Council Bluffs, Iowa, got its present name in 1852. Until then it was known as Kanesville. Council Bluffs played an important part in the immigrant history of the US. It was the starting point of the Mormon Trail and became the northernmost staging point for other immigrant trails. It was witness to the Mormon migration as well as the California Gold Rush. Some of the historic and interesting places to see in Council Bluffs are Bayliss Park, Mall of the Bluffs, Lake Manawa and the casinos.
In western Iowa, lying on the Missouri river, is a community thriving with business and good old fashioned Midwestern values. A place rich with history and culture, where the people are casual and laid back. This is Council Bluffs. From the main strip of Broadway to historical downtown to the electric thumping concerts of Westfair Amphitheatre, Council Bluffs is well on it’s way from being some sleepy railroad and farming community to modern urban sprawl. Part of it’s charm is the fact that small business is abundant and growing. The other part is the people, they are down to earth great human beings that have a cross of southern hospitality and east coast work ethic.
Originally it was known as Kanesville, after Thomas L. Kane, the benefactor of a band of explorers looking for a better route to California. The term The Council Bluffs was first coined in a meeting between the Otoe Tribe of Iowa and the Lewis and Clark expedition. The small town saw it’s first residents in Mormon settlers trying to find a better life. During the Mexican American war, the Mormon Battalion left to go fight. Most others eventually followed to Utah, then Kanesville had found it’s new residents in people trying to make their way to California during the gold rush. In 1852, the name was changed to Council Bluffs. Then the railroad act was passed. This brought work and some prosperity to the area. It also brought a civil war general whom was doing survey work for the railroad. His name was Grenville M. Dodge and his house is one the more historic landmarks of the city.
Grenville Dodge had a hand by proxy in another one of Council Bluffs more interesting sites. His two daughters had an angel memorial built to their mother made out of bronze. When bronze oxidizes it turns black, giving way to the “Black Angel”. This is a destination for paranormal enthusiasts and gothic teenagers alike. Whether or not you believe in the legends, the Ruth Ann Memorial is one of the most beautiful sites in the area. It was designed by the same man who designed the Lincoln memorial. It stands about seven feet tall and is on the corner of North Second St. and Lafayette Ave in very tranquil and serene surroundings.
One aspect of Council Bluffs that would make the Mormons glad that they left is the nightlife. From downtown teeming with bars and restaurants to the casinos, Council Bluffs residents really know how to party. The biggest destination that they have to offer would be the casinos; the oldest of which being the Horseshoe Casino.
Previously known as Bluffs Run, it was started in the 1940’s by Meyer Lansky just outside of the city limits. Then, in 1986, racetrack gambling was legalized to compete with neighboring Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben horse track. In 1995 gambling was fully legalizedm which paved the way for not only two more casinos, but much economic prosperity. There is much more than gambling when it comes to the casinos though. They boast some of the best restaurants in the area. Stir Concert cove at Harrah’s brings in national Country, Hip-hop, and modern rock acts from the late spring to early fall. The Whiskey Roadhouse at the horseshoe is another great venue for national and local acts.
Westfair Amphitheater is another place to go if you want to see great live music. The Iowa Western Community College and their radio station The River put on huge festivals and concerts throughout the summer. The Mid-America Center also holds concerts year round.
If you’re not in the mood for live music, then you can just head downtown for one of their many bars or clubs that are offered. If drinking isn’t your thing, then you can check out many of the restaurants that available throughout town. You have your options of everything from fine dining to casual to fast food.
As you can see, Council Bluffs is a beautiful and wonderful place that is rich in spirit and history. The people there are friendly, warm and would love to see you soon.
Learn more information about the history of the State of Iowa.