harrison County is ideal for this type of odyssey. What Murray Hill revealed to us was so needed and wonderful. This was the Loess Hills experience I had know idea I could accomplish until we arrived to Harrison County.

With cow pastures to our left, the long trail over the hills, and an ocean to the west. We’ll get back to that last part….
One of the best backdrops on the T-Bone Trail here in Western Iowa. A hilly prairie with a herd of Black Angus roaming in the grassland.
It was here…It was right here at this exact spot where I found my dock to watch the oceanside roll back and forth.

It’s only natural to start planning a trip to the gulf, west, or east coasts when you’re craving the hypnotic views the oceanside supplies. I love those moments too and all the other reasons we may travel to the coast. However, an ocean doesn’t always need to be filled with water. Your dock doesn’t always have to be a series of wooden planks or a bobbing jetty. The pier that I found was here at Murray Hill Overlook.

Listen to the prairie and the splendor it provides here in Harrison County.

To literally sit on the edge of one of planet Earth’s rarest formations is incredibly inspiring and it’s right here in Iowa. From my perch in the Loess Hills I could see everything that is Iowa. A land that was once endless prairielands with some of them still surviving. It’s tall grass gently smacking me on my sides in the breeze and the sounds of seagulls replaced Gold Finches and Orioles. And then the sea opened up as my feet dangled over the ancient hill. The Missouri River valley and it’s endless farmland creates waves in the leaves of the crops as the winds sweep through them. Shadows form, especially when there are a few puffy clouds in the sky, and gives you the feel of the surf coming in and out. I know of many places in Iowa where you can see this phenomenon and Murray Hill is where I can say is the best place to witness this piece of Iowa splendor. Peaceful, lovely, and hard to leave when you know you must move on. I can still see myself there as I write this post. One of the most impactful moments of our travels through Western Iowa.

Roadside Attractions & History

The two for one stop for the roadside attraction seekers out there! Or should I say a four in one attraction?

The day was getting hotter when we showed up to the Harrison County Historical Museum and Iowa Welcome Center. We took the time to make a pitstop and take a leisurely stroll around the walking path of this welcome center and received more of a road tripping education. Welcome to the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway!

Harrison’s Lincoln experience! See what I did there, US presidential buffs?

The Lincoln Highway runs the entire length of Harrison County. Wait….The Lincoln Highway runs the entire length of Iowa and into Harrison County…..Hold on! The Lincoln Highway runs the entire length of the country! That means Harrison County gets streams of dedicated travelers from east to west all year long that adore this American treasure to roadways. Folks plan entire road trips to just be on this stretch of history that goes from New York to San Francisco and Iowa is home to several miles of it. One of the most scenic ways to love this heritage byway is right here in Harrison County when it meets the Loess Hills.

That Western Iowa breeze is exactly what anyone needs on a warm summer day.
I wasn’t kidding! That’s a coast to coast adventure and Harrison County is proud to be a part of it!
Where Lincoln and Loess hangout.

The stroll through this facility’ outdoorsy attraction leads you into historic buildings that illustrate the pioneer days of the area and beyond. This is one of our biggest pieces of advice on The Iowa Gallivant. When it starts to get hot outside and you need a break……Then head to the local museum!

Weave in and out of the historic building along the hillside of the Harrison County Historical Museum and Iowa Welcome Center. Cool off and soak in the history!
It’s the taste of Harrison County’s history and you can always go for seconds. Inside the welcome center is this Cherry Drink and they use the same recipe from when it was created in the 1800s. The locals and guests of this area have been enjoying this cherry cider for a very long time and it’s just right on a hot day. Imagine that in slushy form. Wooooooooooooo BABY! Take some of that home and get it in the blender!
You know what this place needs? Is more gifts, a rusty tractor, old Masonic relics, and local military history on display. That’s the range of things to see in this museum and shop for in the visitor’s center.
You’re in Iowa! Learn about the gosh darn corn we grow around here!
Need a little libation at the hotel room or campsite while you’re staying in Harrison County? Stop in the visitors center get your share of Iowa wine from all over the map.

We say this a lot, but when we do we mean it. This was just a taste of everything you can view and browse through at this must-see facility on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. It was a great way to spend over an hour of walking on the trails outside, discovering another overlook, shopping, and roaming the museum. I appreciate every single person that keeps these places looking good everyday for the visitors of this state. You know what else we appreciate?

Ice cream and lots of it!

JC’s Dairy Den was like a dairy filled oasis screaming for us in Missouri Valley. Summertime was going into overtime at this local ice cream icon and the employees still had time to give us some ideas on where to travel in the area. All they had to do was hand us the ice cream and go walk away, but they went the extra mile with a cherry on top. The natural hospitality of Harrison County at its sweetest! Time to checkoff one of the most obscure items on my very long bucket list. Let’s just say I was “pumped” to see it….

.A long time ago I saw an old picture of a town pump that was in the center of the street. It was simply titled: Magnolia, Iowa. I was drawn to the picture and wasn’t leaving Harrison County until I stopped to take a photo for myself. A very small town that’s surrounded by beautiful hills and farmland. My only regret is that I wish it was still operational, but I was glad to see it being taken care of. We all have places we want to travel to and Magnolia was on my list with it’s peaceful water pump. That’s one of my favorite roundabout concepts a little town can have.
Woodbine, Iowa is another public art hotspot and we get the camera revved up every time when we’re in communities like this.

Woodbine’s public art can pull folks in who love to see these works. It did for me and I became very fond of this town. I loved the trains that still zipped by the Main Street businesses. The brick roads that intersect each other and the beautiful architecture over its sidewalks. The Loess Hill just a short drive away and all the restaurants, bars, and shops operating in a beautiful old railroad town. You know you’re in a special place when you envision yourself living in the town you’re quickly falling for. Woodbine is on the list of cities that I wasn’t easily able to pry myself away from and I’m very genuine when I say that. The Iowa Gallivant-HQ has a nice ring to it with a Woodbine address. Now I’m hungry!

Let’s Eat Steak!

Say it with me: Small-towns in Iowa have great food! Sometimes these towns are so small they’re not even incorporated. One of Western Iowa’s most popular restaurants and live music venues is in tiny Beebeetown and they made it to the T-Bone Trail!

Trust me. You won’t have any trouble finding The Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon when you get to Beebeetown! 2849 335th Street

One of the sayings on the The Iowa Gallivant is, “the smaller town-the bigger the market.” Some of our most viewed blog posts have come from some of the smallest communities in Iowa. Boy, did we hit the jackpot in Harrison County! The Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon is very well known for it’s food and the entertainment it brings in. And it’s in a town just bigger than a BB!

Thick-cut Top Sirloin and juicy! Look at that peppery and beefy charbroiled steak just waiting to be enjoyed.
Yummy chicken wings for an appetizer and the Twisted Tail’s burger known statewide for a very good reason. All that with a delicious steak and a saloon-style atmosphere.

When I heard that Beebeetown was going to be on the T-Bone Trail I knew it had to be only one place. I’d never been to The Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon, but I certainly heard of it long before we traveled to Harrison County for the first time. The Twisted Tail was a past winner for Iowa’s Best Burger which means it was on our radar for a long time. I was very pleased to finally see this place for a lunchtime sirloin steak meal. It has the saloon ambiance nailed down and they have the cooking to go with it all. Top Sirloins are lean and so was this one to go with a delightful tender texture. This beefy flavored cut was charbroiled and cooked perfectly as you can see from the above picture. Great atmosphere paired with great food just off of a scenic byway. No wonder this place has quickly become hugely popular steakhouse in Western Iowa. Click here and watch our video from The Twisted Tail Steakhouse & Saloon!

Check-In

We supplied up in the little town of Pisgah that was just a few miles from where were staying in the Loess Hills. That campfire isn’t going to make itself and put supper on the grill for us! Wow, how cool would that be! I was very glad we could get groceries and gas in Pisgah before heading to the hills.

The older I get the more I look forward to summer. Long summers that can produce plenty of memories around a lake, the woods, and maybe a cabin or two and we got all of that here in Harrison County. Find these places whenever you can and don’t stop until you’ve seen them all in Iowa. Then keep going when you think you’ve located all of them because you surely haven’t. You may want to start your search at Willow Lake Rec Area and think about seeing as many sunsets as possible from its many vantage points. This was without question our biggest highlight of our inaugural Gallivant to Harrison County.

Our cabin sitting on top of a hill overlooking the lake. Me and my daughter were very happy to see this. But they made it very hard for us. Spend more time at the cabin, in the lake, or on its trails. Wonderful conundrums to have on the road.
Those rolling hills in full view from the porch on Willow Lake.
County parks and rec areas all over the State of Iowa are making their cabins into destination lodging experiences and we’ve stayed in some great ones. Willow Lake’s cabins are in that group of great ones. Modern kitchen, flat screen TV, comfortable beds, and all you need in the bathroom. Especially when you need that hot shower after a long day in the sun. Be sure to bring extra blankets, linens, pillows, towels, and toiletries when you book your stay here! I like having my own special pillow anyway.
We’re not stopping when it comes to hiking Harrison. A walk around the lake is always an evening tradition we like to take advantage of when we can.
One more swim! One more dip in the water! One more splash! One more moment in Willow Lake!
Dinner time in the front yard of the cabin. Smores for dessert over the firepit at sundown on Willow Lake. Those hot dogs always taste better with a Harrison County view like this.
Goodnight from one of Western Iowa’s beautiful lakesides.
And now good morning from Willow Lake! Sunrise in the Loess Hills is just as scenic as the sunsets. What a way to say goodbye to a beautiful rec area. Keep you eyes fixed on TIG because we have more to show you from Willow Lake!

We took our time driving through the hills and absorbed what we could on our way out. The day before we made our exit, we spent hours hiking, swimming, and driving through the byways of scenic Harrison County. We had some great food and took in a lot of local history. We spent more time outside on the trails and in the rec area than we did anywhere else to this point on our summertime path through Western Iowa and it was sorely needed. It was an easy family adventure that showed us how much of an area that you can explore without having to get your wallet out constantly and we know there’s plenty of families searching for those opportunities. There’s one thing I’ve noticed when it comes to the counties of the Loess Hills. The trail of Lewis & Clark works in modern times as a guide for unbelievable ways to spend your getaways whether or not you’re searching for the Corps of Discovery’s path. Harrison County helped to produce a prairie memory I don’t think I’ll get from any other place I can think of. I just might change my name to Murray Hill…..

Book your stay at Willow Lake Rec Area on the My County Parks website.

Like Harrison County, Iowa Welcome Center on Facebook.

Like Western Iowa Tourism Region on Facebook.

Like the Iowa Beef Council on Facebook and keep up with info, updates, events, and promotions!

See everything we’ve covered on The Iowa Gallivant in the West Central Region of Iowa!

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail-Western Iowa on Facebook!
Cheers to Harrison County! I’ve never been to the Corn Palace until I showed up in Woodbine, Iowa!

Leave a Reply