Camps on the Mormon Trail through Iowa

by Daniel Francis

The Mormon Pioneer National Historical Trail that begins in Nauvoo, Illinois, across the Mississippi River from Iowa, and ends at Salt Lake City, Utah was the route taken between 1839 and 1846 by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints after they were expelled from Illinois. The National Park Service (NPS) maintains the trail within the National Trails System and provides maps and an Auto Tour along the route of the pioneers.

Near the Mississippi

Linger Longer Park, Riverfront Park and Sugar Creek, all located in Montrose, Iowa, are camp sites and trails used by Mormons while residing in their colony in Nauvoo and, later, while fleeing it. The Bentonsport Historical District contains buildings in which the pilgrims worked to earn money to continue their westward trek. The Van Buren County Courthouse in Keosauqua is where the Mormon band played while their families camped nearby in rural Richardson's Point, which is privately owned.

Des Moines and Chariton River Crossings

The Davis County Historical Complex in Bloomfield has a log cabin built by Mormons on their journey. The emigrants stayed in Drakesville, near the Missouri border, where they bought supplies. In Exline you will find the Chariton River Crossing and Campsite, where the pioneers camped after the difficult river crossing; it also marks the point from which the next leg of their journey began to be more treacherous and rural. The Prairie Trails Museum in Croydon contains an exhibit on the Mormon Trail which includes information on the lost Locust Creek Campsite where the Mormon hymn "Come, Come Ye Saints" was composed.

South Central Iowa

The Garden Grove Historical Site contains remnants of a Mormon camp and cemetery. Murray, Iowa is home to the Seven-Mile Creek Campsite, which is on private property but has a viewing platform from which the site can be viewed. Mount Pisgah Historic Site in Thayer memorializes a pivotal village established by the Mormons. Mormon Trail County Park and Lake, outside Bridgewater, has a walking trail through a prairie passage taken by the travelers and nearby you can find the Pote Farm Ruts where Mormon farmers worked the land. The West Nishnabotna River Camp in Macedonia is the location of the lost Mormon pioneer bridge over the Nishnabotna River.

Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs is home to the Grand Encampment, the main Mormon camp on the Missouri River. Thousands of pioneers stayed on this nine-mile stretch of land, which is now owned by the Iowa School of the Deaf. Also in Council Bluffs you can visit the Western Historic Trails Center for exhibits and information on the Mormon Pioneer Trail. The Kanesville Tabernacle and Visitor Center includes a reconstruction of the tabernacle built by Brigham Young when Council Bluffs was still called Kanesville. Across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs in Omaha, Nebraska, you can find further stops from the Mormon Pioneer Trail.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/ Images