Explore Iowa: Wildcat Den in Muscatine County

Yesterday Cody and I took a spontaneous hiking trip to Wildcat Den State Park, not far from the Quad Cities. We were pleasantly surprised about how unique the experience was.

Ye old Pine Creek grist mill

Since 1848, the Pine Creek Grist Mill has been operating in Muscatine County. The mill, which is indeed still grinding grain to this day, is thought to be the oldest working mill  between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.

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The operating mill and free museum. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen.

Not only is this old building interesting to view from the creek below, which provides a perfect swimming location in the summer, but it can also be explored inside, where many f its original artifacts remain. The mill is made up of four stories that each serve a particular purpose.

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Behind the mill, a dam provides a calm swimming environment for visitors. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen.

The basement was my favorite because of the antiques machinery, which still operates, and because of its cool atmosphere… “Cool” as in temperature and in entertainment value.

Yes, Iowa does have hiking trails!

I have always wanted to become an avid hiker, but living in Iowa has put a damper on this dream. Many people, like myself, consider Iowa the USA’s flattest state. But Iowa has many varying landscapes and an example of this can be found in Wildcat Den’s rolling hills and eroded rock formations.

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Cody standing next to a rock formation for scale. Seen near a hiking trail. Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen.

We had a great time forgetting that we were in the “flattest state” for a couple of hours. Wildcat Den’s hiking trails are full of hills and valleys which make for a great experience. The greenery and the terrain make you feel like you might be in a Lord of the Rings movie. There are also great lookouts and man-made stairways and bridges which make the hike accessible to all skill levels.

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Photo credit: Alexandra Olsen.

Although the hike we took this time was short, it was still enough to kill my craving. I know that I will be making more trips to Wildcat Den. The park offers areas for comping, fishing, grilling, and biking as well as hiking. Cody and I have already agreed that camping there would be an exciting change of pace for our weekends…

Location, location…

The Pine Creek grist mill, as well as the Wildcat Den hiking trails and other amenities, is located about one mile from Iowa Highway 22 between Muscatine and Davenport. The park is only about a half an hour from downtown Davenport, and 20 minutes from Muscatine. From Davenport, take Highway 22 past Buffalo until road signs for Wildcat Den State Park indicate a right turn. From Muscatine, also take Highway 22 until road signs for Wildcat Den State Park indicate a left turn.

This is also a great drive to enjoy the sights of the Mississippi River.

This post is a part of a series of posts highlighting my home-state of Iowa. Throughout the summer I will be documenting my experience at several Iowan locations that feature this state’s natural and historical significance. The goal is to show locals and tourists that Iowa is so much more than “flat.”

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