1) Hurstville Lime Kilns The old Hurstville Lime Kilns are located just north of Maquoketa on U.S. Highway 61. At the interpretive center nearby, we learned how the kilns, fired to 1700°F, turned dolomite quarried in the area into high-quality lime.
The kilns burned 100 cords of firewood per day and turned out 1,000 barrels of lime per week. The lime was mixed with sand and water to make mortar.
Established in 1871, the kilns were the largest operation of its kind west of Chicago in its heyday. The kilns were shut down around 1920 when Portland cement came into use. Although there’s little evidence of it today, a bustling company town named Hurstville sprung up around the kilns. In addition to being paid 15 cents per hour, workers were provided a company home, garden and free use of a pasture to graze a cow.
2) Maquoketa Caves State Park There are 14 naturally formed caves within the park linked by a six-mile trail system. Some, like the 1,100-foot Dancehall Cave, can be explored by walking, while others require some crawling and a bit more adventuresome spirit.
Maquoketa Caves is a pretty place for hiking and picnicking even if you don’t go into the caves. Some of the trail highlights include the Natural Bridge 50 feet above Raccoon Creek and the 17-ton Balanced Rock.
3) Clinton Engines Museum Started in 1950, Clinton Engines in Maquoketa was once the world’s largest manufacturer of small gasoline engines, but it ran out of gas and sputtered to a close about a decade ago because of management and labor problems. You don’t need to be a grease monkey to enjoy the museum. Exhibits include how this small company grew to become a worldwide endeavor, how an engine is assembled, even an interactive go-cart race.
Remember the go-cart craze of the 1950s and ’60s? Most go-carts were powered by 2-1/2-horsepower Clinton Engines that propelled drivers around a track at 25 miles per hour.
The museum includes one of those fun go-carts. It’s stationary and doesn't run, but the pedals and steering wheel are hooked up to a video-like screen to give you the sense of being in a virtual race.
4) Sabula Iowa’s one and only island town was founded on the banks of the river and became an island when the Army Corps of Engineers built Lock and Dam No. 13 downstream at Clinton. That flooded the lowlands around the rest of Sabula.
The only way in and out of town is a causeway from the Iowa “mainland,” or another causeway that leads to a river bridge into Illinois.
This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at www.OurIowaMagazine.com.