10 Most Charming River Towns in Iowa

American river towns always pack a punch when it comes to breathtaking views, and Iowa's waterfront towns are no exception. This state has an abundance of such charming spots, most of which are along its two major rivers,the Mississippi and the Missouri. The “Hawkeye State” has some fantastic spots that will leave you in awe of its beauty.


Overlooking the town of Bellevue and the Mississippi River on a Summer afternoon. Bellevue, Iowa, USA
The town of Bellevue and the Mississippi River on a Summer afternoon in Iowa

The name of this river town says it all, the French equivalent of “Bellevue” in English is “Beautiful Town”. This Iowa river town belongs to Jackson County with the Mississippi River passing through. Do not miss the chance to catch the spectacular views of the river from Bellevue State Park.

Visit Plumery Trails to enjoy some nature and wildlife, and Ski Bellevue Water Ski Show team to experience water skiing and jet skiing performances. For some other fun things to do apart from hiking, relish murder mystery dining at Mont Rest Bed and Breakfast, or patronize the riverfront shops for some exquisite Bellevue shopping.

Sioux City

Aerial View of Downtown Sioux City, Iowa at Dusk
Aerial View of Downtown Sioux City, Iowa at Dusk

Located in the Plymouth and Woodbury Counties, Sioux City lies in northwest Iowa. Being at the navigational head of the Missouri River, this river town has a rich culture with a strong historical significance. 

The most interesting places in Sioux are the Sioux City Public Museum, the Art Center, and the Sergeant Floyd Monument, which happens to be a historic landmark of national importance. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is significant for highlighting American history and theatrical performances to enjoy at the Orpheum Theatre.


Aerial Drone Photography Burlington
Aerial drone shot of Burlington, Iowa

Situated in Southeast Iowa, this river town is the administrative center of Des Moines County. Burlington was originally called Flint Hills before being incorporated as “Burlington town” around 1837. It serves as a regional hub for healthcare, education, employment, shopping, and recreation. Being the center of commerce and culture, the community is attractively situated on the bluffs of the Mississippi river.

Most tourists who come here explore Snake Alley famed for being “the most crooked street in the US” and also admire the downtown buildings. Other activities include walking down the Great River Bridge for amazing views of the Mississippi river, exploring parks like Crapo Park and Mosquito Park, and visiting museums and The Art Center of Burlington. Its past historical significance makes it home to the best museums too.


Eagle view over the Mississippi River and the Able Island airport strip in Guttenberg, Iowa

This Clayton County river town located along the banks of the Mississippi River is famed for its architecture. The pre and post-civil vernacular limestone structures constructed before the civil war are among the salient features of Guttenberg. The town gets its name from Johannes Gutenberg, who was a famous German inventor. The town's German name is attributed to the German immigration that took place in 1845, ultimately resulting in the whole town being inhabited by Germans in 1850.

It is exciting to go walking, boating, or fishing on the picturesque riverfront. There are a lot of local shops to enjoy the thrills of some small-town shopping. 


Beautiful town of Muscatine, Iowa on the Mississippi River

Muscatine is one of the most fascinating river towns along the Mississippi River that belongs to Muscatine County. In Muscatine, at a particular region where the Mississippi River makes a ninety degrees turn, it creates a place for blooming mussel colonies. This was significant to its pearl button business. One-third of the world’s button’s come from this place and so it is referred to as the “Pearl Button Capital of the World”. The pearl button industry, in turn, was instrumental in attracting many other flourishing businesses to this river town. 

With its lavish landscape, mouth-watering food at various restaurants, and small shopping centers, this river town also has an excellent history.

Le Claire

The downtown of Le Claire town in Iowa

This river town is part of Scott County and is located along the upper bend of the Mississippi River. Home to antique archeological artifacts and stores, it is also notorious for being the site where the reality television series American Pickers happens. labels this river town as being one of America’s coolest. 

Le Claire houses the Mississippi River Distilling Company, the Buffalo Bill Museum, and the Green Tree Brewery. Fun things to do in Le Claire would be to participate in the annual Tug Fest, shop for antique collections, and visit the Cody Road Historic District.

Iowa Falls

Beautiful fall foliage in Iowa City, Iowa, via

Located in the Hardin County of Iowa, this place is listed in the National Register of Historic Places because of its “great artistic value”. The river town gets its name from the Iowa river falls. It is aptly called the “Scenic City” because the river, parks, and natural landscape contribute to its beauty. 

Besides enjoying food, drink, and shopping exploring the Calkins Nature Area, Pat Clark Art Collection, Metropolitan Opera House, and Timbukbru breweries are some of the thrilling things to do. The adventurous folk love to go on trails like the Iowa River Trail and the Pine Lake Trail.

Fort Madison

Downtown Fort Madison, Iowa

This Lee County river town located along the Mississippi River is named after the fourth U.S President, James Madison. It is built around the ruins of the original 1808 fort that serve as a military post for the U.S. This river town has a lot of historic places and districts and thrilling festivities to enjoy. The river town also has a state penitentiary that was constructed by prisons, and it is the oldest prison in West Mississippi. The town is known to have both the oldest and the newest prisons west of the Mississippi River.

Tourists can explore some magnificent playgrounds and parks, such as Victory Park, Sheaffer Park, and Riverview Park. Other good places to see are the Old Fort Madison, North Lee County Historical Society, Lost Duck Brewing Company, and Historic Cellhouse Row District. 


The town of Clinton and the Mississippi River in Iowa

This river town belongs to Clinton County while also serving as the administrative seat of the same. Due to its location along the banks of the Mississippi River, millwork was established as one of the main industries in this river town. In 1871, the river town became the biggest lumber port in Iowa. 

Its prime location makes it appropriate to enjoy breathtaking views of the scenery as well as pursue recreational activities such as camping, bird watching, kayaking, boating, and fishing. Famous tourist spots to discover in Clinton are Eagle Point Park, Riverview Park, Bickelhaupt Arboretum, Clinton Discovery Trail, and Rock Creek Marina and Campground. 


A bridge over the Mississippi river in Marquette, Iowa

Marquette is a charming Clayton County river town that is set by the Mississippi River. This river town has a very small population and a brilliant landscape that adds to the small-town charm. It is a perfect river town to visit for some quiet scenic bliss at any time of the year. 

This river town has some interesting tourist activities such as river boardwalks, handicapped fishing, gambling at the Lady Luck casino, local wine tasting at an award-winning winery, river boat tours, shelters, and much more. Plus the other usual attractions like camping, and hiking for those who love to blend with nature. 

Iowa’s rivers contribute significantly to its flourishing agricultural industry, which is mainly the production of pork and corn. A fascinating fact about the river towns along the Mississippi River is that they were the first to be developed and so, most of them share common historical and cultural characteristics. The Mississippi River towns are the oldest and also unique compared to the rest of the towns in the state. 

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