Missouri Valley is a small town in southwest Iowa with a big nature and history draw for families. The town of about 2,600 is home to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge as well as a few other historic attractions for the curious traveler.
Ready for birding & hiking
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is a stopover for migrating birds, cranes, and geese. It’s not uncommon to see thousands gathered in the water near the visitor center between March and April.
You may not be able to hike too close to the water’s edge, and if that’s the case, the visitor center has an excellent view of the river.
When it’s not overrun by fowl, the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is a nice place to explore, with easy trails. Cottonwood Trail and Grassland Trail are each only ¾-mile long.
When exploring DeSoto with young kids, be sure to check out a backpack at the visitor center. It will have helpful tools for kids to use on their hike, like animal identification guides and binoculars.
Other trails include the Bertrand Trail (⅖ mile), Wood Duck Pond Trail (¾ mile) and the Missouri Meander Trail near the visitor center (an accessible 7/8 mile looped trail). Many portions of DeSoto, including some trails, are closed during the winter to minimize disturbance of wintering eagles, waterfowl and some game.
DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, 1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley
See the Steamboat Bertrand exhibit
The fascinating time capsule that is the Steamboat Bertrand isn’t in a museum, it’s tucked away in DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. The steamboat was thought to be lost after it sunk in 1865…until it was rediscovered nearly a century later within the boundaries of the DeSoto.
More than 250,000 artifacts were uncovered, including many in amazing condition. You’ll see a ton of those artifacts at the visitor center.
Located in the visitor center of DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, 1434 316th Lane, Missouri Valley
See the lavender field
Take a short drive north of Missouri Valley and you’ll encounter Loess Hills Lavender Farm. You can pick lavender if you visit when its peak season for lavender (mid-June to mid-July and a second bloom in September).
The gift shop has lavender treats and products. The farm’s owners offer tea parties for groups who make a reservation in advance.
Tip: Loess Hills Lavender Farm holds their biggest event, LavenderStock, annually on the third weekend of July.
Loess Hills Lavender Farm, 2278 Loess Hills Trail, Missouri Valley
Take a (mini) train ride
If you’re traveling with little ones, don’t skip Missouri Valley City Park, home to a replica of an old timey- train station called Watson Station. Two mini trains (one steam, one diesel) operate along the 1,700-foot miniature 12-gauge park railroad. Rides are inexpensive, and run May through October.
There is no cost to just visit Watson Station.
Watson Station, located in Missouri Valley City Park, 700 W. Huron St., Missouri Valley
Explore the area’s history
The Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center is a hidden gem located on the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. There are well-preserved historical buildings like a one-room schoolhouse.
For history fans, you can see part of the Lincoln Highway here as well as a lot of antique farm equipment. For families with young kids, there’s a transportation play area with a goofy photo opp.
Harrison County Historical Village and Iowa Welcome Center, 2931 Monroe Ave.
Harrison Country & Missouri Valley events to know about
Cities and towns of all sizes in Iowa have fun annual events, and Missouri Valley is no different. Here are a few to know about in town and in nearby Harrison County towns:
- Logan Hill Climb (April)
- Logan Car Show & Village Green (April)
- Chamber Challenge 5K and kids run
- Mighty Mo Rodeo (Friday and Saturday following Memorial Day weekend)
- Spring Fling Car Show & Swap Meet (June)
- Mondamin Heritage Day (June)
- Pisgah Play Days (June)
- Music in the Park (Thursdays in June & July)
- Logan July 4th Celebration (July)
- Dunlap July 4th Celebration (July)
- LavenderStock (July)
- Harrison County Fair (July)
- Four County Fair (August)
- Magnolia Old Settlers Reunion (August)
- Country Western Music Festival (August)
- Little Sioux Homecoming (August)
- MoValley Rally (September)
- Wisecup Art Show (September)
- Aronia Berry Festival (September)
- Embrace the Hills (September)
- Woodbine Applefest (September)
- National Wildlife Refuge Week (October)
- Small’s Fruit Farm Fall Festival (October)
- Willow Lake Creepy Campground (October)
- Watson Steam Train Halloween Party (October)
- Missouri Valley Chamber Halloween Parade (October)
- Logan Shiverfest
- Tree Lighting (December)
- ‘Bright Lights, Little City’ Christmas in Woodbine (December)
- The Polar Express (December)