History, Heritage & Snake Alley

Ripley's Believe It or Not has designated Snake Alley as "Unbelievably Crooked" and the #1 Odd Spot in Ripley's Guide to the Curious Corners of America. Perhaps Burlington's most famous landmark, Snake Alley is located between Columbia and Washington Streets North 6th Street and consists of five half-curves and two quarter-curves. The street is reminiscent of vineyard paths in France and Germany.

The alley is composed of limestone and blue clay bricks. The constantly changing slant from one curve to the next necessitated a complicated construction technique to keep the high grade to the outside. Snake Alley curves over a distance of 275 feet (83.8 m), rising 58.3 ft (17.8 m), a 21% grade, from Washington Street to Columbia Street.

The street is the site of an annual uphill bike race, the Snake Alley Criterium, held each Memorial Day weekend.

The Snake Alley Art Fair, sponsored by the Art Guild of Burlington, is held annually on Father's Day.

Snake Alley is maintained by Burlington Parks Department.

History & Heritage

Famous landmarks, a log cabin, museums and a welcome center illustrate the history and creative spirit of Burlington.

  • Cobblestone Alley is a quarter-block east of Snake Alley. Included in the National Register of Historic Places, Cobblestone Alley is composed of large blocks of native limestone.
  • Des Moines County Heritage Center, 501 North 4th Street. Visit and browse the galleries to discover the history and creative spirit that exemplify Des Moines County.
  • Phelps House Museum, 512 Columbia Street. Located at the top of Snake Alley, this elegant Victorian house was built in 1851. The nine rooms on display feature furnishings dating back to 1774.  
  • Hawkeye Log Cabin, located in Crapo Park on the bluff where Lieutenant Zebulon Pike raised the first American flag on what would become Iowa soil, this museum recalls the settlement era with pioneer furniture and tools.  
  • Port of Burlington Welcome Center400 North Front Street. The Mississippi River provides a scenic backdrop for this State of Iowa Welcome Center.
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