Thursday, March 13, 2008

Clinton, IA and the Quad Cities

I always though of Clinton Iowa (where my Grandmother lived for the whole time I knew her) was just a sleepy, little river town that had seen better days. However, like a lot of the Iowa towns I've been going through, it seems to have a lot of industry and seems to be growing. And the industry seems to be rather mixed--not all of it is animal feed processing or food processing. Next time you hear the political commentators on the news channels dismiss the Iowa caucuses as just a small, rural, agricultural state, remember, while it doesn't have big cities, it has a significant number of small cities. I'll have to check the census data to see how diverse it's economy is.

One more political note: Most of the lawn signs from the Iowa caucuses have been taken down. I've only seen a few--and only for Ron Paul, John Edwards and Barak Obama.
Back to my road trip. Before I left Clinton, I visited their new riverfront park. It was build as part of the project that added a flood levy. It has a nice walking path right along the river but not much else (except the "River Boar" casino that all the river towns in Iowa and Illinois seem to have. At least Clinton's actually floats in the river (some are just built on pilings). Kind of a disconcerting sign on the river walk though: Notice: ....outfall from a combined sewer system... ...flow....may contain untreated sewage that could be hazardous to human health.

The drive to the Quad Cities (Davenport, Moline, Rock Island and one more) took me a ways away from the river but still in the river vally. Got back to the river a little before the Quad Cities and drove through some VERY small river towns that definitely have seen their better days.

Quad Cities
Took some time to visit my aunt who lives in Moline (she was the first woman elected alderman in Moline quite a few years ago).

The four cities have quite different characters. Bettendorf is the newest "Quad". (I remember when the area was called the Tri Cities.) It is more like the suburban extension of Davenport. It does have the largest aluminum rolling plant in the world (sided of course in aluminum).

Davenport is the other city on the Iowa side. By far the largest of the four at about 100,000. It seems to have a downtown that still has some activity.

Moline is there because a dam was build across that channel of the river to Rock Island (the island). This provided power for industry in 1837. The best known is John Deere. In fact, the most activity downtown is concentrated around the historic John Deere area. John Deere has the John Deere Pavilion, which has BIG new farm equipment and a history (at least the positive side) of mechanized farming.

I really didn't get any time in Rock Island, except for on the Island. The Island is an army base--a large munitions arsenal. The island was the location for the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (Minneapolis--at Nicolett Island--was the location of the first bridge across the Mississippi). There are some great old limestone buildings as part of the arsenal--along with Union and Confederate cemeteries. Stopped in at the Lock and Dam 15 Vistor Center--lots of Canvas Back and Blue Bill Ducks just sitting in the river. The park ranger said they had a large number (over a hundered) Bald Eagles wintering over this year.

Took "Government Bridge" back to the Iowa side. It was build in 1895 for both railroad and road access to the island and is still in use (can't help but think about the 1060's freeway bridge in Minneapolis tha collapsed this summer).
There is a great series of articles on Rock Island (the Railroad, the song and the island) at Minnesota public Radio at

Ended up back on US 61 on my way south.

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