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A bit of an unusual request. This July I'm embarking on a monthlong journey through several midwestern and plains states specifically to photograph backroad scenes of Americana. I'm looking for interesting old barns, abandoned buildings, old gas stations, scenes of highways winding through the desert or hills, roadside diners, etc. I'm not looking for tourist attractions or things to do.
We will do this trip from Utah to Wisconsin to Missouri and back using all backroads - no interstate highways. We've traveled this basic route once or twice a year for many years. But this time we're taking time to actually stop! Should be fun.
Appreciate any nuggets of information anyone is able to share.
Great suggestions, thanks!
If you are in Iowa and want to see something really Americana go to Postville. This is a little town in NE Iowa which has the largest Kosher slaughterhouse in the US. It is owned and operated by Orthodox Jews. Most of the employees are from Mexico, Guatemala and Somalia. All of these people living together with the local Iowans with German and Scandinavian heritage who mostly farm the area. Every time I drive through it just takes you by surprise to see this melting pot of people from all over the world. If you do some research there has been a book or two written about the town and the large immigration raid which occurred a few years ago. Then drive the 15 miles to Decorah for some of the most beautiful scenery in Iowa.
Southern and Eastern Iowa will have more hills and winding scenic roads. US 52 and the Great River Road, as mentioned, are very scenic. You’ll find abandoned outbuildings in all areas of the state. I did the same kind of photo tour while in college and loved it. If you can make it work the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge is great when the wildflowers are blooming. It’s a taste of what Iowa was like before settlers arrived. I know you’re looking for more Americana, but NE Iowa is beautiful. The contrast between fields and bluffs covered in deciduous forest is lovely (maybe that’s just a sign I’m from Iowa 😉
I think some of the best landscape/Americana photos (especially black and white) can be found on gravel roads. They aren’t as graded as highways so you get great curves and hills and typically plenty of old barns to choose from. Hard thing is deciding which road to take. Since it’s basically a giant grid it’s hard to get too lost. NE/E Iowa is esp. great for this since the topography is more varied.
I’m heading back in September and now I really want to just wander backroads taking pictures. Hope you have a great trip.
ETA: You should definitely go to Decorah if you can. It’s a great town with lots of character.