Anyone who has taken long trips in the Midwest knows the welcomed site of a visitors center off the highway and/or interstate. Visitors centers are wonderful compliments to any road trip, even if you just use them for their conveniently located restrooms.

However, many visitors centers settle for a similar, almost woodsy building aesthetic coupled with an assortment of pamphlets that inform you about the place in which you're in or where you might be going. There are dozens of these centers around Iowa, but one stands out as the most expansive and unique.

The website "Only in Your State" calls the Driftless Area Education & Visitors Center the "most impressive" of its kind in the state of Iowa. It's located in Lansing, IA, one of the northernmost Mississippi River towns in Iowa. It's a true "center," featuring a small museum that contextualizes the rich history of the region.

The education/visitors center is also a place where animal lovers rejoice, as there are stuffed beavers, squirrels, and other common critters that claim the area as their home.

What is the "Driftless Area?:"

Photo Credit: Bob Modersohn, YouTube
Photo Credit: Bob Modersohn, YouTube

I had never heard of the "Driftless Area" until I moved to Dubuque. Simply put, it's our topographical enclave of the Midwest that incorporates southwestern Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa, and the northwestern corner of Illinois, per Wikipedia.

The Driftless Area is defined by the large, steep bluffs, rolling hills, and cliffs around the Mississippi River valley. Furthermore, this area was never covered by ice during the last ice age, which explains why the bluffs, ridges, and cliffs all still exist today.

The Driftless Area Education Center Showcases the Area's History:

Inside the Lansing, IA visitors center is a whole litany of things to see and explore: museum exhibits, real-life boats and other models, stuffed animals, art, paintings, informative slides, videos, and more. From the building's exterior, it looks like an average visitors center. However, a few peeks inside, and you could probably see yourself stopping for an upwards of 30 minutes to take in some history.

The Driftless Area Education Center under construction. Photo Credit: Bob Modersohn, YouTube
The Driftless Area Education Center under construction. Photo Credit: Bob Modersohn, YouTube

The Driftless Area Education & Visitors Center has done a remarkable job of curating history into this three-story, 10,000 square-foot building:

Imagine a place once bustling with clanking tools and shouts of fishermen hauling in the day’s catch; the low, mournful sound of the steamboat whistle echoing through the steep bluffs and along the sacred, earthen mounds. Towering glaciers passed around this very spot—scraping and scouring all but this land, a breathtaking region known as the Driftless Area. - per the Allamakee County Conservation's website

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Read more about the Driftless Area Education & Visitors Center on the "Only in Your State" website.

Photos: Iowa's Loess Hills

Photos from the Loess Hills Overlook and Loess Hills State Forest area.

Gallery Credit: Tom Ehlers

Photos: The Desoto National Wildlife Refuge

Gallery Credit: Tom Drake

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