The Movement to Create a National Park in Iowa

Historic map of Marching Bear Group of mounds
Historic document from the effort to create "Mississippi Valley National Park"  in the early 20th Century which eventually lead to the establishment of Effigy Mounds National Monument.

NPS Photo



April 6th, 1909: Iowa General Assembly

State Representative George Schulte addresses the Iowa General Assembly on the matter of establishing a national park along the Mississippi River in Iowa.

"…If established as a national park it will become the favorite retreat during vacation and rest for the people along the river from New Orleans to Minneapolis. We hope to see the time when the tourist will be attracted by beautiful parks and cities along the “Father of Waters” and that he will take a tip up the Mississippi instead of touring on the Hudson or crossing the Atlantic for a trip up the Rhine. There is no grander river than ours. There are none of greater possibilities and where when many years have passed its beauty will be celebrated in poetry and song, and we hope to see a national park at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi that will be unrivaled in its natural beauty. Here twenty thousand acres or more are awaiting to be called to serve the purpose for which I believe it was intended, to become the pleasure ground for the American people and remain such until time shall be no more. The passing of this resolution may not cause. Congress to act but I do hope that it may have the effect of calling the attention of the people to the fact that there is a necessity and demand for public pleasure grounds for future generations, and I hope that this resolution may receive the unanimous support of the House."

--George H. Schulte of Clayton County, addressing the Iowa General Assembly

1915: United States Congress

This would mark the official beginning of the national park movement that would result in the formation of Effigy Mounds National Monument

A 1917 speech as President of the Iowa Forestry and Conservation Association (formerly the Iowa Park and Forestry Association), moved Orr to the forefront of the national park movement in Iowa .

“...For some time there has been on foot a proposition to purchase and set aside an area of about 10, 000 acres, about thirteen square miles, of land bordering the Mississippi River from McGregor to Sny McGill Creek to the south... Inasmuch as it includes the first land in Iowa seen by Father Marquette...and as it is still much the same as when first seen by these explorers, it is a point of enough historical interest to be worth while preserving in it natural beauty for that alone...As parts of it are still covered with primeval forest, untouched by the axe, it is one of the few spots where the primitive forest conditions of our state can still be studied...”

1924: Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge

The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Act established a refuge that eventually would encompass more than 200, 000 acres of wildlife habitat along the upper Mississippi River

1929: Mississippi Valley National Park

The name for the proposed park was changed from the “Mississippi Valley National Park” to the “Upper Mississippi National Park.” Along with the name change, the recommended size of the park was enlarged to an area stretching from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota to 45 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa.

May 1931: A Monument is Desirable

The superintendent of Yellowstone National Park Roger Toll toured the area by both automobile and boat, covering the Mississippi River from Bellevue, Iowa to Winona, Minnesota.

In his report to Congress, Roger Toll concluded a national monument was appropriate, but a national park was not feasible. The main problem with the national park proposal was the number of towns and cities within the proposed boundaries. These places would have to be excluded from the proposal, causing the park to be made up of a number of isolated tracts.

Last updated: January 29, 2016

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