The Upper Iowa River flows through the southwest edge of the Driftless Area. Limestone bluffs that wall the river provide beautiful scenery for canoers. Check rivers level before your canoe trip or you might carry your canoe more than it carries you, but that is a story for another time. On its way to the Mississippi, the Upper Iowa passes through the Nordic heritage town of Decorah, Iowa. On our way to Decorah, my sister and I discussed the Scandinavian accent we heard growing up in northern Iowa and wondered if it lingered in Decorah. Happily, we discovered the accent could still be cut with a butter knife and spread thickly on lefse.
Decorah is well known for the pretty impressive Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, awesome outdoor recreational opportunities, the Nordic a cappella choir at Luther College, and the Seed Savers Exchange. It is less well known for the recently discovered meteor crater under the town. We had enough time on this visit to wander around town and enjoy some things we had previously missed.
The Broadway-Phelps Park District has fine examples of 19th and 20th century architecture and homes with inviting porches.
The Victorian Italianate style Ellsworth-Porter house is now the Porter House Museum. A fabulous and rather curious wall of stones, fossils and gems gathered by Mr. Porter on exotic trips surrounds the property. We get it as we both collect rocks, shells and sea glass on our trips. We liked the rock wall better than the museum’s pin impaled insect exhibit.
The Water Street Café located in Oneota Food Co-op was a good place to enjoy a fresh and organic lunch while we waited for the rain to stop. We spent quite a while shopping at the Co-op for the specialty and organic food items that make cooking more interesting. If we lived anywhere close to Decorah, the Oneota Co-op would be a regular stop for shopping and cooking classes.
Cary’s Machine and Welding Shop on Water Street is not on the tourist map but it should be. The light was perfect for a few photos and Mr. Cary graciously allowed me to snap away.
Our current favorite Decorah restaurant is Rubaiyat . Their delicate and crispy calamari is reason enough to recommend the restaurant. They have 110 bottled beers and 34 on tap. On the night we visited, the bar staff came around with a sack containing numbered papers. Patrons could select a number which corresponded with a surprise beer or ale. It was a fun way to try something new.
As we were on our way home from Decorah the sky started to look threatening and we thought we might have a Dorothy and Toto experience. The black thunderclouds rolling over the fields were menacing but spectacular. Fortunately they were ‘all bark and no bite.’