2016-10-18. Amana Colonies and
Illini State Park
When we were in Cedar Rapids, IA at the beginning of this trip, someone suggested that we visit and/or stay near the Amana Colonies. So, we decided to stop for the night and stay at Amana Colonies RV Park, one of the largest we have seen located in the middle of what obviously had been a cornfield and boasting 400+ sites. Long, level sites with full hook up but no shade to be found.
I would like to and will return to the Amana Colonies next time we are driving through Iowa to spend time exploring the 7 towns that make up these “colonies”. The history is fascinating and every article I read about the founders was quick to disclaim any connection to the Amish whose roots originated with a break from the Catholic church. The Amana colonists, also from Germany, broke with the Lutheran church and were a communal society first settling in upstate New York and then, because of the cheap land offered in Iowa, moved there. They established 7 towns, each anchored by a church encircled by residences and further out, by farms. As a communal society, everything was owned by the community and no one had individual property rights until the 1930’s when the depression forced a restructuring to a “corporation”. Now, the community members own property but stress self-sufficient production of daily essentials. We visited the town of Amana and went to the smokeshop where all kinds of interesting smoked sausages and other pork products were available for sale. The town also boasts the last operating woolen mill in the state of Iowa, several wineries and breweries, quilt shops and other stores offering hand made items. The homes are brick for the most part and are quite large because they were intended to house large, extended families. All seven towns are within a 16 mile radius and contain preserved buildings attesting to a respect for the heritage and faith of these people. Unlike the Amish, there are no horses and buggies nor do the people dress differently and I doubt you would be able to identify a community member unless you were discussing religion, perhaps. If you are on I-80 in the Iowa City area, make the detour 10 miles north to see these towns. Definitely a “come-back” stop for us.
Leaving Iowa on Monday, we drove to Illini State Park in Marseilles, Illinois located at a flood control dam on the Illinois River. If you have a small “rig”, this is a great place to stop during the week but for a Class A motorhome, it is very very tight. There is only 30 amp electric service and a dump station but many of the sites in the Great Falls campground section are big enough for us and located right on the river overlooking the flood control gates and next to the channel that bypasses the dam. You can also walk to one of the Illinois River locks from the park and there is a nice trail leading who knows where paralleling the channel. We weren’t lost precisely but, there were no trail maps and after a 35 minute walk, with no indication as to where we’d be when the trail ended, we turned around; an anathema to Bob. Still, it was a lovely spot to watch the huge barges being pushed by powerful tugboats on a beautiful fall day.