motormill.jpgThe settlement of Motor existed only from the 1840s to the 1870s. What remains at the historic site is a six-story mill, made from limestone, and four other buildings. The mill is the tallest old mill in the Midwest. This site is along the Turkey River, so visitors can take advantage of a scenic picnic area and canoe access. In the nearby hills, one can hike on some rugged trails. Primitive camping sites can be found in the area.

Motor Mill is located on the Turkey River six miles down stream from Elkader. This six story structure stands approximately fifty feet wide, sixty feet long and over ninety feet high with walls that are five feet thick at the bottom, tapering to two feet at the top. The huge limestone blocks were quarried and transported by cable car from the bluffs above the mill. The mill, built by John Thompson, displays the handiwork of four skilled German masons from Communia. Each wall was constructed by a different mason who was trying to outdo the other masons. Three sides were laid with carefully chipped rounded stone while the fourth, the intake side, was laid with perfectly square cut stone. No two sides are alike. All beams were pegged in and not one nail was used in construction. The wheels and burrs were imported from Italy.

Well over one hundred years old, the mill shows no sign of settling. Although the exact date is not certain, it is believed to have been built between 1867 and 1869. The Motor Mill historic site includes four related stone structures: an inn, cooperage, icehouse and livery stable. In 1977 the Motor Mill site was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The 155 acre park surrounding the mill affords visitors opportunities for hiking, bird-watching, camping, canoeing and fishing. The mill is now owned and managed by the Clayton County Conservation Board.

Admission – None

Directions – 5 miles southeast of Elkader on the Turkey River

Hours – 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., daily

Credit Cards – None

Phone – (319) 245-1516


  1. Annette Yeggy says:

    Can someone tell me what year the old bridge went down?

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