You couldn't more adequately describe the rise of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area more appropriately than these two words, "silos and smokestacks". Over the years, you've had the smokestacks billowing from the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, the Rath Packing Plant and the mighty John Deere, among others. Pair that with northeast Iowa being home to some of the most bountiful farm land in the world and you've got the perfect name to describe both the farms and industries that constitute agribusiness.

Silos & Smokestacks

On the heels of coming off the 1980's farm crisis, the program originally began in 1991 as an economic revitalization program for downtown Waterloo  The organization would quickly realize it's need to expand to include the variety of resources beyond the city limits. In 1996, Silos & Smokestacks was congressionally designated as Iowa's only National Heritage Area.

The story of American agriculture comes to life at more than 115 sites and attractions in a 37-county region of northeast Iowa. In celebration of its 25th Anniversary, Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area (SSNHA) area travelers are invited to participate in the Silos & Smokestacks Stamp Challenge.

Have fun this spring/summer visiting NE Iowa attractions

According to a press release: each partner site has a personalized 25th Anniversary Stamp. Visitors can get their SSNHA Visitor Guide stamped in the special two page center spread of the 25th Anniversary Edition. The first 25 visitors to get their guide stamped by 25 different sites in 2021 will receive a prize.

A few examples of fun things you can do and see

Visit a working farm, relax at a Bed & Breakfast or samples wines at a winery. Choose from dozens of museums and parks, nature centers, and recreation areas. Along with historic sites, scenic routes, fairs and more.

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Check out the Silos & Smokestacks' website for a complete list of area attractions.

Visitor guides can be picked up at any one of SSNHAs partner sites, or at the heritage area headquarters, 305 W. Park Ave., Waterloo.


Courtesy - Silos & Smokestacks
Courtesy - Silos & Smokestacks

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In its heyday, the Rath Packing Company employed 8,500 people. It's still thought of fondly by many as what helped put Waterloo "on the map" and giving many area families a good income to raise their families. When rumors of bankruptcy started in 1979, the company became employee-owned in 1980. Despite many attempts to save it and massive amounts of money invested (from employees and loans from the city of Waterloo) all of those efforts ultimately failed, leading to its demise and liquidation in 1985.

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