Harrison County Highpoint Trip Report

twenty-two areas (1,440+ ft)

Date: March 20, 2004
Author: Bob Schwab

I chose to complete the state of Iowa in this county because it symbolizes the diverse experiences you have as a county highpointer in the mid-west. It has some scenic/vertical ascent hikes in the Loess Hills that make it one of the best county high pointing experiences in Iowa but itís also a multiple-area county and has many contours scattered over several sections of crop land.

You need to use your hand level a lot, and you always carry a stick to clean the mud/clay off your boots before getting back into your car. Finally, you realize that itís going to take more than one day to complete the county properly, given access issues, the weather, and the sheer number of sites to visit. These were certainly all true for my experience in Harrison County.

fifteen areas east of Pisgah

From the town of Moorhead, travel southeast on Route L-16 for 6.5 miles to an intersection with Route F-14 (110th Street). Continue south on Newark Avenue another 0.4 mile to the crest in the road and park here. Climb the bank to your east and find an opening under the fence to enter the terraced cornfield on top. This is a large area (1) and the highest ground seems to be on the eastern side, about 0.3 mile east of the fence. Across the road from where you parked is a much smaller area (2) right next to the road in a bean field. This spot is definitely lower than area 1.

Return to the intersection of Routes L-16 and F-14 (110th Street). There is no trace of the chapel that used to be on the corner, just some brush. Drive east 0.4 mile on 110th Street (F-14) to a gated farm lane that runs south along the western side of a stand of trees. Hike up the lane 600 feet or so to a small area (3) that hand levels lower than area 1.

Continue east a short distance to Norfolk Avenue and turn left. Drive north 0.25 mile to a white house (#1079) which has lots of cattle around it. Get permission from the owner, Cary Donn, to visit the large area (4) that covers his fields east and west of his house. The eastern cornfield seems to be a bit higher than the bean field to the west. Hand level checks indicated the two small areas to the northeast (10 and 11), and the two spots to the southeast (areas 6 and 7) were lower than this cornfield (area 4). Next, return to the intersection of Norfolk and Route F-14 (110th Street) and turn left. Go about 0.2 mile east and park next to two bins on the south. Walk a short distance south in this freshly-bermed bean field to another area (5) of high ground.

Continue east to Odessa Avenue and find a place to park. Note the brown-log house (#2707) nearby and the area (6) behind it to the north. If someone is home at the house, get permission to hike back to visit this cornfield, otherwise, hike north along the western edge of the section line and cross over at the appropriate point. Continue east for another 0.2 mile to an old barn and some bins on the south (no woods anymore). There is easy access here to the cornfield and the small area (7) to the south, but both areas 6 and 7 are lower than area 4 and area 5 (per hand level comparisons).

Drive east and find a place to park along the road just east of the crest. From here, you can hike south into pasture and cornfield about 0.45 mile to a contour (area 8) near the center of section 7. This area does feel higher than areas 6 and 7. You could also hike north and explore area 9 from here, but I chose to move my car because the parking here isn't great and the approach from the east is more private.

Continue east and bear left as the main road swings south and rises. Turn north at Page Avenue and drive about 0.5 mile to the road crest. Park here at some bins on the right, and hike west into the cornfield. Stay north of the woods, then angle southwest and west. This is another sizable area (9) and it has rise within its contour lines.

When you get back to your car, continue north to the intersection with 340th Street. Turn left and drive west about 1.1 miles and park along the road near the road crest. There is easy access here to the corn/bean fields to the south. Walk south and southwest no more than 0.2 mile to visit areas 10 and 11. These two spots are clearly lower than area 4 to the south.

Return to the intersection of Route F-14 (110th Street) and Odessa Avenue (near the brown-log house). Drive south on Odessa for 1 mile to where the road bends east and becomes 120th Street. Find a field access niche here and park. Hike southeast up into the bean field to a small area (12) that appears to be low in comparison to other nearby contours.

From here, drive east on 120th Street about 1 mile to Panora Avenue. Turn south and drive roughly 1 mile to 130th Street. Turn right and go west on 130th for 2 miles to a field access road on the north. Park here and cross to the south side of the road, where a triangular area (13) extends south into a cornfield. This field seems quite flat. Next, hike north on the access path as it bends gradually northeast into a large cornfield (area 14). There is a metal shed and some barns to the north. I thought the highest ground was just south or southwest from the metal shed. Continue to travel northeast for another 0.5 mile to a small area (15) which seems to be lower than area 14.

seven areas near Little Sioux

From the center of the town of Little Sioux, follow Route F-20 as it meanders northeast for 1.8 miles to an intersection to your right with the Larpenteur Memorial Road. At this point, the paved road bends north along the western edge of the Loess Hills. Continue north another 0.3 mile to where the Larpenteur Memorial Road continues north, and Route F-20 bends right and starts to ascend into the hills. Take the left fork and drive north on Larpenteur for another 2.6 miles. Watch for an area of trees on your left that has some good places to park. This area is just a short distance north of the county line.

Park here and hike south on the road a short distance to a ravine on the east side that has been blocked off near the road. Hike up the ravine, staying on the left side until you see traces of an old trail or path mounting the side hill to your left. Follow this path. At times it appears to be no more than an animal trail, but at other times it looks like a deep rut. It will stay on the left side of the ravine all the way to a saddle at the top of the ridge (~400 vertical feet!). From the saddle, go south on the ridge a short distance until you break out of the woods. Immediately go left about 70 feet to the top (area 16). I found BM Sea and US #375 at the edge of the woods, which marks the county line. There are good views to the east, south and west from here. This is one of the most scenic and enjoyable county highpoints I've visited in Iowa.

When you return to your car, drive south for 2.8 miles. After you get back on the paved road, watch for 124th Trail to your left. Follow this road east to a gate and a cemetery on your left. Park at the cemetery and hike up the old road. This old road has banks of loess that go straight up as high as 60+ feet on both sides in some places. Hike just past the crest and down the other side to a gate on the left. Cross over the gate into pasture and follow the ridge (cow path) to the top. The top of the ridge is basically open with 360 degree views...fantastic for Iowa! The largest area (17) is clearly the highest. There is a tiny area (18) to the north (also nice views), and a third area (19) west of the highest ground.

You can go back to your car the way you came, or you can go down the western ridge. Be sure to be on the third ridge (the one that really goes west) from the western spot (the other two will lead you down to the top of the loess bluffs). Just follow the steep ridge west, cross a fence (don't go south here) and keep heading toward the open meadow. There's a small ravine or two to cross, but you'll eventually come out in the field next to the cemetery. This is another "must do" hike in Iowa, as far as I'm concerned.

From the intersection of F-20 and 124th Trail, turn left and go south a short distance to the intersection of F-20 and Larpenteur Memorial Road (dirt). Continue south on Larpenteur 1.25 miles to 138th Trail. Turn left and go east 0.9 mile to a parking lot where the road bends abruptly south. Park here. This is part of the Loess Hills State Forest and virtually all the land here is public. You can make a circular hike on the ridge to visit three distinct areas.

Going clockwise, hike west on 138th to the edge of the cornfield. Enter the woods here and go straight up the ridge that parallels the road. As you approach the top, cross a fence and angle left to some open tall grass and a path of sorts to the top (area 20). From here, head north on the ridge maybe 0.2 mile to a second area (21) marked with a post and a Missouri River Commission marker (no # or name). There are nice views to the west here. Continue north on the ridge as it gradually bends east. In about 0.35 mile, you'll encounter a fence (posted) which blocks your progress on the ridge. Note that just beyond the fence is a very deep and steep "rut" which may be an old eroded road through a "pass" in the ridge. Follow the fence south down the hill. Find a pathway going east, just south of a fence. Continue east to a wide pathway that goes south to the parking lot, and north toward the ridge to the northeast. Turn left and follow the path up the ridge to the top (area 22). The highest spot is right in the middle of the path as it crests the ridge.

There are good views to the south and west here. You can return to your car by following the wide path back down the hill, or you can continue going south on the ridge (crossing a fence or two) and then angling southwest down the hill toward a pond (not shown on topo maps).

In summary, these areas in the Loess Hills are a lot of fun, particularly after slogging around in the corn/bean fields in the eastern part of the county.