Last Sunday morning, I got up before dawn and decided it was an excellent day for an adventure. Long before the sun rose, I was drinking my coffee enroute to Southeast Iowa and the Villages of Van Buren.
From West Des Moines to Van Buren County, the drive is just over two hours. Because much of the trip can be made on Hwy 163, which is 4 lanes, it's pretty smooth sailing.
This particular weekend in Van Buren County was their annual "Scenic Drive Festival" and all of the little communities in the county have activities all weekend long. If you have never been down to this area, I'd recommend stopping by next year's festival in October, though they have plenty of other events throughout the year. Van Buren County is a great place to spend a day even if there isn't a community festival happening - there's just so much natural beauty, history, and culture.
My first stop of the day was in Keosauqua, which is the largest town in the county as well as the county seat. Van Buren County is home to the oldest courthouse (built in 1840) in the state. It pre-dates the founding of the state (1846).
Like several communities in Van Buren County, Keosauqua is on the banks of the Des Moines River and thus offers some truly breathtaking views.
After parking my car, I decided to just wander around a bit and enjoy the downtown and the area down by the river. Because it was Sunday morning and still relatively early, it was pretty quiet. However, I managed to find a tent hosted by the local Lions Club. They were serving an all-you-care-to-eat pancakes and sausage breakfast. It was quite delicious. Organizations like the Lions Club do a lot of good for a lot of people, especially in small towns like Keosauqua.
There are a couple of other towns in the county, like Bentonsport and Bonaparte, that have some really amazing old buildings. However, Keosauqua has a few too.
I came back later in the day when more activities were happening, including craft and antique vendors, food trucks and tents, and a car show, among others. Unfortunately, it was a bit chilly, windy, and overcast all day.
Just on the outskirts of town is Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. It, too, is on the banks of the Des Moines River. I noticed that a number of people were camping there and I think there are plenty of other recreational opportunities available as well - year-a-round. I drove a few miles through the park on a nicely paved road. It's a very scenic drive and if I had more time, I would have been interested in going on a little more of a hike. Perhaps, I'll add that to my list for a future trip. As part of the community celebration, a 5K run/walk was in progress. Many of the faces of the runners were as red as the leaves on the trees.
Check back for more articles on several other communities and stops in Van Buren County.
If you have suggestions for places I should visit during a future trip to Van Buren County or anywhere else in the state, please drop me a note on my "Suggest an Adventure" page.
I would also encourage you to check out the "Villages of Van Buren" website and Facebook page.