Backbone State Park in Iowa
Backbone State Park
Backbone State Park, near the towns of Strawberry Point, Dundee, and Lamont in NE Iowa, is Iowa’s oldest state park. It was dedicated in 1919. It is named for the narrow and steep ridge of ancient bedrock, over 400 million years old, that was carved out by the Maquoketa River and divides the park into two regions. It is sometimes called the Devil’s Backbone.
Backbone State Park
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Backbone consists of over 2,000 acres and is heavily wooded, mostly in oaks and maples. It provides a beautiful display of color in autumn. The forest land is home to many species of wildlife including deer, raccoon, fox, turkeys, ruffed grouse and many species of songbirds. There are many varieties of wildflowers to enjoy in the spring including red and yellow Columbines, Wild Ginger, blue Phlox, Jack-in-the-pulpits, Wild Geraniums and carpets of light pink Spring Beauties.
Many outdoor activities await you in this beautiful park. There is camping in either primitive or modern campgrounds. The South Lake campground has 49 electric sites, 49 non-electric sites, two shower buildings, a playground and a dump station. The Six Pine Campground near the west entrance is more primitive with 27 non-electric sites and pit latrines. There are also modern cabins, some of which are open year round.
Backbone has over 20 miles of hiking and multi-use trails. Hikers will walk through distorted cedars and climb steep rocky trails up to the backbone. You may walk along the top of the backbone and see fantastic views of the river valley. Other trails take you around the park where you will walk between the river or lake and the steep limestone cliffs. Some trails are open during the winter months for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. There are designated trails for biking but off trail biking is not allowed.
The Devil's Backbone
Other Outdoor Activities
There is fishing, swimming and boating in Backbone Lake. Some of what you may catch is sunfish, bass or catfish. Only electric boat motors are allowed on the lake. Backbone is also popular for its trout stream which is fed by Richmond Springs. The cold, clear, quick-moving stream is home to both Rainbow and Brown trout. Climbers and rappellers will find many challenging cliffs but the most popular are near the Backbone Trail. All climbers and rappellers must be registered. There are also many areas for picnicking. There are several open shelters which may be reserved. There is a beautiful stone lodge available for rent for weddings or other events. There are fees for the camping sites, cabin rentals, shelters, auditorium and the lodge but there is no admission fee into the park.
CCC in Backbone
Many of the buildings in Backbone State Park were built from 1933 to 1941 by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). The CCC was established in 1931 as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide work for the unemployed during the Great Depression. Projects completed by the CCC in Backbone included the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, the rustic family cabins, the beach and boathouse, an auditorium, bridges, roads, picnic shelters, rest rooms and trails.
Year Round Beauty
Backbone State Park abounds with natural beauty which may be enjoyed throughout the year. Each season brings its own wonders to explore.
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