River Bluffs Scenic Byway

The 109-mile River Bluffs Scenic Byway traverses through an area of Northeast Iowa known as “Bluff Country.”   This region of the state is distinctive and diverse with hills and rolling valleys, towering bluffs and luxurious green landscape that paints the countryside as far as the eye can see.  It is a land for all seasons, whether you come to see the blazing autumn colors, the sparkle of a winter snow or the budding flowering trees in the spring.

As byway visitors drive this route through Fayette and Clayton Counties, they will experience a landscape shaped by water also known as karst topography.  Visible karst features along this drive include limestone bluffs, caves, sinkholes, springs and streams.  The distinctive landscape and dynamic visual impact of karst topography has resulted in this route being recognized as the second most scenic state byway in Iowa.

The physical beauty and unique geology of the area has also made this byway a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.   The region is scattered with parks, nature centers, fishing hotspots, excellent campgrounds, trails, and water trail access points.   One of the largest recreation areas in the state, Volga River Recreation Area, sports a new state-of-the-art campground, horse trails, and small lake.  Aquatic life can be seen and caught at the Big Springs Fish Hatchery northwest of Elkader and Guttenberg’s Aquarium & Fish Management Area.

While cruising the byway, you are sure to catch a glimpse of the past. Abundant historical sites will captivate your interest and spark a desire to learn about the area’s culture.  Plan a visit to Motor Mill Historic Park or Montauk, home of Iowa’s 12th governor, William Larrabee.  See where the first successful gasoline tractor engine was built or stop by the Union Sunday School and attend a concert featuring the largest Kimball organ in the country.

Each of the 13 communities along the byway offers its own stories, festivals, and places to explore.  Experience the mesmerizing view of Pikes Peak State Park, conquer the four-acre corn maze in Elgin, discover an American Indian burial mound in the shape of a bear at Effigy Mounds National Monument or devour northeast Iowa’s largest tenderloin in St. Olaf or the renowned one-pound “Gunderburger” in Gunder.  Travel the River Bluffs Scenic Byway and discover a road of majestic features and outdoor exploration.  Your road to adventure awaits.

Travel time: 4 hours


Iowa Byways Travel Guide (PDF: 2.1MB)
River Bluffs Scenic Byway: Tear Sheet (PDF: 1.3 MB)
River Bluffs Scenic Byway: Activity Book (PDF: 14.4 MB)
River Bluffs Scenic Byway: Historical Walking Tour of Clermont Brochure (PDF: 2.8MB)
River Bluffs Scenic Byway: Historical Walking Tour of McGregor Brochure (PDF: 5MB) and Map (PDF: 1.1MB)
Winter 2011 Newsletter (PDF: 559KB)
Winter 2012 Newsletter (PDF: 491KB)
Winter 2013 Newsletter (PDF: 1.9MB)