Parks Caves Geocaches Climbing Water Bike-Trails

Cool Parks to Explore

Backbone State Park
located in Strawberry Point. Forests, cliffs, streams, a cave.

Wildcat Den State Park
located in Muscatine. This has gullies, cliffs

Brush Creek Canyon State Park
located in Arlington

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Backbone State Park

Bat cave at Backbone State Park

Caves

(NOTE: Take precautions to avoid spreading White Nose.)

Although the natural history of Iowa doesn't lend itself to the spectacular caves found in other parts of the United States, people still have a number of opportunities to see the state's underground splendors.

Public caves with access to amateur explorers dot Northeast Iowa. And for those who aren't eager to get muddy, there are two privately owned show caves complete with guided tours. There are also a few expansive and protected caves under the state. Such places -- the largest of which is Cold Water Cave with 15 miles of known passages -- are sealed to all but expert spelunkers. More on NE Iowa caves here.

Maquoketa Caves State Park. This is a string of sacrificial caves that are great for the average "flashlight caver." There is good range of difficulty. The best, deepest is the Wye Cave, although it has been removed from some of the park maps. You will need a good flashlight, a backup flashlight, spare batteries. Dress as if someone will dump a bucket of mud on you. And bring a change of clothes for when you're done. Here's our travelogue on the park.

Dutton's Cave County Park, West Union. This one has big entrance and a few nice caverns just inside. It apparently goes back for a ways, but we didn't get too far.

Spook Cave, McGregor. This is a show cave complete with tours. We haven't been there yet.

Crystal Lake Cave, Dubuque. Another show cave with guided tours. We've been there a few times. Well worth admission.

Bat Cave, Backbone State Park.

Wildcat Cave, Eldora. This is hard to find. We were about to give up when we stumbled across it. Here's our report.

Our cave gallery

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Geocaches

Get a handheld GPS device and head into the country in search of treasure. Details at Geocaching.com

Here's a list of some of the best caches in the area:

Maltese Goldfinch (Re-resurrected), by Wulfgar -- Oldest in Iowa, in one of NE Iowa's best parks. This cache is one that requires some hiking and bushwacking. It goes into a little-used area of the park, but it's worth it.

Skywatcher Gorge, by Solozen -- . Again, this one takes some time and effort. We lost and found the trail a few times (it was snowing and raining). The reward is a collection of cliffs and a neat stream.

Jon's Jammin Geo Cache, by Jon -- Cool park in the middle of nowhere. This is next to a welcome center, and it's a good cache for kids. The hike isn't too bad, and there's a zoo for when your're done.

Lions and Eagles and Bears, by Heiple and GeoHunter20 -- Another good family cache. The find isn't too hard, and there's a zoo, lake, playground and picinic area.

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West bluff at Devil's Lake

Julie on top of the west bluff at Devil's Lake

Climbing

Backbone State Park, Strawberry Point.

Mississippi Palisades, Savanna, IL. Not in Iowa, but close enough to it. Great views for the nonclimbers, and some good climbs as well. We rigged a top rope out hear once and had a blast.

Indoor climbing. University of Northern Iowa

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Water

Cedar River at Cedar Falls. Some of my friends love kayaking below the dam in Cedar Falls. There are plans to get a kayaking course here, but that seems to be years away. Here's a link to a video promoting the project.

Devil's Lake State Park, Baraboo, Wis. Again, this isn't in Iowa, but it's close enough. It's a freshwater lake created by a crater. This is probably the best place in the area to go snorkeling and scuba diving. It also has great hiking trails and rock climbing. If the park campground is full, it's easy to find a spot at a nearby private campground and ride in on a bike or walk.

Charles City, Iowa. Praire Rapids Paddlers set up a whitewater course in downtown Charles City.

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Bike Trails

under construction

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