UPDATE: A picturesque photo of a kayaker on the Turkey River snapped by Jessica Rilling of Cedar Rapids will grace the cover of the 2013 Iowa Travel Guide scheduled to be distributed this spring.
Rilling’s photo — among more than 600 submissions to the Iowa Tourism Office — was honored as the winning entry in a special state contest by Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday.
“I love Northeast Iowa and am totally thrilled that this photo gets to grace the cover of the next Travel Guide,” Rilling said. “I hope it encourages people to get outside and discover all the natural and historic treasures Iowa has to offer.”
More than 3,000 Facebook fans of the Tourism Office’s Traveliowa.com Web site voted for their favorite of three cover options during a 10-day period that ended Feb. 1.
Branstad said he visited the Turkey River area near the state’s trout hatchery in Elkader where Rilling took her photo.
In December, Iowa tourism officials asked amateur and professional photographers to submit photos from their Iowa travels for consideration on the new travel guide cover.
More than 600 submissions were narrowed down to three cover options — Rilling’s photo; a scene of boaters having fun on an Okoboji lake, entered by Brock Bringle of Storm Lake; and a photo of a family hiking at Maquoketa Caves State Park, submitted by Kelsey Delperdang of Cedar Rapids.
Rilling took the photo during an October paddling trip from Elkader to Motor Mill Historic Park in Clayton County.
“It’s a stretch of river 6.5 miles long that takes about 3 hours to float. It’s part of the 98-mile Turkey River Water Trail which means that it is really well-marked for travelers,” she says. “It’s also very scenic.
“The pine-topped limestone bluffs, cold water stream entrances and diversity of birdlife make for a dynamic trip and ending at Motor Mill is such a cool finale. You come around the last bend and there it is reaching into the sky.”
The section Rilling paddled is one of many recreational opportunities along Iowa’s River Bluffs Scenic Byway. Within an area called the Turkey River Recreational Corridor — the state’s first river corridor to be declared an Iowa Great Place — it includes parts of Clayton and Fayette Counties, the communities of Clermont, Elgin, and Elkader and the Motor Mill Site. It also includes the Big Spring Trout Hatchery which boasts the largest spring in Iowa.
Branstad noted that tourism is a $7 billion industry in Iowa that generates $328 million in state taxes annually.
State tourism officials issued a report last October indicating that travelers spent about $7.2 billion in Iowa in 2011, a 10.3 percent yearly increase for an industry that supports 63,400 jobs statewide. The counties with the highest tourism expenditures were Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson and Black Hawk, according to the report, which is available online at http://smgs.us/2pvx.
The four-color guide is Iowa’s comprehensive trip-planning publication, with listings from more than 700 attractions, 550 hotels, 160 bed-and-breakfasts and 400 campgrounds in addition to information on state parks, trails and scenic byways.
“I think we forget that you can go adventuring in your own state,” Rilling says.