Upper Iowa River Pictures

1_Cats Dont like waterfalls

Serena checking out the waterfall at the trout hatchery

The second day of the fishing trip was just as much fun as the first.  After awakening at Goeken Park, Serena and I were ready to hit the road.  As always, trout fishing was the first priority.  I took her to the trout hatchery itself.  It is from there (Siewers Spring) that the Trout Run stream flows through town and right behind the Walmart.  Even though it was a fun time fishing, the limit was caught in about forty minutes… and they all came from a single hole!  The score:  3 rainbows and 2 brook trout.

While passing by the McDonalds, it seemed like a good time to check the email on the free wifi (which usually ends up costing $3 or more for the “Mc Grub”).  A sheriff’s deputy and I got to chatting about the areas along the Upper Iowa River and the camping potential.  He said that there was no problem parking and camping at the dam areas and trout streams.  If it wasn’t for work, there are enough places a person could live in the boonies for a very long time!


2_Upper Dam

The Upper Dam of the Upper Iowa River, northeast of Decorah

From there it was on to the first dam outside of Decorah on the Upper Iowa River.  Talk about beautiful!  Not too long ago, someone was swimming here and drowned in the churning waters.  I fished below the dam and found the terrain to be very dangerous.  One slip and it would have been “goodbye cruel world”.  The snags were so bad that a great deal of tackle was lost.  Empty handed, it was time to move on.  The kitty was in the van, shaded by trees and snoozing away in 73 degree weather.


Below the lower dam of the Upper Iowa River near Decorah

The next destination was the “lower dam” (which is actually northeast of the upper dam).  The scenery is such that the pictures don’t do it justice.  Getting here was a real joy (NOT!).  The access to the dam is on a “Level B” dirt road – minimal maintenance.  You can imagine the van chugging along the bumpy path, an aluminum skillet clanging as it clung for deal life to a hook on the wall.   A few items clunked and fell.  Creaks of protest emanated from all things made of wood.  The top half of the bulkhead door came loose and was swinging back and forth, with Serena poking her head out to see what in the heck was going on.  It was almost like that UFO scene from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.  Soon, the banging subsided and we had arrived at this mysterious place.


This lower dam area was evidently carved out by a huge glacier.  As you walk down toward the dam, there are bluffs that must easily be 150 feet tall.

3_Lower belowThe river below the dam proved to have better fishing than the last site.  It was also a lot safer.

From the frequent taps on the bait, it seemed like the bass were working.

Something of significant mass yanked the line and ran under a submerged tree.  I am guessing it was a bass but will never know because the line broke.  An hour or so later, all that was caught was a decent sized large mouth bass.   It was still under the size limit and with the trout in the cooler, there was no point in being greedy.

The roar of the water running over the dam was soothing.  You cannot beat “white noise”.  I thought to myself that this would be a great place to come one day and drink a few beers and let the world go by.


7_DunningBy now it was getting late and time to think of a camping spot.

Staying in town was necessary because the morning would bring another limit of fresh fish.
With close proximity to the stream, Walmart was the “campground” of choice.

Since there was time, Serena and I were able to stop and see the waterfall at Dunning Springs park.  This picture is not as pretty as many because the water is low right now.  Still, the waterfall and creek are stunning.  Serena ran right up to the edge and checked out the tumbling water.  If you are in Decorah, this is one place that shouldn’t be missed!

5_Seafood ManicottiLater in the evening dinner was enjoyed at another of Decorah’s finest places – McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita Restaurant.

I usually try to avoid putting pictures of restaurant food in the blog (you get enough of that on Facebook) but this is a dish I vowed to try and replicate for my cookbook project.  It’s manicotti pasta stuffed with seafood and alfredo sauce.  That’s Blue Moon beer with a slice of orange.  After a long day of fishing, it tasted like the nectar of the gods.

The Walmart proved to be as quiet as ever.  It was 44 degrees in the morning and the kitty and I were huddled up in the van.  Around 7:00 or so, I used the Trek bicycle to get back to the boonies.  With the cold weather, the fish were active, even jumping a little.  Five plump rainbows went back home with us.  It was tough returning but duty was calling and I had to put in an exhausting closing shift.

VT and ReReEach night after work I check on Dad’s house and the two kitties.  Mr. Jesse wanted to be held and hugged.  Serena wanted more than that.  As I started to lock the house, she darted out the door.  Being 1:00 in the morning, I couldn’t see where she went!  My little doll was waiting by the van door.  She wanted to sleep next to her daddy in the van!  A cat that would sleep in a van (especially after that “level B road experience!) instead of a house?  She’s one in a million.

Serena is going along on the next adventure, no matter where we end up.  There aren’t a whole lot of plans for the next few weeks but with the weather cooling off, it might be time for a trip north to the apple orchards and cheese factories in Wisconsin.  Stay tuned!

Serena and Brad, the “Van Trekkers”


About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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3 Responses to Upper Iowa River Pictures

  1. Pleinguy says:

    Looks like it was a fun and productive trip. Nice to have a kitty companion along too. Hope all continues well for you.

  2. Thanks for writing “The Upper Iowa River area and Dams Near Decorah | Van
    Trekker”. I personallywill surely end up being back
    again for a lot more reading and writing comments soon enough.
    Thank you, Brock