Shops, farm, museums, birds among Dean Hughes' 10 sites to see off the beaten trail in Nauvoo

By Dean Hughes

For Mormon Times

Published: Tuesday, April 12 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

Many tourists only schedule a day or two for their visit to Nauvoo. During that time they hope to see all the sites in Historic Nauvoo and still find time for the Nauvoo Temple and the Carthage Jail. My suggestion would be to stay four or five days — or longer — and drink in the peace and beauty of the place. Take time to enjoy all the “must-see” attractions, but also check out some places on my list of sites that most people miss.

Montrose, Iowa

Directly across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo is the little town of Montrose. At Fort Des Moines, identified by markers at the waterfront park, many Latter-day Saints, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, established their first homes. They planned to build a settlement, “Zarahemla,” on that side of the river. The view of the Nauvoo Temple is spectacular from there. Just north of Montrose is the Mormon Trail Monument, commemorating the “miracle of the quails” and the start of the Mormon Trail. When pioneers made their exodus from Nauvoo, most stopped near Montrose to take one last look at the temple. It’s worth taking some time yourself to imagine the emotions of those early Saints.

Birds and trees of Nauvoo

Historic Nauvoo and Nauvoo State Park are prime birding sites along the Mississippi. On one weekend, the Audubon Society identified 127 species of birds in the Nauvoo area. Take a bird book with you and walk along the river on Water Street, where a birding trail is planned. See lots of waterfowl as well as migrating songbirds, or visit in the winter and see the many bald eagles that move south as the river freezes. But take a tree book, too. Historic Nauvoo is an arboretum as well as a historic area. It is planted with most of the species that will grow in the area, including dozens of varieties of oak and a number of exotic species rarely found in the United States.

The East Grove, site of the King Follett Discourse

The “Nauvoo Groves” site in Historic Nauvoo is only meant to commemorate the various groves that were used for preaching. The actual grove used most often during the Mormon era was west of the Nauvoo Temple on the hill that overlooks the Mississippi. Here, church leaders held services because there were no actual church buildings in old Nauvoo. For a period of time in the spring of 1844, however, on a site at the corner of Knight and Robinson streets (immediately east of Nauvoo Elementary), a wooden stand was set up and meetings were held there. This is the site where Joseph Smith delivered the well-known King Follett Discourse. It is also the site where both Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young presented their claims for leadership after Joseph’s death.

Walking tour of Nauvoo City

The story of the various groups that inhabited Nauvoo after the Mormon period is very interesting. You can catch a glimpse of Mulholland Street’s past by taking a free self-guided walking tour. You’ll learn how the French Icarians, Sisters of St. Benedict and local businesses defined Nauvoo from the 1850s to the 1960s. The tour begins at “The Way We Were” Interpretive Park on Mulholland Street, across from the State Bank of Nauvoo.

Nauvoo museums

The Weld House Museum, 1380 Mulholland St., is operated by the Nauvoo Historical Society. It includes artifacts and displays that feature the entire history of Nauvoo, including the Mormon period. The Rheinberger Museum, located in Nauvoo State Park, contains a large collection of furniture and other articles dating back to Native American times. It features a stone-arched wine cellar and original 150-year-old winemaking equipment.

Joseph Smith farm

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