On a July day in 1845 the covered wagons of George and Mary Hanna stopped on the east bank of the Cedar River. Their 18- by 24-foot log cabin was destined to become Waterloo’s first structure. They didn’t receive their first neighbors for another year.
Today, Waterloo is a small city of 64,000 people, stretching along the banks of the Cedar River, 108 miles northeast of Des Moines. It is one of Iowa’s chief industrial centers for the manufacture of tractors and farm equipment. It also hosts the annual National Dairy Cattle Congress.
Waterloo is the home of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra, one of northern Iowa’s greatest cultural assets. The town also boasts four theaters, including the Waterloo Community Playhouse, which has an international reputation for new plays.
The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is one of Iowa’s premier “Rails to Trails” conversions, following the Cedar River south from Waterloo to Evansdale. Once a branch of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, it was abandoned in 1977 and was opened in 1984 as a recreational trail. The recycled crushed limestone surface is level and provides easy biking. Two restored rail stations located outside Gilbertville and Center Point are historical reminders of the days when the trail corridor was an important passenger link. The trail takes in a great deal of eastern Iowa’s scenic diversity.