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Wade on the Trail with his dog

Kaia, one of LMQC’s outdoor bloggers, looks like she’s had a day’s worth of hiking already when she stops at the famed “land bridge” at Maquoketa Caves State Park. Teri Stickler and Kaia share their report on what they found on the trails and in the caves at one of Iowa’s premier parks earlier this month.

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

An hour north of the Quad Cities is one of our area’s most unique and interesting parks, Maquoketa Caves State Park, located at 9688 Caves Road, Maquoketa.

When the glaciers receded thousands of years ago, they created these caves.

The actual 370-acre park was constructed in the 1930s when the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built a lodge and cave walkways to 13 caves.

It is the perfect place to come hike, crawl, spelunk and explore. The 7 miles of trail intersects pine and thick hardwood forests, offers beautiful overlooks, and includes interesting geologic formations. It’s also a great place to work off calories with miles of hiking and many, many stairs!

Most of the park’s caves are what is referred to as solutional caves, meaning they were formed by underground flowing water that dissolved the lime-rich dolomite. Also called the karst process, this erosion also formed the Natural Bridge found at the park.

As Kaia and I entered the park, we began our hike, taking the main park trail. The trails are open year-round but be aware that because the bats are hibernating in the caves, the caves are closed during the winter and re-open in mid-April.

Kaia and I headed down a deep set of stairs and toward one of the entrances to the park’s largest, 800-foot-long Dancehall Cave. At one time, dances were held in this cave.

We walked the northern section of the trail first. I should warn, although this is a very well designed and maintained trail, as I mentioned, it does include many stairs, so push aside your home stair-stepper and elliptical for the time being because this is the place for a much more rewarding and relatively strenuous workout. I do not know how Kaia’s legs felt the next day, but I do know my calves were aware we had done more than our usual daily routine. Felt good.

We walked the northern section of the trail and were amazed that the stunning Natural Bridge formation that is 50’ above Raccoon Creek ravine. Eventually, we veered off to the upper ridge trail and came back near the shelter where we had parked.

Not ready to quit and after reading the informative and educational stations explaining cave formation and the importance of bats and the bat populations within the park, we took more stairs and headed deep into the ravine once again. This loop featured more caves and a 17-ton rock named Balanced Rock. Eventually, we crossed the creek, looped around, and ended back to where we had started.

Though any time is a good time to come to Maquoketa Caves, I’d suggest trying to go on a weekday or less busy time. This will allow moving at one’s own pace and truly getting to absorb all the beauty, calm, and benefits from just being outside.

This is one exceptional park with plenty to explore and absorb, winter, fall, summer, spring. Also, throughout the warmer seasons, there is an interpretive nature center, picnic areas, and campgrounds.

Check out Teri and Kaia’s pictures from their most recent adventure …

By Teri Stickler and her Samoyed, Kaia

An hour north of the Quad Cities is one of our area’s most unique and interesting parks, Maquoketa Caves State Park, located at 9688 Caves Road, Maquoketa.

When the glaciers receded thousands of years ago, they created these caves.

The actual 370-acre park was constructed in the 1930s when the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built a lodge and cave walkways to 13 caves.

It is the perfect place to come hike, crawl, spelunk and explore. The 7 miles of trail intersects pine and thick hardwood forests, offers beautiful overlooks, and includes interesting geologic formations. It’s also a great place to work off calories with miles of hiking and many, many stairs!

Most of the park’s caves are what is referred to as solutional caves, meaning they were formed by underground flowing water that dissolved the lime-rich dolomite. Also called the karst process, this erosion also formed the Natural Bridge found at the park.

As Kaia and I entered the park, we began our hike, taking the main park trail. The trails are open year-round but be aware that because the bats are hibernating in the caves, the caves are closed during the winter and re-open in mid-April.

Kaia and I headed down a deep set of stairs and toward one of the entrances to the park’s largest, 800-foot-long Dancehall Cave. At one time, dances were held in this cave.

We walked the northern section of the trail first. I should warn, although this is a very well designed and maintained trail, as I mentioned, it does include many stairs, so push aside your home stair-stepper and elliptical for the time being because this is the place for a much more rewarding and relatively strenuous workout. I do not know how Kaia’s legs felt the next day, but I do know my calves were aware we had done more than our usual daily routine. Felt good.

We walked the northern section of the trail and were amazed that the stunning Natural Bridge formation that is 50’ above Raccoon Creek ravine. Eventually, we veered off to the upper ridge trail and came back near the shelter where we had parked.

Not ready to quit and after reading the informative and educational stations explaining cave formation and the importance of bats and the bat populations within the park, we took more stairs and headed deep into the ravine once again. This loop featured more caves and a 17-ton rock named Balanced Rock. Eventually, we crossed the creek, looped around, and ended back to where we had started.

Though any time is a good time to come to Maquoketa Caves, I’d suggest trying to go on a weekday or less busy time. This will allow moving at one’s own pace and truly getting to absorb all the beauty, calm, and benefits from just being outside.

This is one exceptional park with plenty to explore and absorb, winter, fall, summer, spring. Also, throughout the warmer seasons, there is an interpretive nature center, picnic areas, and campgrounds.

Check out Teri and Kaia’s pictures from their most recent adventure …

Teri Stickler

Teri Stickler

Outdoor Blogger and Co-Adventurer

Meet Teri Stickler. Teri is a retired Quad-City teacher. She thoroughly enjoys the out-of-doors, sharing most of her adventures with her Samoyed companion, Kaia.