Did you know you have some pretty amazing places right in your own backyard? I’ve lived in Iowa for most of my life, and to top it off, I lived within a couple hours of one of the coolest places in Iowa. The Maquoketa Caves State Park, one of Iowa’s State Parks, contains more caves than any other state park in the area.
We made plans with friends to check out the caves, and they arrived with rain. It rained and rained and rained. Ever hopeful, we made the trip anyway thinking the rain might break and the sky clear. We arrived when the rain was doing it’s absolute worst.
However, (happy day!), the rain stopped after we sat in our cars for about a half hour.
A really cool part about the caves is that most of the facilities were made in the Great Depression era as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)—a government movement to create jobs for young men (and helped more than 3 million get jobs!). At Maquoketa Caves State Park, the CCC was part of constructing a stone lodge, a walkway system, a stone picnic circle and several picnic shelters.
The walkway system is part of the intrigue—you travel under a road from one giant cave to another and pop out on the other end! I believe they are Dancehall I and II, but don’t quote me on that. How did the chicken cross the road? Through an underground cave system.
Because of the rain and all of the moisture in the air, there was some pretty sweet mist hanging around the caves, which provided some cool photo opportunities. It was like being in another world. The caves looked nothing like anything in Iowa. You could easily forget you were in Iowa—it was ethereal!
Of course, we brought our puppy, Pru, and she was running around like a madwoman. She doesn’t look like it, but she’s a true-born hiker.
The two large caves are the ones worked on by the CCC with the underground trail, but you can also venture off and find all sorts of other caves hidden in the trails. I wasn’t brave enough to wiggle in any of the little places (what if there were bats?!). Plus, we didn’t have a flashlight. I’d definitely bring a flashlight, water, and bug spray if you are planning to visit. Just keep in mind that what you carry in, you carry out. Don’t destroy something for everyone else by littering.
We crossed back under the caves one last time before we left. It is so cool! It’s a little sad to know the environment in these two caves was pretty much destroyed by this, but it’s been done and happened in the 1930s. Did you know there’s a cave in France, Lascaux Caves, that is completely sealed off from people to preserve it’s environment and cave paintings? Marsh and I saw a reproduction of what’s inside at a museum in Chicago once.
I can’t believe a place like this was in my own backyard for years, and I never went to check it out. I’d highly recommend a trip. You could just do a day trip like us, or there is camping available at the park to spend a little more time exploring. Pictures don’t do it justice. How I wish I could have captured that eerie look with that mist! I hope you travel there soon.
Take a look around. What’s in your backyard that you’ve never gone to visit?