Iowa is blessed with beautiful landscapes and abundant trees but most of those trees are unremarkable. You can't say that about the two famous ones I'm about to tell you about. The first is perfectly known as the Tree in the Middle of the Road.

Sandra Redlinger

My friend, Sandra Redlinger, snapped the above shot last weekend. The photo below shows the tree in "full bloom," if you will.

Quest for the Unknown, Facebook

The cottonwood tree is around 100-feet tall and has a circumference of about 18-feet, all of it smack dab in the middle of two gravel roads (350th St. and 710 St./Nighthawk Ave.) outside of Brayton, Iowa. It may be nature's only roundabout. The tree sits just north of I-80 in west central Iowa on the county line between Audubon and Cass counties. According to the Baltimore Sun, legend has it a surveyor used a cottonwood stick to mark the county line before the start of the Civil War, which began in 1861. That stick turned into quite a tree.

Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo below, it's seen a great deal of graffiti over the years. That is one massive tree. Thanks for the photos, Sandra!

She tells me this is how you can find it:

  • From U.S. Highway 71 at the town of Brayton, travel east on County Road T to F-65 and follow the green "Tree in the Road" signs on the gravel roads.
  • From Exira, go east on F-58 and follow the green ”Tree in the Road" signs. As you approach the curve, take the gravel off the west side of Littlefield Park.
Sandra Redlinger

The other tree is even more remarkable. It's known as the "Plow in the Oak." Roadside America says historians in the area claim local farmer Frank Leffingwell left to join the Civil War and before leaving, leaned his plow up against the small tree. Leffingwell never returned.

Others believe Christian Miller, a hired hand for Leffingwell, was struggling with the plow one day before leaning it up against the tree. He also joined the military. He did return but it wasn't until years later when Highway 71 was created, that he remembered the plow and saw the tree had adopted it by growing around it.

A photo of the famous tree in 1934 is below. At bottom, photos from five years ago, and this past spring.

You'll find the Plow in the Oak just south of Exira on Highway 71, near 310th St. It's only a short jaunt from the Tree in the Middle of the Road. Don't wait too long to visit, though. It's clear that it won't be too many more years before the plow is no longer visible.