Montrose, Iowa

Montrose, with a population of nearly 900, is nestled on the west bank of the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa.  Mimicking the meaning of the the town's name, Mount of Roses, natural beauty is evident year round, beginning with spring and summer flowers, followed by fall foliage, and extending into winter when everything becomes a frosted winter wonderland.  Following the Great River Road as it winds its way through town, the unique charm of Montrose becomes visible with scenic views of the river, wetlands, and rolling farm land, extending into the welcoming arms of Montrose.

Several features of Montrose, not to be missed, include:

* Linger Longer Park ~ Unobstructed view of Nauvoo across the wide river expanse, kiosk with educational panels

 * Kalawequois Memorial ~ Commemorative DAR marker for princess of Sac and Fox Native American Tribe

* Montrose Historic Cemetery ~ Established 1867, site of Revolutionary War Veteran Cato Mead Memorial Stone (a free person of color), Civil War era cannon,  W.W. II Soldiers' Circle.

* Jack Creek and Horton Creek Sloughs ~ Migratory waterfowl, wildlife, aquatic plants, great locations  for fishing and photo opportunities.

* Montrose Riverfront, Inc. Grounds ~ Riverfront Landing Bldg: Farmers Market in season, holiday celebrations, community events ~ historic timeline murals ~ observation deck with viewing scope ~ historic Berry Shed ~ river mile marker ~aquatic area with waterfall, plants, and fish ~ Hunold Heritage Center/Museum (open 1:00 - 4:00 p.m., in season, or by appointment)

* Riverview Park ~ Playground, public restrooms, gazebo, picnic tables, public boat ramps, Fort Des Moines historic markers

* Traveler Amenities ~ Garner's One Stop, Dave's Old Fashion Meats, Kinnick on the River, Double Dipper, Casey's (food, gas, restrooms) ~ Nauview House (vacation rental) and Pelican Peg's (B&B)

* St. Barnabas Chapel ~ Old stone church (1869), wedding chapel rental, hosts annual Memorial Day and Christmas season concerts presented by St. Barnabas Community Choir (2016 dates ~ Dec 5 & 6, 2:000 p.m.), listed on National Register of Historic Places.

*Montrose Memorial Library ~ Established on this site Feb. 7, 1928, also site of "The Reading Tree" carved from stump of a 100+ year old maple tree.

* Big Rock ~ huge granite boulder placed in commemoration of the first orchard in what is now the State of Iowa, planted about 1879, informational marker on site

* Montrose Ball Park ~ previously Montrose High School Ball Park, since school consolidation used for town youth ball program

* Ivor Fowler Community Center and Grounds ~  site of annual Montrose Watermelon Festival held each August, with 2016 marking the 72nd Festival.  The Community Center also serves as a community gathering place for wedding receptions, funeral meals, family reunions, class reunions, meeting site for various organizations, etc.  The building is dedicated to Ivor Fowler, long time fire chief and community volunteer.  

Montrose is home to many talented people, including wildlife artist John Eberhardt, folk singer William Elliott Whitmore, and metal fabricator Gary Wagner.  Professional travel photographer and author Gayle Harper has included Montrose in her book, "Roadtrip with a Raindrop, 90 Days along the Mississippi River".  Following is an introduction to each of these remarkable people:

John Eberhardt ~ John Eberhardt, of rural Montrose, is a self taught artist and sportsman from the Mississippi River Valley.  Lucky enough to be raised in a sporting environment, he has hunted and fished all his life, in the rivers, bottomlands, and fields of the Midwest Region. As an ardent sportsman and observer of our wildlife in their natural habitat, he spends countless hours in research, sketching, and photography. He draws on his experiences as he tries to capture on canvas the excitement and drama of the outdoor world.

William Elliott Whitmore ~ William Elliott Whitmore is a Montrose native son.  He grew up on a farm south of Montrose near the Mississippi River.  With a voice that has been compared to an old gospel preacher from the 1920s, Whitmore is one of the most unique artists to emerge on the American scene in years.  His songs have a stark universality sketched out with minimal instrumentation, usually just a banjo or guitar and a smattering of percussion.  View a video for “Field Song” in the media section.    Further information on Whitmore’s music, shows, photo gallery, and merchandise may be found at his web site:

Gary Wagner ~ Gary Wagner, of rural Montrose, has discovered a love of metal fabrication, which involves working with his hands to build things.  His favorite subjects include stationary gas engines, incorporated into antique tractors like those used on farms before the turn of the 20th century.  Wagner is quick to point out that his “projects” are actually replicas, rather than exact scale models.  His projects so far include an oil pull tractor and an 8-16 Mogul tractor.  He figures 80% of his time is spent thinking and figuring, with 20% spent actually “doing”.  Wagner spends his days working as a welder, and is also an accomplished guitar player and vocalist, favoring blue grass music.  Wagner may be contacted on his Facebook page, where videos and photos of his projects are also available.

Gayle Harper ~ Gayle Harper is a professional travel photographer and writer.  Her travel assignments have taken her to wonderful destinations, but the project that has most captured her heart, is her work on the Mississippi Great River Road.  When she learned that a raindrop falling into the headwaters of the Mississippi would travel the river for 90 days to reach the Gulf of Mexico, she knew immediately that her project of a lifetime had appeared.   “Roadtrip with a Raindrop, 90 Days along the Mississippi River”  is a celebration of America and of the simple moments that make life an adventure.  In its 240 pages are 55 stories, with nearly 200 full color photographs, inviting us to travel at the pace of a raindrop and to rediscover the fine art of letting life happen.  July 2015 found Gayle Harper returning to Montrose for a gathering at Riverfront Landing where she shared a video, autographed copies of her book, and answered questions about her 90 day journey along the river, including her previous visits to Montrose.  A book trailer may be accessed in the media section along with info about ordering a copy of her book.  For further information, go to:





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Latitude: 40.530121 Longitude: -91.417824 Elevation: 544 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Elisabeth & Mary Sue Chatfield


Montrose is located at the head of the Des Moines Rapids in the Mississippi River. With the river being the main avenue of transportation then, times of low water found both people and cargo having to be transported around the rapids. For that reason, Montrose at the head of the rapids and Keokuk at the foot, became major gateways for the settlement of the interior and western territories. When the canal between Montrose and Keokuk was formally opened in 1867 at a cost of $2,710,000, it further encouraged river transportation.

The First Fort Des Moines with three companies of U.S. Dragoons was established along the river front in 1834, continuing until 1837.  The presence of the fort, along with its geographic location at the head of the rapids, drew settlers to the area leading to incorporation of Montrose in 1859.  The town took its name from the multitude of wild roses growing naturally on the bluff surrounding the town.  

Early industry included pearl button cutting, ship building, commercial fishing, distillery,  saw mill, tomato canning, flour milling and manufacturing of garden tools.

The Hunold Heritage Center works actively to preserve the history of Montrose, and you are invited to make a visit to see and learn more. 


Having grown up in Montrose, I found this so very interesting. It brought back so many memories for me and I do thank you so much for this article. Montrose will always live in my memories.

Dennis Bennett, 9/22/2016

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