Sun Sets on First Century of Popular Linn County Park [VIDEO]
It opened in 1922 as a much smaller park than it is today and a century later, visitors still fall in love when they visit.
The area that is now Palisades-Kepler State Park, just outside Mount Vernon, Iowa, first began to welcome visitors in the 1890s. That's when James Minott bought 160 acres of land on the Cedar River. State Parks says he built an inn that also included a restaurant and general store. He rented boats and sold land to people who wanted to build cottages they could stay in during the summer. Before long, approximately 200 people lived there.
After the state acquired most of Minott's land, the park was founded in 1922. According to State Parks, the State Board of Conservation in naming the park noted "these palisades lining the Cedar River are quite special." Palisades State Park was born.
Louis Kepler donated his estate to the park in 1928. It would almost double the size of the park and result in the name the park holds today. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says many of the structures in Palisades-Kepler State Park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s.
Closed for more than eight months due to damage caused by the August 2020 derecho, Palisades-Kepler State Park reopened in late April of 2021. Now 840 acres, it's one of 24 state parks in the state, and one of two in Linn County (Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area in Palo is the other).
During a visit last week, a couple from Arizona pulled into the park. They told us they enjoyed taking quieter roads and had pulled into Palisades-Kepler, not knowing what to expect. They called it a "beautiful gem." Many people around here call it, 'The Pal.' It's fitting because it's like an old friend. One we're very lucky to have.