Read About the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway


Working together with partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors to improve quality of life by strategically shaping the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, or region.

Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, revitalizes structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together. When done well, creative placemaking builds a strong network of local advocates, successfully navigates from planning to funding to implementation, and recognizes both common need and niche opportunities.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway is a collaborative effort between three counties, a dozen communities, and many local and state partners to preserve and strengthen the historical and scenic intrinsic qualities along this official state-designated, driving route. Iowa Valley RC&D works to support and maximize resources to better serve the area through strategic grant writing, marketing & publications, economic development, and synergistic projects.

Traveling a scenic byway is a great way to experience authentic food, arts, culture, recreation, and natural areas because the amenities found along them are united together in many projects and publications. The Iowa DOT’s Official Travel Guide to Iowa’s Byways is a comprehensive booklet available to travelers which details the routes and points of interest for each byway. You can also learn more about Iowa’s byway by visiting Travel Iowa.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Board

The Iowa Valley Scenic Byway efforts are coordinated by a volunteer board and supported by Iowa Valley RC&D. The board members currently serving are:

Mitch Malcom
City of Belle Plaine, Belle Plaine Area Museum

Vicki Schwab
Belle Plaine Partners for Beautification

Steve Beck
City of Belle Plaine

Jason Kriegel
Meskwaki Hotel & Casino

David Rettig
Amana Convention & Visitors Bureau

Don Misel
Iowa County Historical Society

Marilyn Rodgers
Iowa County Historical Society

Ardene Cross
Clutier Betterment Committee

Gerry Kopriva
Clutier Betterment Committee

Chris Anderson
Iowa County Conservation

Jon Childers
Amana Heritage Society

Katherine Ollendieck
Tama County Economic Development, Tama Tourism

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway

The Iowa Valley Scenic Byway takes you on a 77-mile ride through the rural agricultural land and rich cultural patchwork of the Iowa River Valley. It is anchored by two distinct cultures. At the western end of the byway is Iowa’s only Native American community, the Meskwaki Settlement. At the eastern end are the seven villages of the Amana Colonies.

Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Audio Tour

Launched in June 2018, the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Audio Tour is a way to help travelers discover and connect with the history, curiosities, and rural stories associated with the 40 stops throughout the Iowa River Valley.

Featured Placemaking Project:

Making Sound Waves with Art in Downtown Belle Plaine

Designed by Los Angeles based artist and Belle Plaine native John Schlue, the Larry Schlue Memorial Sound Park was made possible because of strong community collaboration, diverse funding, and a commitment to a vibrant Main Street. This innovative pocket park is one of 16 new installations along Iowa’s Scenic Byways as part of a four-year public art initiative. Belle Plaine’s theme for the space is transportation—more than 70 trains travel through the downtown each day! Visitors to the park will not only experience the powerful rumble of passing trains but also create their own sound waves by interacting with large instruments and reflectors.

“Sound and art are things that bring us together. As a child, the sound of trains had an impact on me. I was inspired to design a park that honors Belle Plaine’s history at the same time that it invites people of all ages to interact with art. It takes a lot of hard work to keep a small town thriving—Belle Plaine is really good at that.”

– John Schlue

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, a dedication and celebration was held at the Larry Schlue Memorial Sound Park. Community members in attendance enjoyed a presentation, refreshments, and live music.

This project was made possible thanks to many local and state supporters: National Endowment for the Arts, Byways of Iowa Foundation, Northeast Iowa RC&D, Casey’s General Store, The MidWestOne Bank Foundation, Benton County Community Foundation, Iowa Arts Council (Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs), Belle Plaine Community Development Corporation, Iowa Valley RC&D, Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa Valley Scenic Byway Board, Stephen Beck, local art committee, City of Belle Plaine, Belle Plaine community members, Benton County Conservation, National Playground Compliance Group, Belle Plaine Rotary, Cronbaugh Excavating Inc., Specialized Concrete, Precision Sheet Metal, Coover Construction, Manatt’s, Inc., Hamilton Construction

Past Placemaking Projects

Iowa Valley Cultural Council

The Iowa Valley Cultural Council is a volunteer council from a six-county area (Linn, Johnson, Benton, Iowa, Tama, and Poweshiek Counties). Council members work together to identify priorities and strategies to connect important sites to the resources they need. In 2017 the council had grant funds from an Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Partnership Grant & a Rural Community Development Initiative Grant to support their goals, which included a regional Rare Book Showcase event, regional plan, and professional photo shoots. Long-term, this council is supported by the Iowa Valley RC&D whose staff continue to seek out grant opportunities and help to coordinate events/projects for the council.

The Council has three goals:

1) Think Regionally: The council believes that collaboration and big picture thinking can help set our region apart. The council also realizes that resources to benefit our special places are limited and that it is critical to pursue opportunities that group together similar sites and efforts.

2) Find a Fresh Angle: Many of our sites have been around for a long time and need to be shared in new and exciting ways. The council believes in creative and modern approaches to telling our region’s stories.

3) Implement & Benefit: The council is a group of leaders that is well-connected to the region and experienced with restoration, local marketing, fundraising, etc. We know that there is no substitute for honest hard work and the investment of time and energy. We like to get things done.