Set on the eastern shores of the state's Missouri River border with Nebraska,
Council Bluffs Iowa was named for the 1804 meeting between the local Otoe Native
American tribe and a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The city is located
directly across the river from Omaha, and is serviced by Eppley Airfield, one
of Nebraska's airports.
Council Bluffs Iowa was a major supply center for the massive westward movement
of Americans that occurred from the 1830s through the mid-nineteenth century.
The Western Historic Trails museum chronicles the 1830s Oregon Trail, the California
Gold Rush Trail, and the more than 30,000 Mormons who passed through here in
the 1840s. If history is of interest
to you, one of the things to do
in Council Bluffs is to visit the "Squirrel Cage" Jail. This is only one of
three remaining examples of a rotary jail in the country, with cells arranged
in a pie shape around a central door. The cells actually rotate, allowing only
one cell access to the door at a time. Two other history museums in the city
are dedicated to strong historic ties to the railroads, the Union Pacific Museum,
and the Railswest Railroad Museum. The latter has wonderful old train cars,
and is located in a restored 1899 passenger and freight terminal. The Dodge
House is a beautiful Victorian mansion built in 1896, and is open for tours.
You can, oddly enough, also find a fascinating piece of Missouri River located in one of the state's most important wildlife refuges. The 8,358 acres of the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge is located only about twenty miles north of the city. This floodplain shelters migratory geese and other waterfowl. One of the Council Bluffs events worth catching is the spectacular flights of these birds that occur in the autumn. This area is also a wonderful venue for hiking, hunting, and fishing. Important to the history of the area is Missouri River shipping, and over the years more than 400 steamboats were wrecked along its course. One of these, the 161-foot long Bretrand, sank in 1865. It was found and excavated in 1968, and the 200,000 pieces of one of the most significant collections of Civil War era artifacts in the United States is on view at the DeSoto Wildlife Refuge.
The Missouri River provides one of the things to do in Council Bluffs—gambling. The majority of the casinos in the state are located in riverboats on the Missouri River, the state's western border, and the Mississippi River to the east. There are two of these in Council Bluffs Iowa and one of the few of the state's casinos that is actually located on land. Both the riverboats and the land casino are located on Casino Row, where there is a dog racing track, numerous dining venues and restaurants, and several Council Bluffs hotels.
Another of the things to do in Council Bluffs includes visiting one of the
state parks. Lake Manawa State Park is located virtually in the city and offers
picnicking, 72 camping sites, and
trails for cycling and hiking. The large lake provides a venue for fishing,
boating, and swimming. You can even get in your golfing
here at a lakeshore country club. Speaking of golf, there are dozens of courses
and clubs in the metropolitan area, which includes the city of Omaha.
Council Bluffs events include the West Pottowattamie County Fair, which draws more than 40,000 attendees every summer, and numerous fishing and golfing tournaments. Another of the popular Council Bluffs events is the annual Winterfest, held in December and similar to the one held in the Amana Colonies.
The production of wine is important in the state, and the Western Iowa Wine Trail showcases seven local wineries and vineyards that surround the Council Bluffs Iowa region. You can also taste local vintages when dining at many of the city restaurants.