Maquoketa Caves State Park

Useful Information

Location: 10 km northwest of Maquoketa. Take US Highway 61 south from Dubuque. Just before Maquoketa, follow signs to the cave and turn right onto State Highway No 428. Drive time from Dubuque is about 30 minutes.
Open: The Park: open all year round.
The Visitor Centre: Memorial Day to Labor Day, by special appointment.
Caves: currently closed because of white nose syndrome.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: None, bring your own. The electric lighting in Dancehall Cave is so poor, it is best to bring your own.
Dimension: Dancehall Cave: L=335m
Guided tours: Self guided. Bring a change of clothes if you want to explore some of the smaller caves. Allow 2 to 4 hours to visit some of the smaller caves or a full day to thoroughly look at all thirteen caves in the Park.
Bibliography: Kathleen A. Roetzel, Michael A. Eigen, Robert Douglas, Patricia M. Emerson (): An Archaeological, Architectural-Historical and Geomorphological Survey at Maquoketa Caves State Park, Jackson County, Iowa. Volumes I-III.
Greg A Brick (2004): Iowa Underground / A guide to the state's subterranean treasures, Trail Books, Wisconsin. 223 pp, numerous illus. pp 55-60, 173-175.
Address: Maquoketa Caves State Park, 9688 Caves Rd., Maquoketa, IA 52060, Tel: +1-563-652-5833, Fax: +1-563-652-0061. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1834 White settlers tracked a deer into Dancehall Cave, but known to Native Americans since time immemorial.
1930 Dancehall Cave is developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration.
03-JUL-2007 flood fills cave with 300 tons of silt, rocks, logs and cornstalks.
AUG-2009 caves closed for visitors because of white nose syndrome.
14-APR-2012 caves reopened.


Maquoketa Caves are a prehistoric site, several stone tools were found. Other interesting features of the park are a natural bridge with an five meter arch and a balancing rock.

On 03-JUL-2007 the fall of 15 cm rain caused a flood down Raccoon Creek, which filled Dancehall Cave with 300 tons of silt, rocks, logs and cornstalks. The water raised 5 m in a few hours and dropped again 4 m, all in less than a day. The cave is the most heavily damaged part of the park, but the flood also may have damaged walkways and retaining structures around the cave. The cave is closed and will be cleaned by AmeriCorps members, which may take up to three months. It was almost impossible to get any machinery into the cave so took a tremendous amount of manual labor.

In 2009 the cave was closed due to the White Nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease of bats, which is probably caused by a fungus. In order to protect the bats the cave was closed to avoid the spreading of the fungus by human visitors. But in 2012 the cave was reopened and a WNS Awareness Program was created which is required for all cave visitors. It teaches the cave visitors, how to avoid the spreading of the fungus.

The longest cave is Dancehall Cave. There is a winding path through the cave with a stream on either side. The passage is up to 7 meters wide in places and passage height ranges from 1.5 meters to 13 meters. Your can stand up in most of the cave except near the three entrances.

The other twelve caves are: Barbell Cave, Dug Out Cave, Hernando's Hideaway, Ice Cave, Match Cave, Rainy Day Cave, Shinbone Cave, Twin Arch Cave, Up-N-Down Cave, Wide Mouth Cave, Window Cave and Wye Cave.

Several of the caves have standing height sized passages, like Twin Arch Cave, but Dug Out Cave is all muddy flat out crawls. Many of the caves still contain speleothems, straws etc despite being open to the public.

A 10 km system of foot paths links all the caves, with staircases to cave entrances on steep hillsides

Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.