maquoketa caves, maquoketa, iowa, reopening, caves, hike, nature

Maquoketa Caves sees thousands of visitors at reopening

MAQUOKETA,  Iowa-- Maquoketa Caves State Park is officially back open after nearly $600,000 in upgrades.

The big project was to fix the main road into the park.

"While we had the park closed for that road closure we were able to get more funding on the state to upgrade the electricity in our campground," said Scott Dykstra. Dykstra is a park ranger at Maquoketa Caves. They upgraded the electricity to 50 amp.

Other projects they completed were;

  • Dancehall Cave cleaned years of flooding
  • Lighting in caves upgraded to LED
  • New footbridge on woodland trail
  • New boardwalks on all trails
  • Six nonelectrical sites converted to electrical
  • A new check-in station for campers
  • A new parking lot with sidewalks near the cave entrance
  • New roof, ceiling and lighting on shower building

"I moved here in the winter, so it was closed for the bats, and then they were closed for construction, so I've been trying to go here.  There was a lot of build up, but honestly as soon as we got here, we both kinda thought it exceeded expectations," said Chelsea Liles.

Liles and her friend Lauren Hicks hiked inside Maquoketa Caves for four hours. This is their first time at the park.

"It's been here for millions of years, and you get to go under there, and it's kind of like an adventure. There's running water and things you don't see everyday, so you see it, and it kinda makes you realize there's a lot of cool, simple things we're not enjoying," said Liles.

"It's been fairly easy. I mean there's sidewalks all throughout under the cave and little rocks that help you along if its a little wet," said Lauren Hicks.

The sidewalks around the park is the last thing that needs to be done. However, the construction didn't ruin the peace for hikers.

"Honestly there's a lot of places with loose looking rocks or something so it's a good thing they are updating. It gives me peace of mind that they keep it updated to make sure it stays safe," said Liles.

These first timers are already planning their second trip.

"We wanted to do all of them, but I think we're going to cut our losses on two. We're going to come back obviously," said Liles.

The park will be open until October, and then it will close for winter.