2021 T-Bone Trail · Museums and History · Outdoors All Year · Southwest Iowa

Murals Everywhere, Prime Rib & the Much Needed Lakeside Cabin: Union, County Iowa

*Southwest Iowa hosted us all over its region and that included an area that features some beautiful ways to just kick back and let Mother Nature take it from there with amazing public art. State and county parks are some of Iowa’s greatest features and Union County has many acres of beautiful public lands that everyone can enjoy all year long. Our visit here was sponsored by Creston/Union County Tourism. Some of the services, meals, and goods were complimentary. The views expressed in this blog post are of our own. Now, let’s Gallivant!

Thank you, lil Black Bear! Which way to the public beach? I totally knew it was a sculpture the whole time. Don’t believe anyone that said I tried to feed it a bag of chips when we got here.

Union County, Iowa

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Lakefront in SW-Iowa! Cabins, wide open skies, and a lot of time to relax during you entire stay at Green Valley State Park!

I love it when I can check off another one of Iowa’s public parks from my great outdoors checklist. Green Valley State Park made it on our summer to-do list and I was elated to finally visit this treasure of Union County. I say all of that with a little bit of embarrassment. You see, I’ve been traveling to SW-Iowa my entire life, and that includes many trips to Creston, but not once did I ever set foot inside this beautiful state park. Well, better WAY late than never, so here we are!

Green Valley seemed like a perfect name for this state park near Creston, Iowa. The land was showcasing emerald landscapes everywhere we went. Click on the video below and see the really big feature that gives you a lakeside seat you’ll never forget.
Do you like a story while you take a hike? Then Green Valley has a feature for you and especially for the little ones that visit this state park. These storybook stops are a part of the Story Walk that you’ll see all around this state park. A very fun and educational way to keep kids entertained while visiting Green Valley.

Green Valley State Park had plenty of fishing spots, swimming areas, campsites, picnic grounds, and hiking trails, in a very unique atmosphere. The park was vibrant and it showed us how much we need to keep seeking out these parks. Very peaceful and positioned in a rural area of Union County, but close enough to Creston and all the options it has to supply up for the campsite and the coolers!

Whoa! Our host at Green Valley showed up with claws out!

Public Art

When it came to local art, there would be way more than a stroll through an art studio in Uptown Creston.

We wandered into Create Creston in the late afternoon for what I thought would be a tour of a few public murals. I noticed three of them before walking through the front door. The artistic floodgates opened just minutes later….

Four murals….Beautiful, detailed, and showing unbelievable skill!
Four more! Everyone with its own story, style, and emotion being illustrated in Creston.
They were everywhere! They were inspiring! They kept showing us what communities can do to liven up districts. We all know that one building or buildings in our hometowns that could look amazing again with the help of a muralist setting up shop.
More! Pop culture, endangered species of Iowa, storytelling, and so much talent being poured out into the structures of Creston. Local artists and talent from abroad have flocked to Union County to be a part of this exciting landscape.

This blew my mind. No joke. The murals and public art of Creston, Iowa never seemed to stop. All it takes to see these magical pieces is the willingness to go at your own pace through the Uptown district. It’s a few blocks of very historic buildings with many of them getting facelifts and renovations in this historic railroad town. The beauty of public art is so very necessary and the people who have embraced this project have seen some amazing yields. Guess what…The pictures you saw above aren’t even all the murals you can observe in Uptown-Creston! Take an afternoon and try to see them all yourself and enjoy the local businesses you find on its path!

I love it when the efforts of family and friends come together. Keep up the outstanding work, Create Creston!

Let’s Eat Steak

Now, that’s a proud smile right there! One of SW-Iowa’s premier restaurants was about to serve-up a memorable meal in Creston!

Spencer’s Chophouse & Tavern wasn’t just hosting us on this night. Just about every booth, table, and chair was occupied by a hungry crowd. A very busy restaurant on a Thursday night is always a good sign! I asked the locals what we should order and most of them directed me to the same thing. Interesting thing happened, too. I told folks in other counties that we were going to Spencer’s and they told me what I should get here as well! That’s another great sign. Let’s start this Spencer’s Chophouse adventure!

Fresh side salads with oh-so yummy Bleu cheese crumbles added to mine. Light and crispy onion rings, some spicy Asian shrimp, and Spencer’s must have oatmeal pie with cinnamon ice cream!
Then came the entrees and a healthily portion of juicy Prime Rib!

That thick-cut slice of slow cooked Prime Rib is what all those fans of Spencer’s were talking about. The seasoning on the outer crust went beautifully with the tender and very juicy bites of this beefy masterpiece. Rich au jus, creamy mashed potatoes, and a lot of great company went with this meal as well. Click on the video below and see what we were loving at Spencer’s Chophouse & Tavern in Creston, Iowa!

Check-In & Get Active Again

Why make it a 2 mile lake when you can make it 3 miles!

3 Mile Lake & Rec Area is near Afton, Iowa and it provided my scenic stay in Union County. We started this Gallivant in a state park and I would be waking up in a county park the next day. This rec area was created in the 1990s and it’s been gaining a nice fan base ever since.

A sunflower view of a beautiful SW-Iowa lakefront.
I see mine! Third one down! Cozy cabins at 3 Mile for those of us who want that roof over our head when we camp.
Me and my neighbors front yards at 3-Mile Lake!
More neighbors! These are the professional outdoor lovers and they have some great sites for the camper and RV nation at 3-Mile Lake!
A view of the lake at Cabin #3! Lakeside and loving it!
Need an event venue? Set your heading for the 3 Mile Lodge!
Weddings, reunions, meetings, banquets…you name it! All of that with a fantastic SW-Iowa view…
You can see your next shindig happening right now…
Give those hiking trails a workout during your workout at 3 Mile. Natural setting, wildflowers, and that lake view we all love.
Anglers ahoy! Just a heads up, folks. One of the best fishing spots in SW-Iowa is right here at 3 Mile and that’s not an embellishment. This lake is very well stocked and features some unique spots that the freshwater fish absolutely love. Get in touch with the local rangers and they’ll be happy to direct you to these reel good spots! See what I did there?
Perhaps one of the finest fish cleaning facilities I’ve ever seen. Indoors with an escape from the elements when all you want to do is get your catch prepped for the the cooler to your freezer.

That’s a lot of what’s great about 3 Mile Lake. But, there’s a cabin to get acquainted with! County parks all over Iowa have amazing facilities for campers that love the cabin feel to their travels and I am exactly that kind of Dude myself. Here’s what was waiting for my night at 3-Mile Lake!

Bunk beds for the carloads of visitors coming to the lake. Remember to pack your own bedding, toiletries, and, towels when coming to 3-Mile and all of Iowa’s county parks.
The quiet cabin on the lake does a great job of making you feel at home.
Look! There’s my bunk ready to go! My favorite pillow, sleeping bag, and comforter traveling with me.
You got a place for those snacks and beverages at 3-Mile Lake!

I told myself I was going to turn-in early. 11:00pm showed up and I was still staring at the lake from my patio. Earlier that night I could smell the hot dogs cooking on a grill a few cabins down while the nighttime wildlife started their anthems. The evening air was very cool even though we had a hot day. 3-Mile Lake was a great ending to another entertaining adventure on Western Iowa’s T-Bone Trail. Utilize these county parks often, my friends. And make sure you experience the splendor you can feel in Union County’s beauty.

Bonus Beef

Chad Rieck of Champion Steaks displaying some of their products including some bacon and tasty snack sticks at Hanson Fitness in Creston, Iowa!

We’ve met a lot of beef producers on the T-Bone Trail, but Chad was the first to own a radio station on top of farming. And when he’s not at KSIB or helping out with chores around the farm, he’s getting some of his prized cattle ready for show!

Meet, Carlos! Just one of the champions that the Rieck family have raised!
It was beauty salon hours when we showed up. This steer was getting prepped for competition. Game face on with a new haircut!
One of the cooling facilities these cattle will stay in before getting the sheers out. This helps their hair grow faster during warmer months of the year and gives them that extra star power during competition!

That was quites the spectrum of talent coming out of one Union County farm! From homegrown Iowa Beef that’s hitting our grills to a tour of an awesome area of the farm that produces champions at events around the map. There wasn’t a better name than Champion Steaks!

Uptown Creston was calling again! We’re back at Mario’s Sports Bar & Grill!

Mario’s Sports Bar & Grill made it to our best between bread series a few years ago with thier delicious and cheesy Nacho Burger. I was back to clean up another burger and get some bonus beef in Creston!

Melted cheese and breaded mushrooms. That’s a great way to get me interested in anything. Then Mario’s goes and puts that combo on a juicy burger patty! I’m all in!
Classic taco salad loaded with beef and all the cheesy and fresh veggies we love!
Mario is the owner and you’ll see that he’s a bit of an Iowa Wrestling buff. That’s probably because he wrestled for the Hawkeyes!
Not too far from Creston is Afton, Iowa and Weaver Meats! Always travel with a cooler when road tripping through rural Iowa. You’re sure to find a local meat locker that sells great products like Weaver does!

There is nothing better than the feeling of seeing an area for the first time even though you’ve seen it so many times in years past. That was the emotion that Ellen, with the Creston Chamber of Commerce, was looking to get out of me when she showcased Union County on this day. And she did a great job of that! Uptown Creston was the definition of a pleasant “eye popping” experience. Creston is truly one of the public art leaders in Iowa and I encourage all of you to walk it’s streets and discover the power and energy in these creations. You’ll find a brewery, restaurants, shops, a huge and very historic train depot, and beautiful architecture while you’re strolling through this district as well. Then drive off and see the rural horizons in Union County’s parks for another self guided stroll through their natural beauty. That’s a wide range of ways that you can enjoy Union County through some very inspiring and wondrous moments in SW-Iowa. All that with some local steaks and burgers you can enjoy there or on your own grill!

Be sure to like the T-Bone Trail on Facebook!

Book your stay at 3 Mile Lake on the My County Parks website.

Like the Creston Chamber of Commerce on Facebook.

Be sure to click here and see all our gallivants in the Southwest Iowa region!

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

Thanks for the breakfast pizza, Afton Casey’s!

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