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Backbone State Park in Iowa

Updated on September 21, 2010

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.

Maquoketa River.  Author photo.
Maquoketa River. Author photo.
Maquoketa River valley.  Author photo.
Maquoketa River valley. Author photo.

Backbone State Park

A
1282 120th St Dundee Iowa:
1282 120th St, Dundee, IA 52038, USA

get directions

Beautiful Forest

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.

On the Backbone Trail. Author photo
On the Backbone Trail. Author photo
River seen from the Backbone Trail. Author photo.
River seen from the Backbone Trail. Author photo.

Fantastic Trails

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

Author photo.
Author photo.
Twisted cedar. Author photo.
Twisted cedar. Author photo.
Rocky trail on top of the Backbone-very narrow in places.  Author photo.
Rocky trail on top of the Backbone-very narrow in places. Author photo.
Hiking between the rocks. Author photo.
Hiking between the rocks. Author photo.
Crazy root growth. Author photo.
Crazy root growth. Author photo.
Along the backbone. Author photo.
Along the backbone. Author photo.

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.

 

Trout stream. Author photo.
Trout stream. Author photo.
Trout can be seen in the cool clear waters. Author photo.
Trout can be seen in the cool clear waters. Author photo.
Stone Lodge. Author photo.
Stone Lodge. Author photo.

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.

 

Dam built to create Backbone Lake. Author photo.
Dam built to create Backbone Lake. Author photo.
Boathouse. Author photo.
Boathouse. Author photo.

Explore Iowa's State Parks

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.

 

Rocky wall. Author photo.
Rocky wall. Author photo.

Comments

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    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      5 years ago

      Thank you! It's a great place to visit for anyone who loves nature.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 

      5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful photos Rose! I love the nature and you sharing the photos here feels like I've also seen it :) I could imagine the trees, the wind and hearing the birds in the park.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by gail641. I make sure I go to this park at least once a year. I have never been there in winter so I want to try that this year. Thanks again.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 

      6 years ago from Mason City

      The photos are really beautiful, and Backbone State Park looks like a very beautiful and wonderful place to visit. A great place to go camping and for picnics. It would be a lot of fun to go hiking on the trails there and to see all of the natural beauty. Really nice hub and very enjoyable.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for your wonderful comments. This is one of my favorite state parks. I am glad I can share its beauty.

    • oliversmum profile image

      oliversmum 

      7 years ago from australia

      Rose Kolowinski. Hi. What a wonderful hub.

      The information and Photographs are incredible.

      It made me feel like I was there walking the trails and the scenery is to die for.

      Thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful Backbone State Park with us. :) :)

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      8 years ago

      Thanks, Peggy! Your comments and rating are very much appreciated. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Backbone State Park is a real gem! Would love to see it in person and do some hiking there someday in the future. My husband was born in Iowa. Sending this hub to him and others to read. Giving this a beautiful rating. Thanks!

    • Rose Kolowinski profile imageAUTHOR

      Rose Kolowinski 

      8 years ago

      I love this park. I only live an hour away so I go several times per year. I want to go this winter - it should be gorgeous! Thank you for reading and commenting, Simone.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh how beautiful! I really love your photos, and Backbone State Park sounds like an amazing place! I'd love to go there for a hike and a picnic someday- or more!

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