Effigy Mounds | Winter vs Summer Views

Joe emailed last week and asked if I wanted to hike Effigy Mounds National Monument with him on Friday December 12. My calendar looked open. We agreed on a place to meet and made our plan. It is a two hour drive from where we live to reach the park. It is along the bluffs on the west bank of the Mississippi River in far northeast Iowa upriver from the old small towns of Marquette and McGregor. McGregor has only 850 residents now. In the 1870s, it swelled to 5,500 and was one of the busiest shipping ports west of Chicago. Then, the railroads came. Steamboat travel and shipping declined.

The day dawned quite foggy and about 33˚. The weather forecast called for the fog to remain most of the day. We ventured forth anyway. It had been many years since Joe was last in the park. He took the day off from work to get a much needed break. What normally would be a beautiful and scenic drive was now a trip through a fog shrouded countryside. The rolling hills were invisible.

I was at the park with Melanie in May of this year. The banner on this page looks upriver that day. We hiked the same trail then as Joe and I did this day in December. We stopped at the same overlooks along the bluffs to see the river below. Here is our view in May. Click any picture to embiggen.


Looking across to the east into Wisconsin.

Southbound barge traffic. Click to embiggen.

Southbound barge traffic.

The river took on a much different look this time. No river traffic went by. The locks are closed at the dams for the winter. Some ice is drifting by from an earlier cold spell. We did see some Bald Eagles nearby on the bluffs. Very little else was active this foggy day.

Looking east toward Wisconsin...barely visible.

Looking east toward Wisconsin…barely visible.

Downstream toward Marquette and McGregor.

Downstream toward Marquette and McGregor. No barges until spring.

Thanks for joining us on this little adventure.


14 thoughts on “Effigy Mounds | Winter vs Summer Views

    1. Melanie McNeil

      There are Native American burial mounds there, which were originally shaped as animals. Along the upper Mississippi is, I believe, the only places where there are such burial mounds. But there are a number of places they can be found.

        1. Melanie McNeil

          Just through erosion and collection over time. I don’t think the ones here have been disturbed. Farther south there are mounds, most of which have been destroyed by humans.

  1. shoreacres

    I love seeing the river in winter, and the bluffs. Last year, I spent some time watching the Decorah eagle cam — wonderful, the glimpses of hidden life technology offers us.

    I’m hoping we get at least one good cold front this year: the sort that sets the lake and bayous steaming, without icing everything in sight and killing massive numbers of fish. We were supposed to have either fog or frigid temperatures and a stout wind Saturday — it’s a bit of a tradition for our annual boat parade. But our front dallied, and it’s not supposed to show up until late this afternoon. So much for tradition.

    I really enjoyed the photos.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Thank you.

      We have gone back to some of our favorite haunts in different seasons. It is fun to compare. Even our local walks offer some good things seasonally. Change is always taking place. It it often very slow. I like noticing the subtle signs.

      We will try to push some cold air down your way as soon as we are finished with it. Right now, it is still in the mid-40s. That won’t do you much good.

      The eagles are back tending to the nest regularly. The camera is on now.

  2. Steve Gingold

    It is always nice to see the various scenery at different times of the year. Many years ago, shortly after my brother had relocated to the San Francisco area, he sent me an article from their version of Parade magazine. A photographer had set up his tripod in the exact same place in all four seasons to show how the landscape changes, or doesn’t, in the bay area. Four pictures and all basically earthtones with little green.

  3. OceanDiver

    It’s a quiet time of year but that’s part of the appeal. Fog creates such a wonderful atmosphere and the ice forming along the riverbank is beautiful. I rarely see ice over a large body of water. Really interesting to see how it forms on moving water. Good idea visiting the place in a different season 🙂

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      The setting would lend itself well to a scary story. There are multiple burial mounds in the park. Some are shaped like a bear or a bird. It was gray and cloudy with little evidence of life.

  4. Alex Autin

    Wow, what a difference! I really enjoy the summer view, but the winter/foggy views are gorgeous. I can almost ‘feel’ them. Since most of the places I’ve lived have been tropical or sub-tropical, it’s rare for me to witness such a dramatic change in the seasons. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I don’t like to drive in fog. If it hangs around for days, my mood drops a little. But, in general, I don’t mind seeing it. The landscape changes in interesting ways.


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