Longing for a country get-away, peppered with a dash of big city amenities? That’s what you’ll find on the very west edge of bluff country in Mitchell County, Iowa. Mitchell County is a small county with a population just over 10,000, where industry and recreation abound.
Coming into Mitchell County from the east on Hwy 9, you’ll come into Riceville, a unique town because half is in Howard County and the other half is in Mitchell County. Riceville is home to the Wapsi-Great Western Trailhead. The Wapsi-Great Western Line Trail offers segments that run both on the Wapsipinicon River corridor and the abandoned railbed of the Great Western Railroad. It combines the features of both for the ideal trail experience. The 10.5 paved trail goes north, traversing hilltops and wide rolling landscape, native prairie and timbered areas. Visitors can see a butterfly garden built into the hillside along the trail and stop at nearby Lake Hendricks for a stroll on the two-mile grass hiking path. At the five-mile point, bikers and hikers can loop south and back onto the railroad bed for a return to Riceville or turn north on County Road T62 toward the Minnesota/Iowa state line. Riders will find themselves in Amish country as they bike into McIntire, the half way point of the trail, where they can stop and have a bite to eat. The trail resumes one-half mile northwest of McIntire, Iowa, at the Pinicon Alders Wildlife Area and takes visitors on a fourmile journey through forest and field, ending at the Minnesota border.
Continuing west on Hwy 9, you’ll enter Osage, the intersection of Hwy 9 and Hwy 218. Osage is known for its maple trees because Dr. S.B Chase, having come from Portland, Maine, where the streets were lined with maple trees, helped establish the trees along the streets. If people were not able to buy, he gave them trees and even helped to plant them. The glorious autumn colors of these maples are annually a fitting tribute to this pioneer.
Osage is the county seat of Mitchell County (that’s another story). The Mitchell County Courthouse is one of the oldest original courthouses in the state of Iowa still in use and is on the historic registry.
Osage is home to the Sock Monkey sock, manufactured by Fox River Mills, Milkhouse Candle Company, Watts Theatre, which in 2006 was listed as one of the top 10 cinemas in USA Today. Most recently Osage has become the home of the Cedar River Complex (CRC). The Complex includes, a Wellness Center, an Indoor Aquatic Center, the Mitchell County Historical Museum, a six hundred seat auditorium, an Events Center and Livestock Show Barn. The initials could just as well stand for Communities, Recreation and Culture, and improves the quality of life for those living less than an hour away along with bringing visitors from a greater distance to North Iowa that may be stopping at other outlying communities.