The caves at the 370-acre Maquoketa Caves State Park will reopen to the public after bat hibernation season ends on April 15. The caves are closed annually from Oct. 15 to April 15 to protect hibernating bats.

Combined with bat hibernation and the COVID-19 pandemic, the caves have been closed for over one year.

Maquoketa Caves State Park is located in eastern Iowa’s Jackson County, and features the largest cave system in the entire state. 13 caves can be found in the park. The largest, ‘Dancehall Cave,’ is approximately 800 feet long.

But if you plan on hiking the caves this year, it's best to plan ahead. The Iowa DNR says that because of the park’s popularity and expected high crowds this spring and summer, it could become very congested, so they posted some tips if you plan on visiting:

  • Parking is limited. With less than 150 parking spots and as many as 1,500 people coming to the park on a summer weekend day, park staff recommend visiting mid-week or avoiding the peak window of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Parking will only be allowed in designated spots for the safety of visitors and to protect natural areas. If parking spots are not available, please come back at a later time.
  • Learn from interpreters. In summer months, naturalists offer programming on a variety of outdoor topics. If entering the caves, upon your arrival plan on attending a short, required program about White Nosed Bat Syndrome and how you can prevent its spread.
  • In the time of COVID, be ready for enclosed stairways and boardwalks. Exploring Maquoketa Caves involves a boardwalk system with enclosed railings in some places, along with several staircases and limited walkways. Please be mindful of other visitors by keeping social distances as much as possible. Wash your hands and stay home if you are sick.
  • Explore the stars of the show. The main draws to Maquoketa Caves are its natural features and caves. Highlights include the Natural Bridge, a towering arch 50 feet above Raccoon Creek; Balanced Rock, a 17-ton rock formation that defies gravity; and Dancehall Cave; the largest cave in Iowa’s park system, reaching more than 1,000 feet in length with a sidewalk and LED lights. Plus visit several unique caves and scenic views on the park’s six-mile-long trail system.
  • Make the most of your trip.If the caves are busy, you can also visit a few nearby attractions to fully enjoy your trip. Explore the charming town of Maquoketa, or learn about nature at Jackson County’s Hurstville Interpretive Center. Three other state parks are within a 30-45 minute drive: Bellevue State Park offers breathtaking views of the Mississippi River; Mines of Spain State Recreation Area features historic sites and hiking; and Wapsipinicon State Park near Anamosa, showcases the historic 1800s-era Hale Bridge and walking path.

 

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