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Waldorf Historian Plans To Create An Environmental History Of Iowa On Foot

Iowa territory map
Courtesy of Kevin Mason
A 19th century map of the Iowa territory.

Waldorf University historian Kevin Mason is going to be doing a lot of walking this summer. He’ll be retracing the 1835 route of the Iowa Dragoons up the Des Moines River so he can write a comparative environmental history of Iowa over the past 186 years. In this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Mason about why he wanted to make this trek.

"A few years back, a friend and I started discussing how interesting following in the footsteps of the Iowa Dragoons Expedition of 1835 would be," writes Mason. "The Expedition departed from First Fort Des Moines, near modern-day Montrose, on the Mississippi River and struck north-by-northwest roughly following the Des Moines River until it reached the vicinity of modern-day Boone. From there they struck east-by-northeast to Winona's Village in what is now Minnesota."

According to Mason, the records left behind can paint a great picture of Iowa's environment prior to colonization. Mason is calling his project "Notes on Iowa," as a tribute to Albert Lea, one of the leaders of the expedition, who wrote "Notes on the Wisconsin Territory."

If you would like to follow Mason's project this summer and learn more about this expedition, you can visit his website notesoniowa.com.


  • Kevin Mason, assistant professor of History, Waldorf University in Forest City
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River