It Felt Like Walking Through a Movie Set: Exploring 12 Ghost Towns in Iowa

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Daniel is a copywriter who has well and truly been bitten alive by the 'travel bug'. After ticking off several North American National Parks and exploring Europe by train, his sights are now set on South East Asia. Usually with at least one camera locked and loaded, you'll find Daniel wherever there are mountains, lakes or beaches.

The Hawkeye State is known for its rolling plains and cornfields, but it holds a secret – the ghost towns in Iowa echo with tales of time gone by. From the humble beginnings of Carrollton to the eerie lure of Buckhorn, each town serves as a testament to a time lost. Embark on a captivating journey through 12 of these towns, where the remnants of the past collide with the present.



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Elkport, Iowa serves as a striking testament to the power of nature. This ghost town, founded in 1855 and washed away by the 2004 floods, invites curious minds to explore its tragic past. Amid the debris of schools, homes, and banks, visitors can piece together the town’s story and gain a profound sense of respect for the transient beauty of our shared world.



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Just a 45-minute drive from Davenport, Buckhorn waits with an eerie lure. This town, once a flourishing farmer’s co-op, is now a playground for urban explorers. Amidst the whispers of the old creamery and the lost prayers of an abandoned church, you can’t help but feel a little spooked when visiting Buckhorn.


Abandoned house
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Tucked away in Adair County along Highway 92, Stanzel, Iowa, invites history enthusiasts for a walk down memory lane. The remaining structures, including houses and an active church, serve as silent monuments to the town’s bustling past. Stanzel’s hushed landscape offers a mysteriously captivating exploration of the towns of Winterset and Greenfield.

Mount Etna


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Mount Etna, Iowa, situated near Lake Icaria, offers a unique journey through time. Its quiet streets, once alive with a post office, grocery store, and numerous churches, bear the marks of history. The abandoned schoolhouse, among the last thirteen of Corning’s district schools, stands as a symbol of the town’s vibrant past.



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Found in Carroll County, Carrollton, Iowa, is a ghost town with a humble past. Once the county seat, it now displays a handful of remaining structures, including a store, post office, and blacksmith shop. Despite its quiet charm, Carrollton offers its visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and appreciate the simplicity of rural life.

Cedar Bluff

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Discover Cedar Bluff, Iowa, once a thriving hamlet now frozen in time. Visitors can explore the remnants of an old community hall, a solitary church, and a saloon, each echoing the town’s lively past. Nearby, the 1931 theater, set close to a Civil War-era cemetery, adds a touch of the supernatural, with tales of apparitions and ghostly footsteps.



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Nestled in Delaware County, Rockville, Iowa whispers of a bygone era of trade and transit. Its history, traced in the timeworn tombstones of Rockville Cemetery and the ancient remains of a mill, invites explorers to uncover its past. Encircled by rolling hills, farmland, and forests, Rockville offers a unique blend of historical intrigue set within the tranquility of rural Iowa.



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Kinross, Iowa, a quietly enduring abandoned town in Keokuk County, tells a tale of change and time’s passage. This town, borne out of an 1879 migration to a new railroad depot, carries its history in the form of a few remaining structures, including the historic McCoy Polygonal Barn. Visitors to Kinross will find themselves immersed in a story of transformation woven into the very fabric of the Iowan landscape.


Abandoned house
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Unearth the silent stories of Stiles, Iowa, an unmarked ghost town in Davis County. Its history, dating back to 1858, is portrayed in the absent hum of activity from days filled with commerce at three vibrant stores, the industrious churn of a grist mill, and the dedicated care of two local doctors. Exploring Stiles is like stepping into a time capsule of rural Iowan life.



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Explore Sunbury, Iowa, a quiet testament to rural life in Cedar County, where small family farms once thrived on its loamy soil. Born with the introduction of the railroad, it still carries echoes of its past, from the beats of the Sunbury Dance Hall to the local transactions of a long-closed bank. It’s a humble, historical nook where time seems almost suspended.



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Journey through history in Downey, Iowa, a small town established during the rise of the railroad era. Its remnants, like the Butterfield Stage Station, paint a vivid picture of life during its peak of a hundred residents. As you explore Downey, you’ll experience a timeless charm and a glimpse of the past each corner you turn.


Ghost towns in Iowa
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Dublin, Iowa, a ghost town steeped in history, invites you to explore its nearly forgotten idyll. Though little remains, the enduring Odd Fellows Lodge, erected in 1874, speaks volumes of its lively past.

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