The Majestic Iowa Mountains

A gate at Preparation Canyon State Park reminds people of where they are at.

Ahhh, the Iowa Mountains. There's nothing nearer and dearer to my nature-loving heart than this magnificent set of formations that are but a stone's throw from my home. I talk about them quite often, something you know to be true, but what are they exactly?

My son stands on a ridge, during a lovely Winter day, at Hitchcock Nature Center.

While I call them the "Iowa Mountains" they are really called "The Loess Hills". There are a few ways to correctly pronounce "loess", but the one I prefer is "luss". Loess is a silt sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. While you can find it in various places around the world (it covers about 10% of the Earth's surface), it's only concentrated in a few places. One of these places is my beloved Iowa Mountains that stretch from the northwest of Iowa to the northwest of Missouri.

An early Spring view of the meandering Hills from Murray Hill Scenic Overlook.

They really are a beautiful sight to behold, and I've encountered some of the most varied and breathtaking views along its ridges.

A Summer view from the same spot at Murray Hill Scenic Overlook.

I've hiked the Iowa Mountains as far north as the Broken Kettle Grasslands in Westfield, Iowa, and as far south as Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Forest City, Missouri -- a distance that spans about 212 miles as the crow flies -- and many places in between.

The distance between Broken Kettle and Loess Bluffs. 

My daughter hiking along the eastern ridge of Hitchcock Nature Center on a warm Autumn day.

These hills have kept my sanity over the years, helping me to escape, even for a short while, the bitter pill of reality. Not that reality sucks all the time, I'm not pessimistic, but let's face can get rough. It's during those rough times that I find solace in the Iowa Mountains, the most majestic and beautiful place near me, and one of the most awe inspiring and gorgeous places on the planet. Some people may not agree with me on that, but my resolve on the matter is pretty firm.

An early Fall view of a farm nestled in the valley from the ridges of Turin Prairie.

While I've traveled the world and seen some pretty amazing nature on a much larger scale, it takes nothing away from the smaller-scale nature I'm fortunate to live around. It took me a long time to appreciate that I had incredible vistas outside my back door, but I never take it for granted now. I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into the Iowa Mountains that I talk so much about, and I sincerely wish for you to be able to see them for yourself one day.

Until then, here are a few more pictures from other areas of the Iowa Mountains I've been to:

A panoramic view from the top of the hills in Loess Hills State Forest on a picture-perfect Autumn day.

A view in a valley at Broken Kettle Grasslands in early Summer.


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