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Backbone State Park
WATER IS CURRENTLY SHUT OFF AT ALL CAMPGROUNDS FOR SEASON: Water is currently shut off to the campgrounds at Backbone State Park for the season. The sewer dump station is also closed for the season.
Road Resurfacing Project: The 16 cabins, Beach Shelter, and the Beach Lodge will not be accepting reservations from January 1 - October 31, 2021 due to the road resurfacing project that will affect access to those facilities. (Updated September 14, 2020)

Facilities and Activities

2 story cabin at Backbone State Park Picnicking/Shelters/Lodge
Backbone is a beautiful place for a family picnic. Several open shelters and the auditorium may be reserved online through the park reservation system.

Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the stone lodge overlooking the lake may be rented for a number of events including family reunions, weddings and other large gatherings. The lodge may be rented online at park reservation system. Backbone Concessions handles the lodge operation.

If you have questions about the lodge or cabins contact the concessionaire, Kelly Peterman, at 319-361-4794.

The modern two-bedroom cabins and renovated one-bedroom cabins are available and are equipped with heating and air conditioning. The two-bedroom cabins are available year round. Newly renovated one bedroom style cabins are available year round. Renters must provide their own bedding and dinnerware. The cabins can be reserved for a fee online through the park reservation system.

New year-round cabin at Backbone State Park. Inside view.

There are a plethora of camp sites located in two campgrounds. The South Lake Campground contains non-electric sites, electric sites, 2 shower buildings, a playground and a dump station. The Six Pine Campground, near the west entrance of the park, contains non-electric sites and provides pit latrines. Advance campsite reservations can be made through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are still available for self-registration on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Backbone has 21 miles of hiking and multi-use trails. Visitors can hike along trails winding through old twisted and windblown cedars and up rough, rocky staircases to one of the highest points in northeast Iowa, the "Devil's Backbone." During winter, visitors can cross-country ski and snowmobile.

Bicyclists can pedal through scenic splendor and explore the park on these designated trails; Barred Owl, Bluebird, East Lake and West Lake. Mountain bikes must stay on the trails.

Lake Activities (swimming, boating, fishing)
Backbone Lake is an impoundment of the Maquoketa River created by the CCC. Recreation on the lake includes swimming, boating, fishing and a concession stand for refreshments. A boat ramp is located near the southwest end of the lake. Motors are limited to electric only. A boathouse for renting boats, a swimming beach and concession stand are located near the southeast end of the lake. Anglers casting their lines in the lake may catch a variety of fish such as bass and catfish.

Backbone Concession (563-924-2144): Open Friday of Memorial weekend thru Labor Day weekend; 7 days a week; 9:30 AM to 7 PM daily
Hamburgers, hot dogs, fast food, ice cream, ice, candy, pop, beach toys, firewood, bait and boat rentals. Cabin rental, check in for reserved cabins and beach lodge rentals here.

Beach Monitoring Results

Trout Fishing
Backbone is well known for trout fishing in its cold, clear, quick-flowing stream. Richmond Springs, the source that feeds the stream, pumps out over 2,000 gallons per minute and is located near the north end of the park. Anglers can explore the stream through a variety of shady and easy accessible trails.  A 600 foot ADA concrete sidewalk and concrete ADA parking lot along the trout stream provides easy accessibility to the stream and for fishing.

Climbers and rappellers will find many challenging cliffs of rugged dolomite limestone throughout the park. The most popular rock escarpments to climb are located near the Backbone Trail. Climbers and rappellers must register at the park office.

Backbone State Park was dedicated in 1920. It was Iowa's first state park and remains one of the most significant. Backbone is named for its narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River. Folklore named this high ridge of rock the "Devil's Backbone". Nearly a hundred years ago, State Geologist Samuel Calvin wrote these words about "The Backbone":

"Its sides are in places precipitous, the rocky cliffs rising sheer for more than 80 feet. Erosion and secular decay have carved the rocks into picturesque columns, towers, castles, battlements and flying buttresses. "

Backbone consists of 2,001 acres and is heavily wooded with a variety of tree species, predominantly oak and maple. This woodland serves as a valuable refuge for a variety of wildlife including deer, raccoon, fox, turkeys, ruffed grouse and many species of songbirds.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in April, 1933 as part of the New Deal program of President Roosevelt as an effort to provide work for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. Many of Backbone's buildings were constructed by the CCC from 1933 to 1941. Among the projects completed at Backbone were the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, a cluster of rustic family cabins, beach and boat house, an auditorium, bridges, roads, picnic shelters, rest rooms and trails. Some of these structures are currently being restored and the effort is continuing.

Iowa Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
The Iowa Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum opened in 1990 and is located just within the park's west gate. It provides visitors with an interesting and informative look at the work of the CCC in Iowa state parks. Backbone was the site of 2 CCC camps and contains many buildings and structures built by the CCC. The museum is open Tuesday - Saturday 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM and by special arrangement through the park office.

Nearby Towns
Backbone State Park is located 3 miles south of Strawberry Point in northwestern Delaware County. Dundee lies one mile to the south and Lamont 5 miles to the west.


Nearby Lakes

Richmond Springs
Backbone Lake
Joy Springs
Quaker Mills Impoundment
Bear Creek


Within park
Bait, Beach, Bird Watching, Boat Launch Ramp, Boat Rental, Boating, Cabins, Camping - Electric, Camping - Nonelectric, Camping - Youth Group, Canoe Rental, Canoeing, Cave, Exploring, Concession, Cross Country Skiing, Day-use Lodge, Dump Station, Firewood Sales, Fishing, Geological Formations, Hiking, Hunting, Interpretive Programs, Kayak Rental, Kayaking, Modern Cabins, Modern Campground, Museum, Non-modern Campground, Paddle Boat Rental, Park Lake, Picnic Area, Picnic Shelter, Pier, Fishing, Playground, Restrooms, River, Rock Climbing, Showers, Snowmobiling, Swimming - Beach, Trails, Bicycle, Trails, Cross Country Skiing, Trails, Equestrian, Trails, Hiking, Trails, Mountain Bike, Trails, Snowmobile, Viewing Platform/Overlook, Wildflower Viewing, Wildlife Viewing

Less than a mile
Seasonal Festivals

More than a mile
Area Attraction, ATM/Cash Machine, Church, Fuel, Vehicles, Golf, Grocery Store, Hospital, Medical Clinic, Motel, Nature Center, Scenic Driving Routes, Shopping