A 323-acre park in Jackson County, Maquoketa Caves State Park is a park like no other in Iowa. There is an extensive, six-mile trail system that leads you to caves, formations, stunning overlooks and through lush woods.
There are many limestone caves in the park to explore, and they vary in size. The caves include the Dancehall Cave, Hernado's Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within Dancehall Cave that is locally known as Steelgate Cave.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take the steep and winding staircases down into the subterranean depths of the caverns. Dancehall cave is the biggest, at 1100 feet, and it contains walkways and a lighting system.
If you feel like a more leisurely day, you can just stroll through the forest and soak in all of the majestic scenery. Or, you can get more of a workout by climbing to the tops of the bluffs for incredible views of the landscape below.
There are some interesting highlights along the trail, including the "Natural Bridge," a dramatic bridge which stands nearly 50 feet above Raccoon Creek. There is also the 17-ton "Balanced Rock."
The caves were most likely originally frequented by Native American people in the area. Settlers also found them in the 1830s. Over the years, artifacts have been discovered in the caves and the surrounding areas, indicating that the caves have been a popular place to explore for a long time.
If you’re making a day of it, make sure to pack a picnic and eat it in the stone picnic circle or one of the several picnic shelters along the park’s trails. There are also playground facilities for children and a campsite for those wanting to stretch their stay beyond a day.
The park recommends that visitors who are planning to explore the caves bring water, jeans, long-sleeved shirts and a headlamp. Interpreters facilitating the White Nose Syndrome (WNS) Awareness Program will give guided tours to visitors. This program raises awareness to help prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome to bats by humans. This program is mandatory for those who plan on entering the caves.
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