The Turkey River south of Elkader meanders through sceniccountryside and paddlers will be thrilled to discover a secluded section ofriver that is both beautiful and rich with wildlife. Especially exciting is thefinal bend before access point number 32 where a giant six-story limestonebuilding unexpectedly rises up out of the river.
Constructed in 1869, the 90-foot tall Motor Mill has animposing presence. With foundation walls five feet thick and a great expanse oflocally quarried stone, it is an icon of regional history. Three men by thenames of John Thompson, J.P. Dickinson and James Crosby chose the site in 1867as the ideal location for a settlement. They partnered to build a grist mill"finer and bigger than any that had yet been conceived by pioneers." Theresult, Motor Mill, was indeed an architectural feat and required an equallyimpressive dam to provide power. Even at low water, the associated 200-footlong dam could turn out 250 horsepower. Following the construction of the mill,an inn, livery, ice house and a cooperage were built on site. This complex,which at one time produced 1500 bushels of wheat per week, now stands as a reminder of our ancestors' ingenuity, craftsmanship andvision.
The 155-acre historic site is owned and managed by theClayton County Conservation Board who oversees the preservation of thestructures as well as the stewardship of the surrounding prairie and oaksavanna. Scenic hiking trails and a riverside campground are maintained forpublic enjoyment. Camping rates are $10/night.
Iowa once boasted 700 grist mills, now very few remain.Visit the Motor Mill Historic Park by canoe or by car. For directions to thepark or to learn about tours and annual events call Clayton County ConservationBoard at 563-245-1516 or visit www.motormill.org.To download a copy of the Turkey River water trail map visit www.turkeyriver.org.