National Parks: Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, Iowa

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March 7, 2009

If you’re looking for a slice of Americana on your next camping stop or wish to see the “sites less traveled,” try Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in eastern Iowa! It’s a great stop on the trek from parts east to Mt. Rushmore, the Pacific Northwest and on into Alaska.

Hoover was the first president to be born west of the Missississippi River.Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st President of the U.S., is usually remembered as an unpopular leader whose efforts couldn’t save America from the Depression, and was soundly defeated by FDR in the 1932 election. Though he has the unlucky legacy of being at the helm when the stock market crashed, Hoover was just a man like any other in America, born from humble beginnings and working his way to success. In Hoover’s words, “In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope.”

cottage where Herbert Hoover was born, West Branch, IowaThis historic site is located in West Branch, Iowa, about 12 miles east of Iowa City. Several historic buildings and meaningful locations are included on the 187-acre park grounds, including Hoover’s birthplace, a blacksmith shop, a Quaker Meeting House, and the adjacent Hoover Presidential Library. The entrance fee of $6 per adult also admits you to the Presidential Library.

Wander around inside the quaint two-room cottage where Herbert Hoover was born in 1874. After being orphaned at age 9, Hoover would later move to Oregon to live with an uncle until enrolling at Stanford University in 1891.

inside the Friends Meetinghouse, West Branch IowaAs a well-educated Quaker family, the Hoovers had a strong sense of community, wherein each member contributed to the benefit of the community as a whole. This instilled in young Herbert a strong drive for service that he would follow his whole life. Stroll around inside the restored Friends Meetinghouse where the family gathered for worship.

Hoover’s father owned his own blacksmith shop, a reproduction of which you can visit to see live demonstrations. Watching his father work is said to have inspired Herbert to be a dedicated businessman and skilled manager.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is one of just 12 such libraries operated by the National Archives and is worth a peek during your trip. Tour the fascinating exhibits about the life and times of the 31st President then stop by the gift shop to pick up a piece of Midwest political nostalgia.

bluebird house in tallgrass prairie, iowaIn a nod to Hoover’s fondness for nature, 76 acres of tallgrass prairie have been restored on the south and west flanks of the park. Trails have been mowed into the grass, allowing you to wander through the prairie and imagine life as a pioneer on the vast wind-swept plains. While in office, Hoover added 3 million acres to the National Park Service and increased the U.S. Forest Service by 2.3 million acres.

Camping Info
Ample RV Parking at the Herbert Hoover NHS is located across the street on the right side. Cruise on over to Iowa City to camp at the Colony Country Campground. It’s a Good Sam Park with good gravel interior roads. Pull-thru sites are 30’x 70’ while back-in sites are 30’x60’, and both have full hookups with either 30 amp or 30/50 amp service. They also offer a laundry facility, dump station, firewood and restrooms with showers and flush toilets. You also get free WiFi. Last year’s rates are $20 to $30 per night. Call for more information (319) 626-2221. The campground is also close to the Kalona Amish settlement.

After you’ve seen your fill of the Herbert Hoover NHS you can experience what else eastern Iowa has to offer: Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, the Dubuque River Walk in Dubuque on the Mississippi, and the farms of the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

Then, journey onward to Black Hawk Lake in western Iowa before heading over to Yellowstone Park or McCall, Idaho.

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  6. Garrett Jones

    If in Oregon, see the Hoover-Minthorn House in Newberg (just southwest of Portland). This was Herbert Hoover’s home from 1885-1889. The house is owned and operated by The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oregon. Good camping is a few miles away at Champoeg State Park, another historic site along the Willamette River with a visitor center, trails and bike trails. This is where the state of Oregon began.

  7. JIm Finnessy

    Just a thought for some of you with smaller trialers. Go to the internet in the State of Iowa on County Camp grounds as in Conservation Park. These are not big camp grounds and may be on just grass or gravel but they are little gems. Sometimes with a fishing pond, maybe a hiking trail but definely less traveled than most RV parks. The towns are not far away and the food is good, less expensive and who knows where you can have more fun at a local bar and visiting some of the good folks of an Iowa town. Cost for some of these parks is extremely reasonable at around $12.00-$18.00 per night.