The Clark Tower – There’s More to Winterset Than Covered Bridges

Winterset, IowaSorry Winterset. I know that the covered bridges are kinda your claim to fame. Thanks to the movie “Bridges of Madison County”, people from all over come to visit the area to view these bridges. Don’t get me wrong, they are pretty cool and all, and you can read all about them all over the internet. But I was more interested in some of the other sites, especially the Clark Tower.

The Clark Tower is located in Winterset’s City Park on the east side of town. This 76-acre park offers a small campgrounds (some full hook-up), an aquatic center, volleyball, playgrounds, picnics areas, shelters. Future plans in the works also include a dog park and skate park.  You name it, they’ve got it.

They’ve also got the Clark Tower.

We drove through not knowing what to expect, but just wanted to check out the campground. After entering, we saw a small turn off the main road with a sign simply saying “Clark Tower” and an arrow indicating to make a quick right turn.

Ready for an adventure, we took the road less traveled. Off asphalt and now onto what really resembled a trail, we followed the trail to see where it would take us. Seriously, we almost stopped to ask a lady that was hiking if this really was a road! The road was barely wide enough for our truck, and I wouldn’t suggest driving anything much bigger than that through, because the branches and limbs stick out into the road, and there are some pretty sharp turns. After what seemed like forever (it really only a mile or so), we came upon this beautiful stone tower.

The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

The Clark Tower was built in 1926 honoring Caleb & Ruth Clark, pioneer settlers of Madison County. Caleb Clark (1808-1894) was a stonemason and also passed that trade down to at least one of his children. One of his 14 children was actually involved in building the tower.  Of their 14 children, Caleb & Ruth lost at least one child at birth.

The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

The year the tower was built, 1926, also happened to be the 80th anniversary of the founding of Madison County.  This view is from the main ground level. 

The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

The Clark Tower stands 25 feet tall, and is absolutely beautiful.  For being 90 years old, it sure is sturdy!  Being someone that is very afraid of heights, this view of how I had to get up to the top level of the tower kinda freaked me out.  A very steep ladder is not my favorite means of activity, especially when trying to hold a camera and a phone with no pockets on my clothes. But this tower, resembling a castle, was not something I was going to miss out on.

The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

Thankfully, my husband didn’t laugh at my ridiculous fear of this ladder.  I made my way up (getting down was a different story), and got to the see most beautiful view.

Seriously, isn’t this view gorgeous?
The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

Now getting down is a feat in itself, so be careful.   After you go backwards down the that rickety ladder I was so terrified of, then you have to go back down the stone staircase.   Be careful, they are uneven and not a smooth surface to be found.

The Clark Tower - Winterset City Park

After getting back on the road to make our way out, we made it back to the main drag through City Park.   This included a view of this old cabin from 1852.

Winterset City Park - Winterset, Iowa

If you’re really wanting to see a covered bridge, there’s one in City Park.  This is the Cutler-Donahue Bridge. If you look really close, you can see the graffiti on the white boards on the inside left of the bridge.  Sadly, lots of graffiti also was done on the inside of the Clark tower, but I refuse to share pictures of it.   Sad that people feel the need to deface the city’s beautiful landmarks.  I’ll never understand that.Winterset City Park - Winterset Iowa

Heading back into town, Winterset is also the home to the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.   If you’re a fan, this is a pretty neat place.  This museum is located southeast of the town square.

John Wayne Museum - Winterset, Iowa

Madison County is also home to a beautiful courthouse, located in the middle of town square.  

Madison County Courthouse - Winterset, Iowa

Located just east of the John Wayne museum… LOOK– the future Madison County Freedom Rock!  I can’t wait!

Madison County Freedom Rock - Winterset, Iowa

These photo murals appear on the east side of the Ben Franklin building, on the corner of the town square.  They depict photos of Winterset’s history.

Winterset Town Square

Winterset has a beautiful town square full of fun shops, and streets lined with colorful flowers. 

Winterset town Square

Have you been to Winterset?   Any other places you might suggest? 

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