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8 hidden surprises at Maquoketa Caves

Maquoketa Caves State Park may be known for its caves and gorgeous scenery, but do you know about these “hidden surprises” suggested by park staff? You’ll want to pack your camera!

The caves may get top billing, but the most unique feature of the park towers about 50 feet over Raccoon Creek. 7 other hidden surprises at Maquoketa Caves State Park  |  Iowa DNRNatural Bridge The caves may get top billing, but the most unique feature of the park towers about 50 feet over Raccoon Creek. “Words can’t describe it,” says Ryland Richards, Natural Resources Technician at the park. “You must see it in person.”

Balanced Rock You don’t have to head out west to see a 17-ton rock defying gravity! Maquoketa’s rock perches on a small pedestal along the trail.

Dancehall Cave The classic cave experience at the park, Dancehall Cave reaches more than 1,000 feet and has a sidewalk and new LED lights. It’s easy to explore the multiple caves inside Dancehall without having to get crawl or get dirty.

If you’re planning on exploring the park’s caves (the most caves than any other state park in Iowa), you’ll need a short guided tour first from a park interpreter on the White Nose Syndrome Awareness Program. The training program, required for anyone entering a cave, helps prevent the human spread of White Nose Syndrome, a disease that affects bats.

Natural Springs Go ahead, chase some waterfalls. Two of the park’s caves have natural springs flowing out of them – and at one of them, you can even hear a waterfall behind the rock.

Maquoketa Legend has it that “Maquoketa,” supposedly derived from local Native American peoples who called the area “Maquaweutaw,” translates roughly to “Bear River.” The only area in the world to use the name “Maquoketa,” you may no longer see bears here, but you’ll likely see a bat or two!

Visitor Center Learn about the geology of cave formations, park history, and those who called the area home long before there was a park at the interpretive center in the former Sager's Museum building. It also contains a video tour for those who can’t easily traverse the park’s often rugged terrain. Open on summer weekends and by special arrangement with the park office.

Historic structures The park is steeped in history, both natural and structural. The first land for the park was purchased in 1921, with many of the park facilities constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs. Their work included the stone lodge, Dancehall Cave walkway system, stone picnic circle and several hexagonal picnic shelters along the trail. A recent major renovation effort updated and modernized the historic park facilities.

And all the ones we’re not telling you about There are so many more hidden features within this park, you really have to spend a day exploring to see how many you can find!

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