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About 30 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa, and 40 minutes north of Davenport, Iowa, is a true gem: Maquoketa Caves. When the kids and I went camping in Eastern Iowa during the tail end of my vacation, it was our first destination. So, the morning after setting up camp we made the drive.
Maquoketa Caves is an Iowa State Park so is free to visit, as are all Iowa State Parks.
From the parking lot, we took the right-side trail north of the parking lot so we could encounter the caves in order.
After making our way down, we made it to Widemouth Cave. A set of wooden stairs leads up to it from the trail.
My daughter's cell phone flashlight illuminates the inside of the cave.
After a brief stop, we continued on...
to Dug Out Cave.
The caves after this point were further up the cliff face so a boardwalk becomes the trail to see the caves, although the regular trail is down below if you don't care about seeing the caves.
Here we are entering Twin Arch Cave.
Cave #5 sign.
The cave after this, Window Cave, is a hole in the wall and then straight down which means my photos of it don't really show what it looks like, unfortunately.
We continued on to the Natural Bridge - about the third such one I've seen over the years. While not a true cave, it is cave-like and incredibly impressive...as you shall see.
Making our way under the "bridge".
After you come out from under the bridge, you can take a side trail to Caves #7 and #8 but something really cool prevented us from taking the trail. See that cave wall in the background? Follow me.
Looking back at the Natural Bridge.
My son was already moving towards the cave wall.
My daughter joined him. It was a hot and muggy day and you could see the humidity layer behind the kids as we moved into cooler climes. At this point, all the other people continued back up towards the other trails. They must not have thought there was much to see beyond this...but they were wrong.
As you climb down, you can see that little opening that my daughter is in. We thought we'd go down in there and just look since it had a light in it.
Much to our surprise, you can scrunch down and walk through that short section where it opens up into this! We decided, of course, to continue down this walkway.
It continues on and on, with lights installed above so people can walk through. At this point, we were somewhere under the parking lot where our car was.
Eventually, the cave began to open up more and we could see the exit out in the distance.
Looking back from whence we had been.
Looking up the staircase out to the opposite side of the park from where we entered. To the left, you can see more walking trail underneath more of the cave, so that's where we went.
All good things come to an end, though. See how large the space to the right is?
There, now you can see just how massive that is. Those are my kids back there.
We got back on the boardwalk heading towards Balanced Rock.
And there it is: Balanced Rock.
A view down from Balanced Rock shows where we came up from. This trail led us back to where we had parked, so we ate our picnic lunch before we left the park.
Taking the park road back out to the main road, we decided to stop at the winery we saw on our way in: Iowa Grape Vines Winery. It also so happens to be on the Iowa Wine Passport.
The owner, Mary, was very friendly. Besides wine, they have craft root beer, slushies, and some other homemade goodies.
After a glass of wine for my son and me and a glass of root beer for my daughter, we headed to another winery that was on our way back to camp: Wide River Winery - also on the Iowa Wine Passport.
All I can say about this winery is, "Wow!" Not only are their wines spectacular, but the views are as well. The winery takes its name from the fact that it overlooks the widest part of the Mississippi River.
So, of course, we decided to enjoy our wines on the expansive deck with the view.
Without a doubt, this was probably our favorite day of the trip. Maquoketa Caves truly is an amazing place in Iowa and a place I'd highly recommend you visit should you ever get the chance. And, if you like libations, you can't beat a fantastic glass of wine in a gorgeous setting.
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I'll be back (eventually) with the next installment of my summer vacation. Until then, my friends.