Calling all fans of spelunking!
This week, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced the public will soon be able to fully explore Maquoketa Caves State Park.
They say caves in Maquoketa will reopen to the public on Thursday, April 15.
According to the Iowa DNR, the park’s caves have been closed for more than a year due to the pandemic and winter bat hibernation.
Parts of the park were also temporarily closed last August following the derecho.
“Located in eastern Iowa’s Jackson County, Maquoketa Caves State Park is one of Iowa’s most popular outdoor destinations, with the largest cave system in the state, gorgeous scenery and unique geological formations drawing thousands of visitors each year,” said the Iowa DNR in a news release.
Due to the park’s popularity and expected high crowds in the 2021 travel season, the Iowa DNR provided some tips and suggestions for those planning a trip out to the caves:
- Parking is limited. With less than 150 parking spots and as many as 1,500 people coming to the park on a summer weekend day, park staff recommend visiting mid-week or avoiding the peak window of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Parking will only be allowed in designated spots for the safety of visitors and to protect natural areas. If parking spots are not available, please come back at a later time.
- Same-day camping is now an option. Campers to Maquoketa Caves can now reserve as late as the day they plan to visit, with 100% of campsites reservable. The campground was recently renovated to offer more modern amenities. Find links for camping reservations here.
- Learn from interpreters. In summer months, naturalists offer programming on a variety of outdoor topics. Prior to entering the caves, plan on attending a short, required program about White Nosed Bat Syndrome and how you can prevent its spread.
- In the time of COVID-19, be ready for enclosed stairways and boardwalks. Exploring Maquoketa Caves involves boardwalk system with enclosed railings in some places, along with several staircases and limited walkways. Please be mindful of other visitors by keeping social distances as much as possible. Wash your hands and stay home if you are sick.
- Explore the stars of the show. The main draws to Maquoketa Caves are its natural features and caves, including these highlights:
- The Natural Bridge, a towering arch 50 feet above Raccoon Creek
- Balanced Rock, a 17-ton rock formation that defies gravity
- Dancehall Cave, the largest cave in Iowa’s park system reaching more than 1,000 feet in length with a sidewalk and LED lights
- Several unique caves and scenic views on the park’s six-mile-long trail system
- Make the most of your trip. If the caves are busy, you can also visit a few nearby attractions to fully enjoy your trip:
- Explore the charming town of Maquoketa or learn about nature at Jackson County’s Hurstville Interpretive Center
- Three other state parks are within a 30 to 45-minute drive:
Find maps, directions, amenities, reservation links and more information about Maquoketa Caves State Park here.