Caves may not be the first thing that come to mind when you think of Iowa. However, the state has several interesting caves and cave systems. Whether you are looking for a laidback cruise through an underwater cave where the boat does all of the work, or a true spelunking challenge for an experienced caver, Iowa's caves have something to offer everyone. The caves can also be a great way to cool off on a warm summer day as most of them are pleasantly chilly inside. Several of the caves even have ice formations for much of the year, which is quite a neat thing to experience. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Bixby State Preserve

Bixby State Preserve
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Bixby State Preserve is a nature preserve in northeastern Iowa. It is a quiet, wooded park with creeks, rivers, and bluffs accessed by a system of hiking trails. Activities in the park include fishing, hiking, boating, walking the trails, and watching the beautiful sunset. The preserve is most well known for the ice cave near the park entrance. The cave was discovered by miners who were digging for lead in the area. The cave has a large amount of ice inside, although the total amount is actually unknown. The cool air from the cave is especially nice on a hot summer’s day.

Edgewood, IA 52042

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2.Cold Water Spring State Preserve

Cold Water Spring State Preserve
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Cold Water Spring State Preserve is a 60-acre nature preserve in Winneshiek County. The preserve contains and protects a spring that flows out of Cold Water Cave. The cave is an extensive cave system with approximately 16 miles of passages, making it the state’s most elaborate cave system. The cave is accessed by a man-made entrance comprised of a metal ladder that travels some 100 feet down into a dark tube. Once underground, there are no lights and conditions can get quite wet and slippery. Therefore, this cave is not the type visited by the casual tourist and only skilled and experienced spelunkers should attempt it.

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3.Crystal Lake Cave

Crystal Lake Cave
© Crystal Lake Cave

Crystal Lake Cave was discovered by miners in 1868 when they were looking for lead near Dubuque, and the cave was eventually opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 1932. Visitors to the cave can participate in a guided tour that takes 30-45 minutes. The temperature inside the cave is always a cool 52°F and the cave itself has many interesting mineral formations, including helictites, stalagmites, rare anthodites, and more. For kids, the Gem Mining Sluice offers a fun chance for young visitors to learn about mining. There is an onsite gift shop and outdoor pavilion, which is great for picnics.

6684 Crystal Lake Cave Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003, Phone: 563-556-6451

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4.Grotto of the Redemption

Grotto of the Redemption
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Grotto of the Redemption is an interesting Roman Catholic religious shrine in West Bend. The structure is the life work of Catholic priest Father Paul Dobberstein. Over his lifetime he collected many stones and rocks during his travels and used them to build the shrine you see today. It is one of the largest grottos in the world. There are actually nine separate, man-made grottos, each representing a different scene from the life of Jesus Christ. The walls are embedded with stunning semi-precious stones, such as agates, crystals, rose quartz, petrified wood and even stalagmites that were taken from Carlsbad Caverns.

300 N Broadway Ave, West Bend, IA 50597, Phone: 515-887-2371

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5.Ice Cave

Ice Cave
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Ice Cave State Preserve in Deborah is famous because it features rare ice deposits until late into the summer. It is one of the largest ice caves in the Midwest. The ice in the cave is formed in the winter, when cold air lowers the temperature of the rocks inside the cave. When surface water trickles down from the surface in the spring, it freezes when it comes into contact with the cold rocks, forming a layer of ice on the cave walls. The ice begins to form in January or February and is at its thickest in June. It typically remains until late into August.

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6.Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park
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Most likely the most unique state park in Iowa, Maquoketa Caves State Park features a range of caves, including the large, 1,100-foot Dancehall Cave, which is the longest public, wild cave in Iowa and has lights and walkways. Smaller caves in the park include the Bat Passage and Dugout Cave. Visitors should bring along lights for exploring the small caves. There is a well-developed trail system that links the caves, overlooks, and dramatic rock formations such as “Balanced Rock” and “Natural Bridge.” The park’s 13 caves were used by Native Americans in the past and also became a popular picnicking spot for early settlers. Today you can still see evidence of early visitors and souvenir gatherers, who took many of the cave’s stalactites. More Things to Do in Iowa

10970 98th St, Maquoketa, IA 52060, Phone: 563-652-5833

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7.Spook Cave

Spook Cave
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Spook Cave got its interesting name when a group of early settlers heard odd sounds coming from a spring near the bottom of a bluff. So, they named it Spook Hole. Later on, a resident discovered that the sound was made by flowing water. The cave was opened for tourists in 1955 and featured the only underground boat tour in Iowa. The cave is a rock tube, elliptical in shape, with low ceilings in some places. The cave still has an underground boat tour to this day. The boat travels into the base of the 90-foot bluff. During the trip, a guide tells the story of the cave’s discovery and development and points out natural features inside the cave.

13299 Spook Cave Road, McGregor, IA 52157, Phone: 563-873-2144

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8.Wapsipinicon State Park Caves

Wapsipinicon State Park Caves
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Wapsipnicon State Park is a 394-acre state park that is mostly comprised of the sandstone and limestone bluffs that flank the Wapsipnicon River, which is the park’s namesake. The park is one of the oldest state parks in the state. Activities include biking, hiking, fishing, boating, camping, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. There are a couple of caves to explore in the park, including an ice cave. The bowl-shaped Horse Thief Cave is a must-see. Locals say that the cave was once used as a camp for horse thieves, which is how it got its name. The park’s caves can be accessed via a well-developed, multi-use trail system.

21301 Co Rd E34, Anamosa, IA 52205, Phone: 319-462-2761

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8 Best Caves in Iowa



More Ideas in Iowa: The Raj, an Ayurveda Health Spa in Iowa

The Raj is a premier Ayurveda Health Center set in the heart of Iowa that was built to offer traditional Ayurveda rejuvenation treatments. Established in 1993 and surrounded by 100 acres of verdant meadows and shady woodlands, the French country-style facility encompasses 36,000 square feet and is the only such facility outside of India to offer these treatments.

The Raj offers a variety of treatment programs designed to help restore balance and reawaken the body’s natural healing mechanisms, along with health and well-being workshops that focus on shifts in diet, exercise, and daily and seasonal routines.

The Raj Restaurant serves a menu of organic, vegetarian meals, which are organic, low fat and specifically designed to support the treatment program. The Raj follows a tradition of family-style meals where guests have the option of joining other guests for meals at a large table or can sit at a private table. The Raj Restaurant serves a delicious buffet on Sundays which is open to the public. The buffet is served in the main dining room of the center, and large groups need to be booked in advance.

The Raj encompasses 36,000 square feet that includes meditation hall and meeting rooms, an onsite Day Spa that offers a range of Ayurvedic and spa treatments, comfortable accommodations for overnight guests, and the Raj Restaurant, which serves organic, vegetarian cuisine.

The Raj’s Day Spa offers a ‘Taste of The Raj’ program that involves a one or two-day spa program tailor made to suit specific needs. Guests on the ‘Taste of The Raj’ program enjoy special room rates for one or two nights, a choice of á la carte Maharishi Rejuvenation treatments and a wellness consultation with a Raj Ayurveda health coach. The Taste of The Raj program offers an array of treatments, including Abhyanga, Shirodhara, Abhyanga – Shirodhara, Anti-Stress Massage, and 10-step Facial Therapy.

The Raj offers a range of profound treatment programs that focus on the restoration of balance within the body and the reawakening of the body’s natural healing mechanisms. These programs form part of an overall approach creating and maintaining health and gaining a deeper understanding how the various aspects of life contribute either positively or negatively to one’s overall well-being.

1734 Jasmine Ave, Fairfield, IA 52556, Phone: 641-472-9580

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More Ideas in Iowa: Adventureland Resort

Located in Altoona, Iowa (east of Des Moines), Adventureland Resort is now the largest tourist attraction in the state. Featuring over 100 different attractions, rides and shows, it offers something for everyone no matter their age or adventure level. After a tornado delayed the original opening day of Adventureland Resort, it was finally able to open in August of 1974. The first full season, however, wasn’t until 1975.

History

Built on the Des Moines Airport grounds where Charles Lindbergh once landed, Adventureland Resort has grown substantially from a handful of rides (including an original ride from the World’s Fair in Spokane - the Skyride) to a 180 acre full resort with plentiful food options, many fun games, an inn and a waterpark. Owned and operated by the Krantz family (longtime CEO Jan Krantz passed away in 2013), this resort has also featured one of the top 10 wooden roller coasters in the world (the ironically named Tornado). Another major part of Adventureland Resort’s history is their mascot, Bernie Bernard. This saint bernard greets guests and helps find them find their way through the park as he is on the resort’s maps and signs.

Permanent Attractions

Adventureland Resort features permanent attractions in four categories : Adventure Bay, Family Rides, Kiddie Rides and Thrill Rides.

Adventure Bay: Adventure Bay is the water park section of the resort and it truly has something for everyone. For the thrill seekers, there are the Bermuda Quadrangle, the Gang Plank, the Pirate Plummet, the Reef Racer and the Typhoon water slides, each adrenaline inducing in their own way! For those who like to relax, Adventure Bay features the Caribbean Cruiser (their lazy river) and the Pirates’ Port Pool. For the family, there is Kokomo Kove and Heron Harbor, both very child friendly. Breaker Beach Wavepool is also a favorite attraction that everyone can enjoy!

Family Rides: There are a large selection of rides for the whole family to enjoy at Adventureland Resort. The A-Train, the Giant Sky Wheel and the Sky Ride are transportation based for those looking for a calm ride with the whole family, while the Raging River and Saw Mill Splash are water based and more thrilling rides. Somewhere in the middle are Balloon Race, Carousel, Der Flinger, Frantic Freeway (bumper cars), G-Force, Galleon, Lady Luck, Lighthouse, Teacups, Tilt-A-Whirl and the Underground (a haunted attraction).

Kiddie Rides: For families with smaller children, Adventureland Resort has a wide variety of kiddie ride options. There is the Chuckwagon, Convoy, Frog Hopper, Hampton Cars, Infant Ocean, Lady Bugs, Puff Dragons and Red Barons, all great options to let the kids have just as much fun as the adults.

Thrill Rides: One of the biggest attractions for adrenaline junkies, there are plenty of rides for every taste at the resort. For those wanting traditional roller coasters, there is Dragon, The Monster, Outlaw and Tornado. For non-roller coaster enthusiasts, there is the Falling Star, Himalaya, Sidewinder, Space Shot, Splash Over and The Storm Chaser. All are guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping!

Special Events

Adventureland Resort likes to keep it fun and exciting! Recently, the resort started an annual Oktoberfest event. This one- day event offers beer, multiple food vendors and access to a limited number of rides for an additional charge. They also offer fireworks during 4th of July, military promotions for Memorial Day, “dry” days (no beer is sold in the park) in conjunction with the local D.A.R.E. programs, and arts and craft fairs on Main Street during the off season. Local school bands are also invited to play in the park the first few weekends of the open season. Besides the special events, the 25,000 square foot facilities are also available to rent out for conferences, group events, receptions, reunions, and weddings, complete with optional catering and access to their staff. Guests can also reserve picnic space at any of the resort’s five parks, which is a great outside area to host large gatherings and family reunions.

Dining and Shopping

There are plentiful dining options while at Adventureland Resort, including many food stands and full restaurants in different styles and cuisines. Visitors are also able to purchase alcohol on premises. No outside food is allowed inside the park; however, guests may bring in bottled water or sports drinks. No soda or energy drinks are allowed in. There are also areas to picnic outside of the main gates.

There are also a few gift shops to visit while at the park, where guests can purchase clothing, toys and pictures to remember the visit.

3200 Adventureland Drive, Altoona, IA, 50009, Phone: 515-265-7321

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More Ideas in Iowa: Mines of Spain Recreation Area

For visitors who love the outdoors, the Mines of Spain is an oasis in the middle of Iowa. With hiking trails, hunting, kayaking and unique wildlife, spending a day here can breathe some calm back into even the most stressed out soul. Originally founded by the Mesquakie tribe and purchased by Spain, Julien Dubuque received the first land grant for the area and developed it under the name Mines of Spain after marrying the Mesquakie chief’s daughter.

History

When he died, he was buried with honors by the tribe and a statue honoring him was eventually constructed on the land. Starting from 189 acres, the recreational area now spans almost 1,400 acres and is a national historic landmark in Iowa.

Permanent Attractions

E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center - Working as the visitor and information center of the park, the Center passes along information on the history of the park as well as what to expect from the park (and what not to miss). While gathering information, patrons may experience Bird and Butterfly Garden, named after Betty Hauptli and Junkermann Farms.

Hiking trails - The largest attraction at the Mines of Spain recreation area, there are 12 miles of maintained cross country skiing and hiking trails to be explored. Each trail offers something different - some are challenging, some are nature walks, and others take visitors through old logging roads and lead to scenic views.

Horseshoe Bluff Interpretive Area - Named “Horseshoe Bluff” due to the horseshoe shape of the quarry, it also features a wetland spanning 15 miles that offer two different “floating” trail blinds. There are signs posted to make sure visitors can identify the many different geological, historical and resource areas.

Hunting - Under Wildlife Management, trapping and hunting is allowed in all seasons at the Mines of Spain, under certain conditions. Deer hunting season is broken up by type - there are archery and very limited shotgun (no other types of guns are allowed in the park) dates. All deer killed need to be reported to the main office. There are also dates for spring turkey hunting, mostly bow only. Hunters should avoid the main trails, wear blaze (bright) orange and use only temporary blinds and stands. Hunting hours start 30 minutes before sunrise and end 30 minutes after sunset.

Rare species of wildlife - Majestic bald eagles, bobcats, flying squirrels and red-shouldered hawks can be seen making their homes at the Mines of Spain recreation area. Get more information about them at the E. B. Lyons Interpretive Center and keep an eye out while wander through the hiking trails! There is also many more common wildlife to see as well - deer, many different songbirds and the usual small mammals like squirrel, raccoons and rabbits.

Educational Opportunities

With close to 1,500 acres waiting to be explored, a variety of field trip opportunities are available for curious students. All year, hour-long field trips are offered for students from pre-K to 6th grade. Starting with an introduction at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center then ending with a guided hike, this is a great field trip for students who love to be outdoors. These are also offered as “seasonal” programs that focus on the changing animal and plant life per season. For the slightly older students (from 2nd to 6th grade), field trips can be extended to two hours.

Field trips should be scheduled more than a month ahead of time by calling the main office (see phone number below). Make sure to have the program topic as well as desired date/time, all contact information, grade level of students (as well as expected number and how many adults will be accompanying them). The Mines of Spain cannot host more than 40 students for the hour programs, however, larger groups may be able to be accommodated with advance notice. It is recommended to have at least 1 adult for every 8 students.

Dining

Although traditional dining is not available, picnicking is welcome in the park! Guests are encouraged to have larger gatherings at the Mines of Spain recreation area as well, as long as they follow the park’s “no trace” rules - nothing can be left behind. Facilities are located at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, the Horseshoe Bluff Interpretive Area and the Julien Dubuque Monument.

Highway 52 South/Highway 61/151, Dubuque, IA, 52003, Phone: 563-556-0620

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