Trip to Lover’s Leap

Lover's Leap

Lover’s Leap, Elkader, Iowa

Welcome and Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone.  Rather than candy, flowers, and all that mushy stuff, I decided to share a tragic love story with you.  It’s a part of the history from Northeast Iowa.  Note:  I’m not making any claims to the story’s authenticity, but here is the legend….

In the 1830s, a young man named Lou Millville had a great deal of affection for a local Winnebago Indian girl named White Cloud.  She was Chief Grey Eagle’s daughter.  One fateful day, Lou was exploring the area hills, looking for an Indian lead mine; he was intercepted by two Indian braves.  The Indians ordered him to jump to his death.  Millville turned on his attackers, overpowering them and sending the two over the cliff.  Word has it that during the fight, Lou was struck in the head by tomahawks and had passed out.  White Cloud found him unconscious and feared he was dead.  She left her moccasins next to him and leaped over the edge.  Lou awoke some time later and found White Cloud next to the Turkey River, dying on the rocks below… hence the name “Lover’s Leap.”


Made by Kerns Meats (aka “Edgewood Locker”), the beef or pork snacking sausages are delicious… and a favorite of hunters and fishermen.

Wanting to find Lover’s Leap, I headed toward Elkader, Iowa in Clayton County.  (one of the counties where I might live after this autumn).  The weather was pretty bad – it was snowing and the roads were marginal.

The first stop along the way was at Kern’s Meats aka the “Edgewood Locker” in Edgewood, Iowa.  They have a “bargain bin” and I loaded up on the goodies – snacking sticks and even some smoked bacon ends for breakfast (and for kitty Jesse James).  From there it was on to Pedretti’s bakery for some peanut butter cookies.


The view from the van… “Keep it between the ditches!”

I did find Lover’s Leap but decided not to spend much time there.  The roads were too snowy and I didn’t want to send the van into a leap of its own.

Instead, the van and the white knuckled drive ventured over to the trout hatchery which is about 10 miles northwest of town.  The two DNR guys, Gary and Aaron, were a lot of fun to talk with and let me camp overnight in the parking lot.  I’d met Gary on a previous trip and he remembered the van.  I gave the two guys some beef/ jalapeno snacking sticks and some of the cookies.  During the winter months, they don’t get too many people bringing goodies but they will tell you about the great food that campers treat them to during the good weather!

5_Mark_WestThe fishing action on Wednesday was quick.  In 45 minutes the limit of trout was reached.  No problem… During the winter, fast action is welcome!  It sure beats sitting for 2 days on a porta-crapper and only catching one fish!  Ice fishing is fun… but open water is better yet!

After fishing, I popped open this bottle of wine.   It’s Mark West Pinot Noir.  A friend of the blog, “C”, dropped it off at Dad’s while I was napping the other day.  It was saved for this occasion.  The flavor was tasty and not overly sweet!  Thanks, “C” !

This might not be the best “pairing” but I lightly fried some Chinese pot sticker (dumpling type) appetizers (from Aldi) over the camping grill and had a late lunch of pot stickers and wine.  It was better than a sleeping pill!

Supper was fresh trout, some sliced potatoes, and a batch of blackberry snow ice cream.  (smashed blackberries, a little sugar, half ‘n’ half, and enough snow to chill it.)

By this time the temperature had dropped from 27 to 13 in just over an hour, eventually reaching -4 last night around midnight.  Then the sky clouded over and a warm front came though.  By 6 AM, it was 18 degrees and snowing like crazy!  The Mr. Heater propane heater did a superb job of keeping the van at around 75 degrees the whole time.


A “midnight snack”
Chicken Soup

Pictured to the left is a can of chicken soup on top of the Mr. Heater.  The contents never boiled but reached a nice serving temperature.  Not pictured is one of those little biscuit sandwiches wrapped in foil.  The heater did a fine job warming up the sandwich, too!

This morning the fish were biting with the same ferocity.  Gary came down from the DNR office and we chatted while I was fishing.  His brown dog, Woody, was determined to feast on my trout, even getting one of them off the bank and into his mouth.  At one point, Woody entered the stream and looked like he was going to try and catch one of the visible fish.  Something tells me that pup has enjoyed rainbow trout before… and he doesn’t have to have a trout stamp!




4_Big Springs

Camping Spot



On the way out, I talked with the other employee, Aaron, about where the hatchery water comes from and what temperature it is.  The water comes from a spring which is part of state land.  The water runs through the raceways (where the fish are raised before stocking in area streams) at a temperature of about 50 degrees.  The raceways feed into the tube that flows out into the Turkey River.  Trout that are already in the river congregate around the warmer water hoping for something to eat.

Aaron and I also chatted for quite a while this morning about other topics including land conservation, hatchery operations, some of the other camping people, etc.  It was a really enjoyable visit and I learned a lot from both Aaron and Gary.  Wherever I encounter them, the DNR guys and rangers have always been pretty cool people.  It would be the dream of a lifetime to have a job like that.

It was a brief but fun little outing.  The next trip will likely happen in a week or two and will be close to home.  In the meantime, there will be a posting in a few days after I smoke up the trout recently caught.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day and stay back from the cliffs… especially in the wooded hills of Clayton County.  Take care!

Bradford, the “Van Trekker”


Saint Thomas Catholic Church, Elkader Iowa
Dedicated in 1900… Cost to build $12,000

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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"

2 Responses to Trip to Lover’s Leap

  1. Aaron Schwartzhoff says:

    Its was nice to have a visitor here at the hatchery. We don’t have too many this time of year. Good luck on your journeys and maybe we’ll see you this spring.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks for the comment and the hospitality. You and Gary made it a fun time at Big Springs. I learned a lot about how the hatchery works, the history of what floods can do, and how bad farming practices are harming the environment.

      Thanks for the info about Depot Road. It was a little less hilly. The only tricky part was that hill coming out of the hatchery and that quick right turn.

      Right now, I am in the process of soaking the trout in brine. The new smoker arrived today and the fish will be smoking with apple wood this evening.

      Take care and I’ll see you again toward spring. Let’s hope the Turkey River doesn’t flood too badly this year. If it does, I’ll be there to see if I can help out. – Brad