A birthplace of two South Dakota governors, Volney is an unincorporated village in Allamakee County

Along the banks of the beautiful Yellow River in far Northeast Iowa is Volney, an incorporated village near the southern edge of Allamakee County. Allamakee County is the corner county for Iowa in the northeast and it borders Wisconsin (across the Mississippi River) and Minnesota.

Near the "welcome" sign is a sesquicentennial (Iowa's 150th birthday) sign giving a quick history of the founding. Later this year, Iowa will turn 175.

From Waukon, I headed down Volney Road (a blacktop) until I hit Big Foot Road, a gravel road, and that's when I knew I was on right path.

There's a white sign along Volney Road, but it's seen better days. Perhaps someone locally wants to get it back into it's correct position?

Volney is also on the Driftless Area Scenic Byway. Travel Iowa launched a new "Iowa Scenic Byway Passport" this week with all kinds of cool features.

At one time, especially a century ago, Volney probably had a larger population and and there was a bit more going on there. There were "widely known" mills and other businesses. However, these days, it's an unincorporated town with a few houses, a business or two, and an picturesque county park. That's not necessarily out of the ordinary for a lot of small hamlets in our state. In fact, that's pretty par for the course for the hundreds of these little dots on our map.

However, there was something else that really caught my eye when I was doing some researching. As someone who likes both politics and history, I was quite surprised to learn that Volney, of all places, is the birthplace of two South Dakota governors. Coe Issac Crawford, South Dakota's 6th governor, and Frank M. Byrne, their 8th, each were born in or just outside Volney. Eventually, they found their way more than 300 miles west to South Dakota where they would eventually both be elected governor in the the early 1900's. Crawford also served one term in the United States Senate. I find that pretty amazing.

Back to modern times, one of the main elements of the town is the park, which is maintained by the Allamakee County Conservation Board.

Volney Park has a lot of amenities and it is nestled amongst the bluffs and along the river. You can follow the brown sign down a gravel road to get there.

Once in the park, there's a little area where you can park your vehicle. I did manage to stay on the gravel, despite what it might look like. :)

I found a simple picnic shelter and a relatively primitive restroom facility.

There's a nice modern playground installation available for children to enjoy.

However, the most intriguing aspect of the park is its proximity to the Yellow River and the natural surroundings.

They've put in a few rock "steps" that can be taken to get down closer to the river.

I found the river to be very clean and clear.

There is a nice sign that give more information about the river and the different species of fish and wildlife that can be found in this "neck of the woods".

There's also signs about being careful and being responsible.

I sat down on this bench for a few minutes and just kind of relaxed for a few minutes.

Back in residential part of town, I found a few different homes and other buildings of varying use.

I found a larger building that appeared to be a business. Based on the research I found, the name of the entity is Big Foot Enterprises, a canoe and kayak rental business. The Yellow River is a popular destination for that activity.

Since the entity is on Big Foot Road, the name of the business makes perfect sense to me. Although, if you told me Big Foot was also born here (along with the two governors), I could maybe even be convinced of that.

There is another newer looking building (or perhaps just nicely renovated?) that is called Yellow River Resort. I found it on AirBnB and it looks to be a phenomenal property that could be used as a basecamp for just about any kind of area adventure. Take a look through the pictures on the AirBnB listing to get an appreciation for how nice it is.

Before heading south into Clayton County, I drove around a little bit to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. It's a gorgeous combination of farm fields, streams, and bluffs.

Having grown up in the northwest instead of northeast corner of Iowa, you get a lot of South Dakota and especially Sioux Falls news. However, I never knew that a little town hundreds of miles to the east in Iowa was actually the birthplace of two of their governors. It's just goes to show you that there is uniqueness everywhere around us, we just have to have a little curiosity to go exploring.


As far as I can remember, this was my first visit to Volney. I'd been to Allamakee County, especially Waukon and Postville, a number of times previously. However, this is obviously an area that is rich with both natural beauty and history. I'm already looking forward to getting back to this area of Iowa again and perhaps I'll knock on the door of Big Foot rentals and head out onto the beautiful Yellow River myself.


As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Allamakee County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this site.