By Natalie Maughan
Maquoketa Caves is a vast cavern of nature’s best playground found 40 minutes from Dubuque in eastern Iowa. This place is perfect for young toddlers as well as high school kids. My husband and I recently took our kids to the caves for three days of “spelunking”. We’d never been but it has been near the top of my “to do” list for quite some time now. It was totally worth the drive and we can’t wait to go back again next year.
Maquoketa Caves is a state park with 16 naturally formed caves. There are three main caves that weave together, which you can walk through. They have installed lights throughout the interior for you to see where you’re going but I would still recommend a headlamp or flashlight. Parts of the caves are tall enough for you to stand up; however, you have to hunch over through most of the cave. Don’t let this deter you. It is a phenomenon that you and your kids need to experience.
Once out of the main caves there are numerous smaller caves that you can try to squeeze and crawl your way into. This is where the flashlight comes in handy. My kids loved trying to fit into all the little nooks and crannies they could get their little bodies into.
The area around the caves is beautiful. It’s full of tall trees, streams, large boulders, a “natural bridge”, cliffs and beautiful natural landscape. There is so much area to explore.
You are going to get dirty. The caves are wet which means there is mud. Again, don’t be deterred. This is one of those experiences where you as the parent revert back to childhood and find yourself crawling on your stomach getting covered in dirt all in the name of good quality family bonding time. Wear close-toed shoes; I recommend an old pair of athletic shoes. You can wash them in the washing machine when you get home and they’ll come out pretty clean.
Where to stay
There is a small campground found right in the park; however it will be closed for the summer of 2018 for renovations. There are, however, larger campgrounds within 30 minutes of the area. Any time of year that you go will be beautiful. We went at the end of summer but I think it would be gorgeous to be there during the fall or spring.
I have to say that the most memorable experiences we have as a family are usually those where we don’t spend a lot of money, we do something outdoors, and we simply play together. This is one of those opportunities. Make a family memory that the kids will be begging to do again and again!
10970 98th St
Maquoketa, IA 52060
Have you been to the Maquoketa Caves? We’d love to hear about your family spelunking adventures in Iowa!
Natalie Maughan and her family moved to the Des Moines area a few years ago. She and her husband have three girls and she loves spending time with each one of them. As a family they enjoy playing games together, going camping, being outdoors and discovering new places. She loves Iowa and feels that it is a great place to raise a family.
Featured photo by Natalie Maughan.