The Oregon Trail


Midway between Waterloo and Dyersville, the tiny town of Quasqueton (pop. 561) holds Cedar Rock, a wonderful riverside house completed in 1950 by architect Frank Lloyd Wright for local-boy-done-good businessman Lowell Walter, who got rich by developing and patenting a method of sealing highway surfaces. Walter died in 1981, and his wife, Agnes, donated it to the state. It is now a state park. Cedar Rock is one of 11 houses Wright built in Iowa, and one of only 17 of the 1,000-plus houses Wright built that he signed with a signature tile. Cedar Rock is an excellent and complete example of his “Usonian” ideals, and everything in the house—from the soaring roof, the smooth flow of interior space, and the signature hearth, right down to the designs of the carpets and cutlery—embodies Wright’s idealized vision of middle-class American houses, designed for simple and stylish living in close accord with nature.

Carved into a limestone ridge overlooking a bend in the Wapsipinicon River, Cedar Rock is 6 mi (9.6 km) south of US-20 and surrounded by acres of rolling woodland. The house and grounds are now owned and managed by the state of Iowa and are open for guided tours (319/934-3572, Wed.-Sun. summer only, $5).


“If you build it, they will come. . . ” Ever since Field of Dreams came out in 1989, as many as 100,000 people have flocked each year to Dyersville (27 mi/43 km west of Dubuque) to reenact the fairy-tale baseball movie, major scenes from which were filmed just outside of town. Acres of cornfield surround the diamond, where people can play for free. The privately owned Field of Dreams Movie Site (28995 Lansing Rd., 888/875-8404, field tours daily Apr.-Nov., home tours daily) was thoroughly upgraded to celebrate the film’s 25th Anniversary in 2014. To get here, take Hwy-136 north from US-20, then follow signs northeast along 3rd Avenue and Field of Dreams Road for about 3.5 mi (5.6 km) from US-20. “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”

Considering it’s such a small town, Dyersville has a lot in store. It boasts one of only a handful of Roman Catholic basilicas in the United States (St. Francis Xavier, that can’t-miss Gothic pile in the center of town). The National Farm Toy Museum (1110 16th Ave. SE, 563/875-2727, daily, $7), right off US-20, has over 30,000 miniature tractors and plows showcasing 100 years of toys—from horse-drawn wooden ones to die-cast modern ones—many of them made here in Dyersville by the Ertl Toy Company, which has moved most of its operations overseas.

Map of the Oregon Trail through Iowa.
Map of the Oregon Trail through Iowa.

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