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Overlook a perfect picture break

LeCLAIRE -- The Grand Canyon, Colorado's mountains, or the ocean coasts may be the first thing someone thinks of when they consider the beauty of the American countryside.

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Chuck Thomas

Curious tourists can take a look at the panoramic view from a pair of binoculars at the Iowa Welcome Center in LeClaire. About 150 people visit the center on an average winter day, and 600 to 700 on a summer day, according to center officials.

What about the majesty of the Midwest?

Our plains and rolling farmland create a unique beauty, and the Mississippi River stirs an unshakeable love within people who live among its splendor.

The scenic overlook in LeClaire, at the Iowa Welcome Center, may create one small scene that captures that beauty, one frame in the film of the Midwest and what the Quad-Cities adds to it.

Off Interstate 80, up a winding path that has signs welcoming all but semis, the Welcome Center offers the overlook from it's wrap-around porch, second-floor windows, and surrounding gazebos and picnic spots.

Locals and travelers alike come to enjoy the landscape, although it would be difficult to say how much of which, Edye Morrison, an information aide at the Iowa Welcome Center, said.

According to Mrs. Morrison, on an average winter day, the Welcome Center hosts 150 people, a summer weekday may have 600 or 700 people coming through the doors, and on a weekend, when the Mark of the Quad Cities or the Adler Theatre has a large event, up to 1,300 people deluge the pale yellow building on top of the high riverbank.

Those numbers could swell next year, now that new motels are planned to attract more visitors to the same Iowa hilltop.

Whether there to use the center's resources or simply taking a break from the highway, no one could escape the sweeping view of the river, which so aptly shows the changing of the seasons.

Standing on the porch this time of year, a visitor may get a little wind-tussled, but their eyes and ears will feast. Through the bare skeletal trees, the snow-covered hills look like lacework.

The hum of the highway can blend into the natural orchestra. Flags flap rhythm in the wind, the Christmas garland's plastic ribbons rustle a counter, and the melting snow rushes like a waterfall down the rain gutters.

For 25 cents, a person can bring distant points of interest within close range, perching on the rings around the bottom of the telescopic viewing machine.

What could refresh one's soul as much as a deep cleansing breath and a vision, from Iowa to Illinois, of the mighty river that makes the Quad-Cities home?

Jumping in the car and getting back on the road, one has to admit they have experienced a truly unique beauty and maybe can add the Midwest to their list of America's best.

-- By Kristen Foht (January 22, 1998)

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