My new favorite small town

Where can you get beautiful views of the Iowa River, a riverside campground next to a rifle range, a small gas station that has its own cool T-shirts and a diner in a school?

Well, I happen to be talking about my new favorite small town that I spent some time in last week – Steamboat Rock.

Just a few miles from a major state attraction – Pine Lake State Park – Steamboat Rock has its own flare for a town of 310 people.

The Hardin County town prides itself on its river and there are two parks on the corners of the town where visitors can get up-close views of the waterway. One park even has a bike trail that winds you through several locations with several different river views.

Now, I must get to my T-shirt find, which was the icing on the cake. While visiting the local gas station, known as the Rock Stop, I saw it had its own T-shirts for sale. How many small town, independent gas stations have their own T-shirts?

Not just any T-shirt, this one has a drawing of a guy in old-time prisoner gear sitting on a rock with the words “I Made it to the Rock” above him.

You have to see it in person to see how cool it actually is. For $15, I was able to drive out of town with one of my favorite souvenir T-shirts of all time and I’m sure a conversation starter when I wear it in public.

Another unique place in town is Mama’s Diner, which is part of the old school. I didn’t make my way inside, but any restaurant in an old school has to be mentioned when talking about Steamboat Rock.

I can’t say I did much interacting with the people of the town, so I can’t speak to the their town motto “The Valley of Friendliness.”

It also has a pretty impressive town website at, so Steamboat Rock is also a town not stuck in the past.

Until I discovered this town in person a few years ago, I knew it only as the “SR” in the AGWSR School District. It really is a beautiful area and often overshadowed by its big brother Pine Lake. I can’t wait to return to this town to see what other morsels of fun are waiting for me.

Reporter Andrew Potter is a Tuesday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or