If you're a rock hound or a civil war buff Southeast Iowa is the place for adventure. Plus Dan Kaercher found there's a great stop for a sweet treat.
If you are a rock hound or a Civil War buff Southeast Iowa is the place for adventure. Plus there is a great stop for a sweet treat. Keokuk is about as far southeast as you can go in Iowa. It has a diverse range of outdoor activities and attractions. Like most of the east coast of the state there are great views of the Mississippi River and a Main Street with local flavor. Speaking of local flavor, Stan's Pastry Shop has been here since 1967. Their specialty crème horns have traveled all around the globe.
Now Madonna, I understand the thing to get here is crème horns. What makes them so special?
Madonna: Because they are good and everything from here comes scratch.
Kaercher: I understand your crème horns have a way of showing up in all sorts of places all over the country and the world. Tell me about that.
Madonna: Yes, there was a gentleman that came in once and he took them to Egypt and then he brought his picture in, gave it to us, and we put it on the wall. We have a wall over here that has all kinds of crème horns all over. Wherever you go we will put your crème horn picture up if you send it back.
Kaercher: Ok, well I am going to put it to the test here. I would like to try one.
Madonna: All right.
Kaercher: So good both the crust and the filling.
Kaercher: Well, I would love to continue my conversation with Madonna and P.S. try more pastries; this was just a quick stop. I am headed to a rock hunt. The annual Geode Fest where - descend upon the tri-state Iowa, Illinois, Missouri area near Keokuk. Keokuk geodes are world famous because of the variety which we have about 17 general different types.
Kaercher: T.J. Ramsey of North Liberty is a geologist and co-founder of Geode Fest which started in 2004.
Ramsey: Right now we are standing on the geode beds. This is called the Warsaw Shale. There is alternating layers of geodes. So what we are going to do is unearth one layer and then we are going to show you how - they go horizontally. That's their beds they form in and then the different beds that are here.
Kaercher: Why is this area generally so great for geodes?
Ramsey: It used to be a shallow sea many thousands of years ago where shallow plants live that the geode forming process starts is when it became fossil plants.
Kaercher: T.J. says the Keokuk Geodes are found within a fifty mile radius of Keokuk mostly on private property. The site we're at with permission of the land owner is just across the border in Missouri.
Ramsey: Right there. You're going to hit behind it.
Kaercher: Right about there?
Ramsey: Yes. There you go good job. That one feels pretty nice. That is a nice light hollow one. This is definitely a keeper.
Kaercher: Light weight indicates hollow which means there is a chance for a dazzling mineral display within. The landowner here has had some gorgeous finds of his own over the years.
Alvis: And I took it home and crack it. And I have been offered 250 dollars for it.
Kaercher: I am sure many of us today hope for just as great of find. But no matter what folks drop in their buckets all appear to be having a rocking good time.
Boehm: I read an article about this place about four years ago describing what was found in the Keokuk area and it was really interesting. So, I have always wanted to come here. Finally made plans and did it.
Borman: I liked rocks when I was a kid and when I started having kids that fueled my desire to have rocks -
Kid: Because you get to dig in dirt and I like getting dirty.
Kaercher: Once people at this particular site fill their buckets.
Unknown: What do we weigh?
Unknown: That is 27 pounds right there.
Kaercher: They're weighed and they pay the land owner on a per pound basis and then it is back to the main gathering spot in Hamilton, Illinois to see what gems we really collected. Oh, oh, oh. Look at that. Now what do you call?
Unknown: This is the quartz and this is the calcite that was growing on it. This is a secondary mineral.
Woman: Oh, look at there. Very nice.
Hillyer: I am going to put it downstairs in my basement. I have shelves of like my rocks that I have collected over the years and I am going to put it on my rock shelf.
Heltsley: They might be 300 pounds. And it was underneath the water and I felt it and I went ah, it is round.
Kaercher: Few geode hunters get this big of catch. But I heard no complaints form anyone about their finds. Digging for geodes is fun but if that is not your cup of tea Keokuk is also the place to dig for a little Civil War History. The town has the only designated national cemetery in Iowa. And one interesting tidbit is that soldiers from both the North and the South are buried here.
George: Keokuk is actually in a very convenient location to travel up and down the Mississippi River. They would have the barges bring the soldiers up and down. There were five hospitals here where the injured soldiers would be brought here to heal their wounds and some of them of course didn’t make it.
Kaercher: I understand that you can tell from the headstones who is on what side.
George: You can. What is the distinction?
George: Right and there is several right in here but you will see that the headstone comes to a point at the top.
Kaercher: Of which one?
George: Of the Confederate Soldiers.
Kaercher: Oh Confederate.
George: Rumor had it so the Union Soldiers wouldn't sit on them. But I don't know how you verify that.
Kaercher: When Civil War buffs come here what do they want to see and experience at the national cemetery in Keokuk.
George: You know generally they have a connection with something whether it be an ancestor or something that they study in school but they always have some sort of connection maybe with a unit. We have the eight Confederate Soldiers that are here. It is always neat to visit those. Thomas Lurch right here behind me was our very first burial. We also have a Medal of Honor recipient here that is buried over on the other side. We have one of Roosevelt's Rough Riders is buried here. We have the first woman that was buried as a soldier west of the Mississippi. A nurse, Sarah Thompson was her name.
Kaercher: This national cemetery offers a solemn serene stroll through a chapter in American History none of us should ever forget.