Friday, July 31, 2009

Iowa's Best: Maquoketa Caves State Park

Contrary to common opinion 42N country is rich in diverse topography. Nestled off the rolling prairie is Iowa's best known cave park - Maquoketa Caves State Park. The park (latitude 42.11N, longitude 90.78W) was established in the 1920s and took shape as a modern managed property with construction from the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) and the Workers Progress Administration (WPA) projects. These Depression-era entities helped to construct stone walkways and picnic shelters within the park.

In 2009 the park is in good shape with improved walkways within the caves, updated picnic shelters, and working lighting systems in the large cave - minimizing the need for flashlights. The latest addition to the park is an outdoor shower area for cavers to hose off mud from a day of exploration. Today two park rangers escorted a group of hard hat wearing children to one of the caves within the cave where they disappeared into the wall after a short climb. Kids love it of course.

One of the big lures of the caves is the natural air conditioning offered in the summer time. Walk through the large caves and be prepared to see your breath. Enter the creek if you dare but be prepared not to feel your feet after the numbing cold sets in. The park is a good alternative to the peak of summer heat. In the winter time the main cave is closed for hibernating bats but the smaller caves remain open. Check out Cave #1 in the winter for ice formations that resemble stalactite and stalagmite formations. Know that.

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