The Great River Road

St. Donatus

Some 15 undulating agricultural miles (24 km) south of Dubuque, the tiny hamlet of St. Donatus (pop. 129) is widely advertised as a historic and picturesque Luxembourg village, mainly thanks to the handsome masonry of the Gehlen House (563/773-8200 or 800/280-1177), a 150-year-old home now used as a restaurant and B&B. Other eye-catching structures are the Roman Catholic church and Pieta Chapel atop the adjacent Calvary Hill. If you wish to make a pilgrimage up the Way of the Cross to the Chapel, start behind at St. Donatus Catholic Church, east of Kalmes Restaurant. There’s a nice view from the top—the other set of spires across the valley belongs to the German Lutheran St. John’s Church.

Bellevue and Sabula

The GRR (US-52) returns to the Mississippi valley at Bellevue, with its lengthy State Street and Riverview Park beside Lock and Dam No. 12. Bellevue earns its name when you sit on the porch of the restored Mont Rest Inn (300 Spring St., 563/872-4220, $159 and up) and take in the sweeping 270-degree panorama over the Mississippi.

Continuing south, the GRR stays in sparsely populated wooded lowlands through Sabula, an island of a town created by the Corps of Engineers when the pool above Lock and Dam No. 13, about 16 mi (26 km) downstream, flooded out the surrounding plains. Sabula takes its name from the Latin sabulum (sand). The river here is nearly 4 mi (6.5 km) wide. Sabula’s encompassing levees provide fine wetlands bird-watching, especially for bald eagles.

Map of the GRR in Iowa

Map of the Great River Road through Iowa.
Map of the Great River Road through Iowa.

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