Tuesday, August 29. Owls were frantically calling to each other last night in the trees right above our trailer. After some sleepless hours, got a slow start this morning. But we left Myre-Big Island State Park in Albert Lea, MN in perfect, cool sunny weather: You know it’s beautiful when this is the view from the dump station!
Long drive through Iowa farm country — our only break was one stop to get gas. But we were refreshed when we found our leafy campground only 3 miles north of the Interstate. Linder Point is one of five Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in the Coralville Lake Dam complex which also includes several hiking trails, day use areas (picnic, beach, playground), a Visitor Center AND the Devonian Fossil Gorge!!! We knew nothing about this when we reserved a spot here — only that we have had good experiences with COE campgrounds, and that we get 50% discount with our Interagency Senior Pass. This campsite, on a perfectly level concrete pad with FULL hookups, costs us $13 ❤️❤️❤️
We are very near Iowa City and there is a Planet Fitness only 20 minutes away. But after driving all day, we didn’t feel like jumping back into the truck and driving some more. Then, after taking a short walk and finding out about the local attractions, we did jump back in the truck to explore the Coralville Dam complex; first, the Devonian Fossil Gorge. If nothing else, this is distinguished by the fact that there actually were brochures in the brochure box — possibly a first on this trip! But there is a lot more to distinguish it. The entire area is one surprise after another, and one of the most wonderful is the Devonian Gorge, a natural, exposed bed of fossilized rock and seabed floor from 375 million years ago. This rock bed is filled with small plant and animal fossils from those ancient seabeds, primarily crinoids, brachiopods, and colonial corals. The Gorge is the natural, downstream spillway just beyond the concrete spillway under the Dam. Two floods in 1993 and 2008 smashed and scoured out the many layers of the sedimentary rock and limestone reefs, exposing the Devonian bedrock and the fossils embedded in it. You can roam around this area freely, trying to locate the numerical markers corresponding to the key in the brochure (most are missing) and discovering many interesting formations and fossils.
We were both a bit woozy from the long drive and lack of food, so we ended the hike and drove around the area, including beautiful residential properties among the rolling hills and valleys… so strikingly green after so much of the West. We saw the marina and other campgrounds, and came upon a group of deer near the Visitors Center.