Backbone State Park Is The Single Best State Park In Iowa And It's Just Waiting To Be Explored
An average of 12 million people visit Iowa’s more than 80 state parks per year – state parks that cover 53,000 acres of land. With that number of parks, it might be difficult to weigh out which one is the best. However, many Iowans would agree with a recent Travel + Leisure article that names Backbone State Park near Dundee (in the northeastern corner of the state) the best state park in Iowa.
One reason for this is contrast. For a state with some of the largest corn and soybean fields in the nation, this park, in contrast, is marked with rugged terrain, sheer rock walls, caves, attractive rivers, and a 40-acre lake. It’s long been recognized as a special place, and it's no surprise then that this was the first state park in Iowa.
Dedicated in 1920, much of the development of this park was performed by the Iowan Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) beginning in the 1930s, and the stonework for trails and buildings is worth noticing even now, 100 years later.
So how did this great park get its name? The answer is as legendary as the park; its name comes from the spine of rock in the park which is only 10 feet wide and has 100 foot drops on either side, originally known as Devil’s Backbone.
One of the highest points in Iowa, this geological feature was a favorite for naturalists at the time of the park’s inception, and the boulders and rock walls make this a favorite hike to the present (find it along the Backbone State Park Trail Loop.)
More highlights of the park include hiking the rest of the 21-mile trail system, including the rugged Devil’s Backbone already mentioned as well as more leisurely hikes along the lake. Four trails cater to mountain biking including the Barred Owl Trail, Bluebird, and East and West Lake trails. Winter sports such as snowmobiling and cross country skiing are also available on the trails.
Additionally, climbing and rappelling the boulders and cliffs in the park is likely to satisfy an adventure seeker. Climbers must register at the park office. Fishing for trout in the spring fed stream or throwing a line into the lake is also likely to be a rewarding experience.
Camping overnight is offered in this park with a variety of options, from modern cabins to camping sites.
An overnight trip here will give you plenty of time to visit Richmond Springs, where 2,000 gallons per minute of crystal clear cold water collect in turquoise pools and then flow down through the park.
Finally, don't forget to bring swimming clothes so you can splash in the water at the beach or jump in a canoe or kayak (there are boat rentals available on the lake.)
While enjoying the lake, note the history evident in the park’s stonemasonry and CCC heritage. There is also a museum dedicated to the CCC work carried on here, which is known as some of the best in the Midwest.
What’s your favorite memory or activity at this magnificent state park that’s truly one of the best in Iowa? Of course, it’s not the only state park though. If you love Backbone, you’ll also love
Maquoketa Caves State Park as well!
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Backbone State Park Beach, Iowa 52038, USA