Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Rock Falls
Falls Township, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Saturday, August 6, 2011

Reporter Richard JOHNSON went to Rock Falls for this week's installment of the Backroads North Iowa series.

Main Street, Rock Falls, circa 1911

ROCK FALLS -- If he wanted to sell his home, Tennis GORDON said, he'd advertise it in large regional newspapers as "a villa on the Shell Rock River."

He doesn't plan on doing that anytime soon, though.

"People ask me about my community," said GORDON, a former city councilman in Rock Falls, pop. 170. "I say, ‘We live in the sweet spot of the Horn of Plenty.'"

City leaders consider Rock Falls a resort town.

It's a happening place, from the spacious Community Center/City Hall to three popular campgrounds, a county-owned wildlife area, the famed covered bridge in Wilkinson Pioneer Park, and dollar burger night (Wednesdays) at the Rock Falls Lounge.

The population triples on summer days as anglers angle and innertubers pass through town on the scenic Shell Rock River, which has improved greatly since the Clean Water Act of 1972.

You can even see river otters out there, among the big walleyes and northerns.

"I've canoed some rivers in the Ozarks and they're not a bit prettier," Mayor Rich PETERSON said. "It's just a delight to live here."

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The city, established in 1855, was originally called Shell Rock Falls.

The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railway called its station Rock Falls "to avoid confusing it with another station (Shell Rock) that was already located on their line in Butler County," John CUNNINGHAM wrote in his 2005 city history, "Rock Solid."

The years since have seen major floods, a bank robbery (1940) a visit by President Bill CLINTON (1996), and a visit by the [Des Moines] Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) in 2002.

City native Jake PRAZAJ set a world weight-lifting record in July. He bench-pressed 920.4 pounds in the 242-pound class at the United Powerlifting Association's Iron Battle on the Mississippi.

"Other than that, it's been kind of quiet around here," PETERSEN said. "We like it that way."

The Falls Township School opened in 1928 and closed in 1982. The city purchased the school from the former Nora Springs-Rock Falls school district for $1 in 1985.

The building contains City Hall, a large gym and a community room where pancakes, biscuits and gravy are served the first Sunday of each month to help keep the gathering place open.

"It's turned out to be a nice asset," PETERSEN said. "You have to have some folks who are willing to put some elbow grease into it. We're very proud of that organization, and all the work they do."

Members of Rock Falls Area Betterment Inc. maintain the community center and arrange the annual Rock Falls Fun Day.

Betterment Group President Gary DOCKUM was key to acquiring the Community Center, vice president Kaylene AHRENS said.

"We wouldn't have a Community Center if it weren't for Gary," she said.

"He just takes a day off from work and works his tail off for Fun Day," Rich PETERSEN said. "He's a real pillar of our community."

Nature makes Rock Falls go 'round.

Campers enjoy Camp at the Woods, Lucky's Last Resort and Wilkinson Pioneer Park.

And visitors can enjoy a combined 600 acres of nearby greenbelt trail at the Shell Rock Preserve, the White Wildlife Area and Wilkinson.

Tennis GORDON said his house, church, community and park system may not each be top-of-the-line.

"But you put them all together and it's about as good as you can get," he said.

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Fun Day is Aug. 20

Rock Falls' 26th annual Fun Day is Saturday, Aug. 20.

It includes a 5K fun run and one-mile walk, a bloody mary/margarita contest, softball and volleyball tournaments, a beanbag toss tournament, kids' activities, food, adult and kids' raffles, a silent auction, music and a beer tent.

Proceeds will benefit improvements to the Rock Falls Community Center.

~ ~ ~ ~

Old Stone Church

Community featured in two books

Two books have been written about Rock Falls.

"Rock Bottom," by John M. WILKINSON, details "An American Heartland Farm-Town and Family From Settlement Through the Great Depression."

The 1993 book traces Rock Falls' history from 1855 through 1940.

"Rock Solid," by John R. CUNNINGHAM, traces the city's history from 1855 through 2005.

~ ~ ~ ~

Businesses, points of interest of Rock Falls

  • Boyd's Sales & Service (trucking, snowmobile sales).

  • Brosz Transmissions.

  • Camp at the Woods, private campground along the Shell Rock River.

  • City Park.

  • Country Hardwoods.

  • The Dog House, dog-grooming.

  • Kady's Station, formerly a DX gas station, now a hair salon owned by Kady Navratil.

  • Kelley's Country Greenhouse.

  • Lucky's Last Resort campground.

  • Old Stone House (aka the Stickney House).

  • Old Stone United Methodist Church, built in 1867.

  • Revery (wood-working by Tennis Gordon).

  • Rock Falls Cemetery, among the oldest in Cerro Gordo County (platted in 1865).

  • Rock Falls Community Center.

  • Rock Falls Grain & General Store.

  • Rock Falls Lounge.

  • Templeton's Sweet Corn.

  • Wilkinson Pioneer Park, scenic campground and covered bridge.

    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2011



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