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Loess Hills Scenic Byway

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Quick Facts
Designation: Iowa State Scenic Byway
Designation: National Natural Landmark Area
Designation: National Scenic Byway
Fees: There are no fees along the byway proper.
Length, One-Way: 220 Miles (366.67 Kilometers)
Time: 7 Hours

General Information

Description -
A Two of a Kind Landform
The Loess Hills Scenic Byway weaves through a landform of windblown silt deposits along the eastern edge of the Missouri River Valley. This unique American Treasure possesses natural features that are found in only two places in the world: (1) western Iowa, and (2) the Yellow River Valley of China. The Loess Hills are located in seven western Iowa counties, including: Plymouth, Woodbury, Monona, Harrison, Pottawattamie, Mills, and Fremont. Travelers are intrigued by the extraordinary landscape of prairies and forest-covered bluffs.

Natural Formation
The loess (pronounced luss) soil deposits were initially left by glacial melt waters on the floodplain of the Missouri River. These deposits were then blown upward by strong winds. The steep, sharply ridged topography of this area was formed over thousands of years by the deposition and erosion of the wind-blown silt. Today, the rugged landscape and strong local contrasts in weather and soil conditions provide refuge for a number of rare plants and animals, many of which can be found only in the Loess Hills.

Places along the Way
As visitors drive the western edge of Iowa, they will pass through dozens of prairie towns. Larger cities like Council Bluffs and Sioux City offer venues of recreation, culture, and history. Learn a little about some of the people who passed through the area on a trek west and learn a little about the people who stayed here. Most of all, travelers will want to enjor the many nature areas along the way. The Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, the Hitchcock Nature Area, and the Loess Hills State Forest just a few among the many places on the byway that are dedicated to preserving and restoring the native prairies of western Iowa.

Attractions - The Loess Hills Scenic Byway is known for it's Archeology, Cultural, Historical, Natural, Recreational and Scenic Attractions.

Location -

Directions from : Follow the Loess Hills Scenic Byway signs along the extreme western Iowa counties in order to travel this byway.

  • North of Sioux City: Follow Highway 12, and then take Highway 982 south of Sioux City. Take highway 175 from Onawa, Highway 127 between Magnolia and Logan, Highway 183 between Soldier and Council Bluffs, and Highway 275 south of Council Bluffs.

  • From Des Moines, Iowa: Travelers using Interstate 80 would exit I-80 onto Highway 191 just northwest of Council Bluffs. From Omaha, Nebraska, using Interstate 29 north or south offers several entrances to the byway.

  • From central and eastern Iowa: The byway may be accessed via the following primary highways: U.S. 20, U.S. 30, I-80, Hwy 92, U.S. 34, and Hwy 2.

  • From Nebraska: Access to the byway may be obtained from several main highways, listed here from south to north: Hwy 2, U.S. 34, Hwy 92, U.S. 30, Nebraska Hwy 51/Hwy 175 near Onawa, IA, U.S. 20 at Sioux City, and South Dakota Hwy 48 and Hwy 3 at Akron, Iowa.

  • From Missouri: Access the southern end of the Loess Hills Scenic Byway via I-29 and U.S. 275 near Hamburg, Iowa.

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Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Scenic Driving Loess Hills Scenic Byway
ICON Viewing Scenery Loess Hills Scenic Byway

More Information

Contact Information:
Loess Hills Scenic Byway , , , , Phone: 712-886-5441

Additional Information:
Iowa Scenic Byways - Iowa offers two National Scenic Byways, Great River Road and Loess Hills Scenic Byway, close to ten state designated byways, the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail.
West Central Iowa Travel Region -

Scenic Byways Homepage - National Scenic Byways official web site with detailed info on all national and state byways.


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