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.
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.
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.
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.
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