Beautiful Rest Stops in Iowa: Harvest Sculpture Artwork

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Sculptures by artist Tom Stancliffe at the Wilton Rest Area & Welcome Center in Iowa

Sculptures by artist Tom Stancliffe at the Wilton Rest Area & Welcome Center in Iowa

Original Art Showcased at Iowa Rest Stops

There are probably some beautiful rest stops in other parts of the United States, but I can truthfully say that those along the Interstate highways in Iowa are some of the prettiest ones that I have ever seen.

They put the ones with which I am familiar in Texas to shame. As the old saying goes, "Everything is bigger and better in Texas." Well not so with regard to rest areas, from my personal experience.

What Are Rest Stops?

Rest stops are important for people traveling across the country for many reasons. In addition to being able to use the toilet facilities, often it is just nice to be able to pull off the road in a safe, lighted area and stretch one's legs and get a little exercise.

Most rest stops have designated areas where truck drivers who do long-distance hauling of supplies can park for a while and even take necessary sleep breaks.

In larger welcome centers, personnel may be on hand 24 hours a day to suggest tourist information for vacationers to their state who may be unfamiliar with what can be seen and enjoyed. Often there are maps and brochures which can be acquired.

Weather and road conditions can be accessed, and they are kept updated frequently for travelers' convenience and safety.

Vending machines are available in which travelers can find various forms of food and drinks. And of course, picnic areas are most often provided, often with covers over them in case of inclement weather conditions.

Closeup photo of the corn-topped sculpture by Iowa artist Tom Stancliffe.

Closeup photo of the corn-topped sculpture by Iowa artist Tom Stancliffe.

Iowa Rest Stops

Okay, you might be thinking. Our area has all of what was just mentioned. So what makes the Iowa rest stops unique? It is the artwork!

The photos of the artwork featured in this post were taken at the Wilton Rest Area and Welcome Center between Davenport and Iowa City off of Interstate 80.

I took these photos long before I had ever thought of writing posts or blogs, so they are limited to just these three pictures. If I were to ever travel in that part of the country again and stop at this particular rest stop and others, I would be sure to take many more photos!

My mother, who was traveling with me, was equally impressed with these 10 stainless steel columns, each topped with a different bronze form representing different aspects found in the State of Iowa.

Who doesn't associate corn and Iowa? I think that when most people think of Iowa they also think of that crop and for good reason.

The artist Tom Stancliffe who hails from that fair state created each of these, plus one inside the building as well.

Includes lyrics..."the corn is as high as an elephant's eye"...

Pigs, and More

Iowa also has more than its fair share of pigs. More pork is produced in the State of Iowa than any other state in America, accounting for about 40,000 jobs annually and billions of dollars to the state's economy. Around twenty million pigs are raised in the state annually. Thus it is very appropriate that this pig sculpture was an example of things frequently seen in Iowa.

The other stainless steel columns were topped with the following art representations, all of which can be found in Iowa:

  • Acorn
  • Prairie Grasses
  • Fish
  • Book
  • Cone Flower
  • Tractor Tire Track
  • Plow Shares
  • Bursting Seed Pod
Closeup photo of the pig-topped sculpture by Iowa artist Tom Stancliffe.

Closeup photo of the pig-topped sculpture by Iowa artist Tom Stancliffe.

Other Rest Area Themes

In addition to the harvest-themed artwork seen at the Wilton Rest Area, other rest areas in Iowa have some of the following themes:

  • Pioneer Theme
  • Underground Railroad Theme
  • Educational Theme
  • Agriculture (Henry Wallace) Theme
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition Theme
  • Mississippi River Theme

These and more rest stops are artistically created with the use of not only sculptures but mosaic tiles and other artwork making them not only utilitarian but also aesthetically pleasing to visitors who stop and use them.

The State of Iowa continues to demolish the older rest stops, and as they build new replacements, art and artistic design are pushed to the forefront. What a wonderful image that creates for the state, and how very nice for travelers who stop to use the facilities!

So if you find yourself traveling through the State of Iowa, be sure and check out some of these beautiful rest stop areas. I think that you will be amazed at what you find there!

Another beautiful Iowa Rest Stop somewhere between Bettendorf, Iowa, and the road to Peoria, Illinois.

Another beautiful Iowa Rest Stop somewhere between Bettendorf, Iowa, and the road to Peoria, Illinois.

Location of the State of Iowa in the USA


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 03, 2017:

Hi Roberta,

The Iowa rest stops are really pretty from what we have experienced. Love seeing all the art on display.

RTalloni on December 03, 2017:

Rest stops are a wonderful place to display art work of any kind and these sculptures certainly speak well for Iowa and the artist. Would love to see all the themed stops!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 01, 2015:

Hi Au fait,

I still have relatives that live in Iowa as well as Illinois and Wisconsin. The Midwest is such a beautiful place to live when those fall leaves start turning. Your sister won't have too long a time to wait to see that annual spectacle! They really do have gorgeous rest stop areas in Iowa! As to the temps...we are enjoying cooler temps down here also. Nice time of year! Thanks for the share.

C E Clark from North Texas on October 01, 2015:

Leaves should be turning in Iowa soon and that would make a trip through that state pretty spectacular along with the interesting rest-stop art you talk about in this excellent article. My sister in the Wausau WI area says their trees haven't even started to turn yet as of last Saturday. We are getting some cooler temps here in N. Texas at last! Sharing this again.

Hope all is well with you . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

So happy that you liked this hub enough to share. Thanks!

C E Clark from North Texas on August 02, 2013:

Came back to pin this to my 'Travel' board because I think this explains another benefit to traveling in Iowa. Also sharing again with my followers.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2013:

Hello LKMore01,

Your comment is so true...that " It's not all about the destination but enjoying the journey." Sometimes it is the little things along the way that make for some great impressions. I'll admit that writing about Iowa rest stops is probably a bit out of the norm. Ha! Glad that you liked it. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2013:

Hi truthfornow,

I agree that it is nice when a rest stop area not only provides rest rooms and picnic tables but also goes a step beyond like the ones I have seen in Iowa. Those are truly special places in which to take a breather from riding in one's vehicle. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2013:

Hi Mary,

The same here in Texas for the most part. The rest stops in Iowa are really special! So nice that they feature art and things relevant to that part of the country. Thanks for your votes and the share.

LKMore01 on April 09, 2013:

This is truly one of the most oringinal travel article ideas I've had the pleasure of reading, Peggy W. If you frequently travel long distance by car you will never take a rest stop for granted. You have given us one more reason to observe. It;s not all about the destination but enjoying the journey. Thanks for a great reading and visual experience.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2013:

Hi bridaletter,

I know! This is not the usual subject regarding travel writing, but thought that these beautiful rest stops in Iowa were worth a mention. Thanks for your comment. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2013:

Hi Rajan,

I have to admit that in traveling through quite a few of our states, I have never seen such an emphasis on beautifying the rest stop areas like they do in Iowa. It is nice to pull off the road and enjoy these peaceful respites from the traffic, etc. Thanks for your comment, rating, votes + share.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on April 09, 2013:

Those are some nice rest areas. I love the idea of making rest areas like art museums or parks. The ones in Louisiana are so drab and boring. You are going to have to stop and rest, so you might as well make it an enjoyable experience.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 09, 2013:

I'm so glad I "found" this Hub. I really enjoyed reading about these rest stops in Iowa. We have lots of rest stops in Florida, but I don't think anyone has had the imagination of do any artwork for them. Too bad.

Voted UP, etc. and will share.

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on April 09, 2013:

I enjoyed this perspective of travel writing. It is really interesting and I know I will check it out the next time I hit Iowa. Cute pigs too.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 09, 2013:

These rest stops are really beautiful and unique. And the other 2 are in such naturally beautiful surroundings. Very relaxing and calming to both the mind and body.

Voted up, beautiful and interesting. Rated 5 stars and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

We were absolutely amazed at the beauty of these Iowa rest stops! Apparently as the older ones are being torn down, there will be others like these featuring local artist's work. It is wonderful! You are finding some of my older hubs which is great. Gives me a chance to go back in and do some editing. Have you written about your cornfield and houseboat experiences? Thanks for the 5 stars, votes and share.

C E Clark from North Texas on March 12, 2013:

More beautiful photos!

Having grown up in WI, I did get to Iowa a couple of times and I believe it was in July. OMG, there is nothing worse than being in close proximity to -- or worse (Yes there is something worse after all), actually being IN a corn field in July! It is unbearable. Also spent some time on a houseboat on the Mississippi River.

Iowa didn't have the interesting rest stops back when I was there, but they look pretty cool. I think they would definitely add interest to a trip even if Iowa were just between Point A and Point B.

Excellent hub as always, voted up, BI, and gave you 5 more stars. Will share!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 07, 2012:

Hi Suzie HQ,

Lots of corn comes from Iowa with the possible exception of this year due to a drought. It is used to feed people and animals and quite a bit ends up as ethanol used as a gasoline additive. Their rest stops are amazing! Thanks for your comment, vote and the share.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 07, 2012:

Hi Brett,

Iowa does a really good job with their rest stops and as an artist I really appreciated all of the local artists that got to have their work showcased in such a manner. Thanks for your comment and especially the share.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on October 07, 2012:

Hi Peggy,

What a really interesting Art Sculpture to come across! A rest stop no less, I would definitely stop here if travelling through! Great information on Iowa also, I did not know about the corn connection I am sorry to say!

Thanks Peggy for a well thought out, packed full of info hub with great pictures. VU, more and sharing :-)

Brett C from Asia on October 07, 2012:

Yea, everyone needs a break while on a long journey. Themed stops are a good option for this, and usually create some nice pics ... like my 'toilet' themed coffee stop in Thailand lol.

Shared, up, awesome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2012:

Hhi Vinaya,

I know this might be considered an odd subject for a hub, but I thought that the artwork displayed in the Iowa Rest Stops was worth mentioning. Nice that they feature local artists and it certainly adds to a tourist's pleasure when stopping for needed stops along the way. Thanks for your comment.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on April 15, 2012:

Text, videos and pictures are amazing.

You have done a wonderful hub.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 11, 2012:

Hi alocsin,

I know what you mean. Normally one does not associate fine art with rest stops...but our experience in the State of Iowa changed that perception. Thanks for your visit and votes.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 11, 2012:

This is quite unusual artwork, and not something we normally associate with our stereotypes of Iowa. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2012:

Hi Cheryl,

Appreciate your comment on the beautiful rest stops in Iowa. They do have some amazing artwork! Thanks!

Cheryl J. from Houston, TX on January 04, 2012:

Great photos of the beautiful artwork in Iowa rest stops. Very intersting hub on agriculture and farming in Iowa. It is very important to protect and promote our natural resources. The rest stops were very valuable for truckers and commuters.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 03, 2012:

Hi JamaGenee,

I feel your pain! I also have gotten lost on those freeways in Dallas more than once. For people who do not live there and know the routes, they could be better marked as to exits well ahead of time so that one is in the correct lane. (Sorry Dallas friends who may be reading this!)

Feel free to do another Iowa rest stop hub since there are so many more gorgeous ones. We can then link our hubs together. If I had been "hubbing" back when I visited those great rest areas...I would have more pictures. Iowa definitely has great rest stops...and like you say, the state is beautiful and well kept...at least all of the parts I have seen.

Happy 2012 to you too!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on January 03, 2012:

Apologies for being late to the party, Peggy, but I was busy getting ready for a quick car trip to Dallas, and then once there, got totally lost for 2 hours on the freeways! Suffice that if a ribbon of concrete has to be suspended 50 or 60 feet in the air to get people where they want to go, SOMEBODY needs to rethink those routes. Since I took the back roads from OK and my stops were only at gas stations and convenience stores (mostly to ask "Where am I???), I didn't visit any of the Lone Star state's interstate rest stops. Coming back on I-35, tho, I did see a group of picnic tables under what looked like concrete umbrellas on the access road. That's all there was. No toilets, no trees, no "You are here" kiosks. Looked like the only way to get to it was via the exit ramp a couple of miles farther on. Very strange.

As for Iowa, I was never anywhere near Davenport or Iowa City, but had I been I definitely would've taken lots of pix of the Stancliffe sculptures! How interesting! Yes, Iowa is quite proud of its heritage and resources, and unlike a few states I won't mention, isn't shy about promoting the artistry of its natives. And what better place to do so than where tourists passing through will see such examples!

One thing I always noticed on each trip to Iowa was how clean and well-maintained it was, at least along the highways. No falling-down farm outbuildings, no roadside trash. The line from "Field of Dreams" is so true: "Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa!".

Great hub! Now I'm off to read the one about the city park in Winterset. Happy 2012!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 31, 2011:

Hi Hanna,

Finding these rest stops in Iowa was more out of a need to use the facilities as well as stretching our legs after traveling in the car. So it was mere happenstance that they turned out to be so lovely and also artistic. JamaGenee (another HubPage writer...who has apparently not yet seen this) encouraged me to write about them. Wish I had taken more photos of different ones...but one gets the idea. Ha! Thanks for your comment and Happy New Year to you also.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 31, 2011:

Gosh, Peggy, you realy know where to find all these beautiful places and thank you for showing them to us. Happy New Year.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 30, 2011:

Hi Prasetio,

Viewing the State of Iowa from its rest stops is a little different. Haha! I must admit, they put a lot of artistic effort into creating them and they definitely left a favorable impression. Thanks for your comment and Happy New Year to you also.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on December 30, 2011:

I never stop to say, "this was beautiful hub". You always show beautiful place for us. This time I know that Lowa also beautiful. Thank you very much. Rated up and Happy New Year!


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 30, 2011:

Hi Don,

I'm not sure where that rest stop with the covered bridge is located. It may not have been on an Interstate highway. All my notes said (when I put my photo album together after that trip) was that it was "another" pretty rest stop area in Iowa. The covered bridge is not an authentic old one...just built to resemble one. Going to visit relatives several times over the years, we have stopped at several of the Iowa rest stops, and they are amazing...especially these newer ones. Thanks for your comment.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on December 30, 2011:

Hi Peggy. Love that old bridge. I've traveled Hi 80 many times but I don't recall stopping at rest stops so I missed something. Truthfully I try to avoid the interstates and generally took back roads.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 28, 2011:

Hi Gene,

I guess it is better to be forewarned than not in the case of snakes. Haha! The artwork utilized in the construction and embellishments of the newer Iowa rest stops is what really got my attention. They are really pretty! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 28, 2011:

Hello maxoxam41,

As they say..."Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." The mosaic murals and other beautiful artwork in some of the Iowa rest stops definitely meets my idea of beauty in unexpected places. Thanks for your comment.

Gene Jasper on December 28, 2011:

A couple of my cycling buddies are from Iowa and are fine people . I'm not surprised that Iowa has some interesting rest stops. My experience at a newly opened Texas rest stop on my way back from New Mexico was memorable not because of the amenities but for the first sign I encountered exiting the car. "Watch out for Snakes". I was almost discouraged from using the facilities!


Deforest from USA on December 28, 2011:

Fortunately beauty is subjective and definitively not universal.

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