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Maquoketa Caves State Park, Iowa

4.8
#3 of 25 in Nature in Iowa
State Park Nature / Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park is a state park of Iowa, US, located in Jackson County. It stands northwest of the city of Maquoketa.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.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
156 reviews
Google
4.8
TripAdvisor
  • For us city folks, we were transported to a wonderland within minutes of entering the forest. Wished I had brought cheaper shoes though. Good, free "nature therapy" for our kids (ages 7-14).  more »
  • This was our first activity on a western adventure road trip and it did not disappoint! We took our three kids (10,8,and 5) to explore the caves. I read other reviews and was so happy to have worn clo...  more »
  • This is a great Park for outdoor activities. Roads are good. Lots of camping spots. The park is best for those that want to explore nature, hike and general enjoy the outdoors. You can remain active h...  more »
Google
  • I love this place. I've been visiting the caves for 30 or so years and now being my kids. It's always free and you can either spend an hour here, or all day. I've never really been in the small caves because I don't like small spaces, but the big open caves are amazing. I really appreciate the concrete walkway and the lighting.
  • The park itself is excellent. The hike and unless you go deep, the caves are easy and kid friendly. As a geology enthusiast I enjoyed seeing various mineral deposits and rock formations ,and stalactites and stalagmites. The part of the park that is not good are some of the visitors. People disrespect that park so much. I was there all day and watched new litter pile up as the day progressed. It is shameful how people behaved. That being said I advise you to go during an off time to avoid crowds of slobs. Also you will want to bring a couple flash lights. Attached image is some of the litter that accumulated within an hour. Bottom line : this is a fun and beautiful place. Please do not ruin it.
  • Exploring the caves is A LOT of fun - it's really amazing this gem is available to the public to explore for free. All but one cave are too small to stand up in (that one cave has a sidewalk and electric lights) but a few of them go back quite far so you really do feel like you're exploring. Unfortunately, the signage is really bad. There are no paper maps and although I took pictures of both maps at the gazebo (which don't quite match each other) they require a great deal of interpretation and trial & error. There are signs in the field pointing the direction of most of the caves (one of the longest caves doesn't have a sign at all), but some of them list names and some of them list numbers. There are no trash cans or maps around the caves, only up the hill where you park. If you intend to go into the caves, you need to know that you will be crawling over rocks and through mud & water. Wear long sleeves (caves are about 50° F year-round) and full length pants, preferably with waterproof boots. More importantly, bring more than one light source and water. You won't get lost in these caves, but you still don't want to get stuck in the dark without a flashlight. Also, know that the cave entrances are down in a valley, so even if you stay on the trails outside you probably won't have cell reception. Remember that after getting covered in mud in these caves you will have to get back in your car - bring some towels or blankets.
  • Went here last fall on vacation. The main cave was great. it was lighted and easy to walk. There was a well maintained path most of the way through and although wet most of the way it was not too bad. There are other caves in the park but they are not as accessible as the main cave. You would have too bring your own lighting and it would require some crawling in most of them. There are plenty of trails to go hiking on also. A great park for a day if you're in the area.
  • Bring mosquito repellent, hiking shoes and a headlight. Then be prepared for a great hiking experience. Naturally beautiful caves to explore. Amazing fun for all.

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