Once a place where Native American Indians hunted and fished, this peninsular part of Iowa is located where the Des Moines River flows into the Mississippi River.
Under French and Spanish rule for almost 150 nears, Southeast Iowa was included in he Louisiana Purchase in 1802. By a special treaty in 1824, the area was set aside as a tract for the Half-Breed descendants of the Indians and the early fur traders. Keokuk's early economy was dominated by fur trading, but with its decline in the 1830's, many residents turned to the growing river trade - the transportation of freight and passengers around the rapids. The wealth from river traffic was reinvested in other businesses that serviced; a growing rural population.
Keokuk maintains pride in its rich heritage and boasts of its scenic beauty. Although changed since its early inhabitants hunted and fished in the area, the Mississippi River is still vital to Keokuk's existence. Keokuk's natural beauty its matched only by its architecutural beauty, as is evidenced by the fine examples of Victorian architecture. Keokuk serves as the hub of richly historic area. It is just 60 minutes north of Mark Twain's Hannibal, Missouri; 15 miles south of one of the finest restoration projects in the Midwest, historic Nauvoo, Illinois; and within close proximity to many points in Southeast Iowa.
Chief Keokuk, for whom the town is named, was an elected leader of the Sac/Fox Indians who made their home along the Half-Breed Tract through Southeast Iowa. His remains are buried at the site of a monument overlooking one of the Mississippi River's most breathtaking points.
"This statue of Chief Kiyo'kaga, (one who moves about alert) 1788-1848, later known as Chief Keokuck, or Chief Keokuk, stands in Rand Park, the front yard of the city named after him.
Early Keokuk grew and prospered as steam boating became part of the city's life-blood. The importance of that river traffic is remembered today at the George M. Verity River Museum in Victory Park. The equestrian statue located near the Verity is of General Samuel Curtis and attests to Keokuk's role in the Civil War.
The canal that split the treacherous Des Moines Rapids on the Mississippi at r Keokuk was replaced in 1913 by Lock 19 and the dam and hydroelectric plant - an engineering marvel of its time. The lock was replaced in 1957 by the 1,200 foot structure, which is still one of the longest on the river.
Keokuk has preserved its history by converting the former swing span vehicular bridge to an observation deck. Visitors are invited to enjoy the wood-planked, lighted deck offering a bird's eye view of the Mississippi River. The former toll booth has been converted to an information booth with restrooms.
While seemingly removed from the Civil War, Keokuk played a vital role. During this tumultuous time in the 1860's, Keokuk served as a central swearing - in point for the Iowa volunteers and as a major medical center, with as many as seven Civil War hospitals in the community. Soldiers wounded on southern battlefields were transported up the Mississippi River on hospital boats. Often the trip was futile and many soldiers found their final resting place in the Keokuk National Cemetery. It is one of the original twelve national cemeteries designated by Congress and is one of the first west of the Mississippi River.
The Keokuk Veterans Memorial, dedicated on July 4, 2005, is a tribute to the men and women who served with honor in the United States Armed Forces. This memorial is located at the entrance of Oakland Cemetery, 18th and Carroll Streets.
The Grand Theatre is a re-stored 1920s opera house that provides a most interesting tour through one of today's few remaining "hemp houses". The theater also is the center for live entertainment, productions throughout the year, as well as conventions and special events.
Full of history and ripe with opportunities, Keokuk's commercial business district remains a center of commerce and activity. Anchored by the enclosed River City Mall on the southeast side of town with grocery stores and a large chain store on the northwest, Keokuk's traditional business district links the city's historic past wit today, providing many shopping opportunities.
Tolmic Park is the site of n new public playground with handicap accessible equipment with over 6000 square feet of safety-surfaced play, area. It has an accessible swingset adaptable seats, a music playstation and several adaptive play items to accommodate children of various ability levels From ages two through twelve. The Tolmie Park recreation area also features an aquatic center with zero depth entry, shallow play area and slide, tidal tank, handicapped accessible ramp and steps. water walk, lap lanes, open flume slide and enclosed tube slide, diving concession area. area and bathhouse with concession area.
Rand Park's performance pavilion completely financed with more than $400,000 of private donations was dedicated on July 26, 2009. Keokukown community band, McNamara's Band, was given the honor of the first performance in the acoustically designed pavilion. Pavilion entertainment happens during the summer and early fall. The performance schedule can be found at www.randparkpavilion.com
Other attractions include the Hoerner YMCA, the Keokuk Public Library wit more than 70,000 items, the Keokuk Art Center, Arrow head Bowling Alley and the Plaza 3 Cinema.
More information about the city of Keokuk can be found at keokukiowatourism.org or by calling (319) 524-5599