Combining some of our state's oldest history with breathtaking views of the mighty Mississippi River, Riverview Park in Fort Madison boasts a wide-range of amenities and attractions within its 35 acres.
On a visit during the warmer months of 2020, Iowa Adventurer was in Fort Madison to enjoy a stay at the nearby Kingsley Inn and Guest House. You can see the hotel from the park.
Of course, conversely, you can see the park and have a pretty nice view of Old Fort Madison from the hotel.
You do have to cross multiple sets of busy tracks to get into the park.
Once into the park, there's ample parking if you are accessing it by car.
Of course, like every park...there are rules to adhere to.
Nearly every time I am in Fort Madison, I enjoy popping over to the park to take in some of the breathtaking views of the Mississippi River.
As the city advertises on their website, the "park offers a marina, picnic facilities, open shelter, veterans memorial, playground equipment, restrooms, formal flower garden, Santa Fe 2913 steam engine locomotive, river walk, Kuhlmeier Reflecting Pond / ice skating rink, two sand volleyball courts, and Old Fort Madison."
That's quite a lot but I feel like they are sort of burying the lede by listing Old Fort Madison last. So what is Old Fort Madison and why is it important?
According to information on the city's website, "Historic Old Fort Madison, an active military outpost from 1808 to 1813, acted as a trading post between the US Army and Native Americans. Historic Old Fort Madison was the first permanent U.S. military fortification on the Upper Mississippi. The fort was the site of Chief Blackhawk's first battle against U.S. troops, making it the only real War of 1812 battlefield located in the state of Iowa."
All of the times I've been to Fort Madison, the fort has not been open for tours. However, it is open seasonally and so you may have better luck getting in or just do a better job than me at planning ahead.
You can enter the structure, when it's open, on the west side.
Near the entrance, you can learn a little more about the history...even if you are unable to get in it.
Even a walk around the perimeter of the old fort is worthwhile.
I'm sure some of the fort has had to be rebuilt over the years, but it's definitely a cool piece of history that pre-dates the Iowa's 1846 statehood admission to the union.
The park is also home to a few old cannons. This particular cannon, manufactured in the late 1850's, was given to the city as a Civil War memorial.
There's also another one that was put into the park to commemorate the state's Sesquicentennial in 1996.
In addition to these cannons, there's also a very nice veteran's memorial.
As you can see, it honors all branches and many wars and conflicts and includes the names of many local heroes.
In a couple of spots, you can find a couple of ornate clocks amongst the flowers and landscaping.
Riverview is also home to a reflecting pond, which was given in memory of William George Kuhlmeier.
You can walk all the way around it and appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship of it. During winter months, this becomes a place where ice skating can happen.
One of the best ways to enjoy the park is to simply take a walk on the path along the river.
A number of trees have been planted, there's plenty of bench seating, and they've added lovely landscaping and lighting.
Generally speaking, there's just a lot of nice green space on one side of the trail and lots of water on the other side.
In a few places, there are sign boards erected to give you a little bit more information about the history of the area. For example, this installation discussed this area's contribution to our state's Mormon Trail legacy.
There are metal poles at either end of the trail that help to prevent vehicles from driving on the sidewalk.
Near the south end of the trail, there's a pier that is presumably good for fishing.
You can look back toward the town and see a lot of old beautiful buildings.
I hope there is plan to save and rehabilitate all of these buildings as they are absolutely beautiful.
Back looking the other direction at the water, I saw a large barge roll on by. The Mississippi River is critically important to Iowa's economy as it moves a lot of commodities and products down to the Gulf.
There's something peaceful about the water passing along and you can enjoy the beauty and majesty of the river.
There are a couple of other buildings that are part of the park. This building is the Fort Riverview Pavilion, an event space with a capacity up to 135 people. There's a page on the city's website about how to rent it and what amenities are included.
The old train depot is a beautiful structure and it is now the Sante Fe Depot Museum. I have not yet had a chance to get inside, but I've added it to my list for a future Lee County adventure. There are a lot of trains that pass through Fort Madison on a daily basis and the Kingsley Inn has even added a RailFan Cam that is watched by train fans all over the world.
There's also an old Sante Fe locomotive nearby on display. Admittedly, I'm not much of a train expert but it's quite the beautiful piece of machinery.
There's also a picnic shelter at the other end of the park. Prior to my visit, it looks as though they had done some dirt work so I did not walk over to it.
For the kids, there's some nice playground equipment, too.
If you are looking for a safe way to get back over the tracks after your visit to the park, a pedestrian bridge has been built to help with that.
I happened to catch a train going by and you can see how useful it would be.
As far a city parks goes, this has to be one of the finest in our state. At 35 acres in size, not only is it full of great recreational amenities, but it's literally home to one of our state's oldest standing structures. There is long list of great things to see and do while in Southeast Iowa and Lee County and personally, I'd put this park and it's many attractions near the top of that list.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Lee 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.