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Buddy Holly Crash Site

22728 Gull Ave, Clear Lake, Iowa 50428 USA

Free to Visit
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
    not Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair
  • No Public
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Due to the spread of COVID-19, some points of interest may be closed or have restrictions. Please stay safe and call ahead to get the latest information.

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“The Day the Music Died”

The Day the Music Died, dubbed so by Don McLean's song "American Pie", was an aviation accident that occurred on February 3, 1959, near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, and the pilot Roger Peterson. After terminating his partnership with The Crickets, Buddy Holly assembled a new band consisting of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch, to play on the Winter Dance Party tour. The tour also featured rising artist Ritchie Valens and Big Bopper Richardson, who were promoting their own recordings as well. The tour was to cover 24 Midwestern cities in three weeks.The distance between venues, and the conditions prevalent aboard the poorly equipped tour buses, adversely affected the performers. Cases of flu spread among the band members, and Holly's drummer was hospitalized due to frostbite. Frustrated by the conditions, Holly decided to charter a plane when they stopped for their performance in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, to reach their next venue in Moorhead, Minnesota. Carroll Anderson, owner of the Surf Ballroom, chartered the plane from the Dwyer Flying Service. Richardson, who was affected by the flu, swapped places with Waylon Jennings, taking the latter's place on the plane, while Tommy Allsup lost his place to Ritchie Valens on a coin toss. Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts fame) decided not to board the plane for the US$36 fee. The investigation of the incident determined that soon after takeoff, a combination of poor weather conditions and pilot error caused spatial disorientation that made pilot Roger Peterson lose control of the plane. Hubert Dwyer, owner of the flight service company, could not establish radio contact and reported the aircraft missing the next morning. He took off in his own Cessna 180 and spotted the wreckage less than 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the airport in a cornfield. He notified the authorities who dispatched Deputy Bill McGill, who drove to the wreck site and found the bodies of the passengers and pilot. They were later identified by Carroll Anderson.

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  • 2 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
October 03, 2014
Rated 5.0

It's not an empty field if you follow the trail. We have been here twice as a family and even my kids love it. This helped introduce them to great music they never would have listened to. .

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Greg Newkirk

  • Expert
  • 314 Reviews
  • 361 Helpful
September 24, 2014
Rated 4.0

Don't be fooled if you show up at an empty field - keep an eye open for the glasses, which mark the beginning of a trail that leads to the actual crash site. Lots of memorials down that way, so if you're a fan, bring a little something to leave.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Katrina W.

  • 12 Reviews
  • 11 Helpful
August 26, 2014

The address that you can put in a GPS is 22728 Gull Ave., Clear Lake, IA. When you stop, you stop at the glasses. The trail is then into the corn field (there's a wide path) for about 1/4 mile. There are memorials at the end of the trail. The dog enjoyed running in and out of the corn. You can leave items there if you want.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 4 Reviews
  • 3 Helpful
June 20, 2014

The site is pretty cool. We went out to the site and the place where they played for the last time. The memorial is interesting. One is 3 records with each name on it then there is a separate plaque for the pilot (i thought that was cool) people come and place flowers and items on the site, like glasses and stuff.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 8 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
June 09, 2014

The site is in the middle of a field and the glasses statue on the side of the road marks the beginning of the "trail" to where the actual plane went down. It's about a mile maybe (?) from the road to the crash site, where you'll find a small "memorial". We listened to Buddy Holly's music on the way to the site, took pictures with the glasses and called it good. Kind of a cool site to see and I'm glad we stopped. It took all of 15 minutes.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 1 Helpful
July 30, 2015
Rated 4.0

The farmer of the fields is Jeff, he comes to the site several times a day to chat with the patrons. There was 5 additional groups there when we were on a Thursday afternoon. Very easy walking path and farmer Jeff has plenty of stories for you!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 15, 2020

Worth a stop!

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
July 14, 2020
Rated 5.0

Just a wonderful experience because we were listening to the 3 musicians music on the walk. Just a great way to give respect to the lost lives that were taken so young.

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Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
May 25, 2019
Rated 5.0

Cool to experience!!! “The day the music died”
We were here for about 20 minutes and during our stop, 5 cars full of people showed up to pay respect !!

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Reviewed by

  • 16 Reviews
  • 6 Helpful
August 17, 2018
Rated 5.0

Great stop! I got there in between stormy patches so I opted out of walking the trail to find the other memorial. The glasses alongside the road was still with the detour, in my opinion. Perhaps one day I'll end up there again with better weather.

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Buddy Holly Crash Site

22728 Gull Ave
Clear Lake, Iowa
50428 USA

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  • Parking
  • Pets Allowed
  • Restrooms
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Credit Cards Accepted
  • Outdoor Seating
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Parking, Dining

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