Dedicated in 1919, Backbone is Iowa’s first state park. The park was named “Backbone” for its narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a Maquoketa River loop. This high ridge of rock is also known as the "Devil's Backbone."
The park spans 2,002 acres of heavily wooded natural beauty, with a rich variety of trees. The woods serve as a wildlife refuge for a variety of species, including deer, raccoon, fox, turkey, ruffed grouse and songbirds.
You’ll notice many striking structures in the park. Established in 1933, The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program. Many of the buildings at Backbone State Park were constructed by the CCC. The construction project included dams on the Maquoketa River that formed Backbone Lake, cabins, a beach and boat house, an auditorium, bridges, roads, picnic shelters and trails.
There are about 25 miles of multi-use trails to explore in the park. The trails wind through woods, and up rocky staircases to the “Devil’s Backbone,” one of the highest points in northeast Iowa. There are designated trails available for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowmobiles and more.
For more adventurous visitors, there are some challenging cliffs of rugged limestone for rock climbing. The most popular climbing spots are located near the Backbone Trail. Climbers and rappellers must register at the park office before climbing.
If you want to make a weekend of it, the park contains two campgrounds. The South Lake Campground has 59 non-electric sites and 41 electric sites. The Six Pines Campground contains 27 non-electric sites. For those who don’t want to rough it, there are also a variety of cabins to rent. To make reservations, call 563-933-4225.
Backbone Lake is one of the most beautiful features of the park, and there are plenty of recreational activities available there, including swimming, boating and fishing.