Iowa Caves

Below the surface, there's amazing world waiting to be discovered as you explore caves in Iowa. Underground wonders such as the Maquoketa Caves in Iowa, Crystal Lake Cave in Iowa, and others, carved over the vast span of years, preserve a world like nothing found above ground. Stalagmites, soda straws, deep caverns, underground lakes, unfamiliar animals, and rainbows of color are just some of the sites that visitors can see. Both amateur cavers and seasoned spelunkers will find that adding a cave visit to their Iowa vacations is an interesting choice well worth the time.

Dubuque, perched alongside the Mississippi River, features a fascinating array of attractions and natural wonders, including Crystal Lake Cave in Iowa. Discovered by miners looking for lead, this amazing cave is open for tours May through October. Experienced guides lead visitors through this underground world. As with other Iowa caves, it's a living place of color and slowly changing rock formations. The old-time miners found an array of gemstones buried at Crystal Lake Cave in Iowa. Today's visitors can visit the gift shop to purchase colorful gems here at this site, which is just one of the interesting caves in Iowa that welcome visitors.

Iowa Caves
Iowa Caves

A few hours south of Dubuque, spelunkers will find another one of the Iowa caves, Starr's Cave Park and Preserve in Burlington. The limestone bluffs, made up of ancient sea shells, have been shaped over time into an array of caves and interesting shapes, including the Starr's Cave Rock Formation, accessible by a bridge spanning Flint Creek. Thirty feet of the cave is accessible on foot, and another 100 yards make up a crawling cave.

Throughout the year, the cave is home to brown bats, and it's closed in the winter when even more species of bats wait out the bad weather. The other two caves, Devil's Kitchen and Crinoid Cavern, are accessible to adventurous visitors during the warmer months of the year. The above-ground trails are popular places for hiking, admiring the varying landscapes, and watching for wildlife.

Iowa visitors also can discover a rich history when they explore the Decorah Ice Cave in the northeastern corner of the state. One of the Iowa caves, the location is icy no matter what the season. Just a short distance from the stunning Dunnings Springs waterfall, the ice cave is one of the sights to savor and is also one of the best places to find great hiking in Iowa.

Another one of the subterranean caves in Iowa is part of the states park system that watches land primed for hiking, cabin rentals, camping, and enjoying the great outdoors. At Maquoketa Caves in Iowa, visitors can see one of the most extensive systems of caves, limestone formations, and bluffs found anywhere in the state. Visitors can peer deep into Iowa's history as they explore. The expansive Dancehall Cave is one of the most friendly to visit, while others are best left to the most adventurous who've made the trek . At the visitor center, exhibits and film detail the amazing geology and history of Maquoketa Caves. Those unsure about the rugged terrain can take a video tour of the park. Other amenities found at Maquoketa Caves in Iowa include camping, hiking trails, and picnic shelters.

Top image: Phil Roeder (flickr)

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