Maquoketa Caves State Park
|Maquoketa Caves State Park|
|Iowa State Park|
|- elevation||817 ft (249 m) |
|Area||323 acres (131 ha) |
|Management||Iowa Department of Natural Resources|
|Website: Maquoketa Caves State Park|
The park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park's caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome.
The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion.
The park's caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain.
Today a modern interpretive center outside the park entrance provides maps and other informational materials. Inside the park, a central map kiosk includes charts of some of the more interesting caves.
Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys.
The first park land was purchased in 1921. However, the majority of the park facilities were not constructed until the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Both programs resulted from the federal government effort to make work for Americans during the Great Depression. Their work included constructing a stone lodge, a walkway system, a stone picnic circle and several picnic shelters.
The park was once featured on an episode of Rescue 911 when a story was done on a hiker who had fallen and was seriously injured while at the park.
The park features limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado's Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the dancehall cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave. Steelgate Cave is for the more physically active individual who is okay with some tight spots and climbing.
It is recommended to bring water, jeans, a long sleeve shirt and a headlamp to enter the caves. Permits are also required and can be attained free of charge from the DNR agent on-site.
- Maquoketa Caves State Park
- Maquoketa Caves State Park Documentary produced by Iowa Public Television