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Iowa's Oldest State Park
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Iowa's Oldest State Park

Bright and early we headed to Backbone State Park, located in the northwest corner of Delaware County. Backbone is Iowa’s oldest state park, dedicated in 1920.

And that’s not its only claim to fame. It’s arguably the prettiest, and certainly the most geologically unique, state park we’ve visited. It gets its name from a narrow ridge of bedrock cut by a loop in the Maquoketa River that winds through the 2,000-acre preserve.

That ridge is called Devil’s Backbone, and for good reason. There are places where the cliffs tower 80 feet above the river valley below.

We’re not into extreme sports like rappelling, but those cliffs make it a popular park activity along with hiking, biking, camping and picnicking, plus canoeing and swimming at Backbone Lake.

There’s great trout fishing, too, in the stream fed by Richmond Springs, which gushes more than 2,000 gallons of cold, clear water a minute.

Heavily forested with oaks and maples, it’d also be a spectacular place to visit when fall colors are at their peak.

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at


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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
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