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Backbone State Park, Dundee

#8 of 55 in Nature in Iowa
Must see · State Park · Nature / Park
Backbone State Park is Iowa's oldest state park, dedicated in 1919. Located in the valley of the Maquoketa River, it is approximately three miles (5 km) south of Strawberry Point in Delaware County. It is named for a narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River originally known as the Devil's Backbone. The initial were donated by E.M. Carr of Lamont, Iowa. Backbone Lake Dam, a relatively low dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, created Backbone Lake. The CCC constructed a majority of trails and buildings which make up the park.HistoryThe area of the Devil's Backbone was a favorite of natural scientists such as W.J. McGee, Thomas Macbride, and Samuel Calvin who visited it to study its ancient geologic formations. Edward M. Carr bought in the 1890s to protect the Backbone Ridge from destruction. MacBride and members of the Iowa Park and Forestry Association thought of it as a prime location for a state park. The State Board of Conservation, organized in December 1918, recommended buying the land at its first meeting. It took a little over a year for the purchase to be finalized. On May 28, 1920 Backbone was dedicated a Iowa's first state park.Development of the park was deferred until 1925, although trees were planted and planning for a roadway was begun in prior years. Tensions developed between two groups in the 1920s and the 1930s over development. One group saw the state parks as places that protected the natural areas, and the second group had a multiple-use philosophy of conservation. The multiple-use concept won the debate. Two camps from the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program during the Great Depression, developed the park between 1933 and 1942. CCC Camp SP2 and Camp SP17 developed the overnight cabin and recreational area on the southern end of the park; a picnic, hiking, and camping area in the center; and Richmond Springs on the north end. Backbone became one of the largest and one of the most extensively developed parks in the state system.
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Backbone State Park reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
89 reviews
  • Driving in from the West Gate Entrance, park and hike East Lake Trail, then connect with Bluebird Trail and return to auto. This is about 4.6 miles. East Lake Trail hugs the lake and is a bit steep...  more »
  • Decided to visit after being in the area. Beautiful shaded park with picnic area, camping, fishing, boating, and 6-8 cabins. There is a spring and a beach. No one was using the beach. I did not have.....  more »
  • This is the most beautiful view I've seen in a long time. Absolutely gorgeous. It is the perfect trail for a romantic walk, family walk or just a walk/jog. The lake at the end looks beautiful to swim in and the beach looked stunning. Park looks well maintained. Garbage weren't over flowing and there was no trash on the ground. It took me a bit to find the entrance to the trail I was looking for so I got to drive around and even the drive was beautiful. I saw deer, raccoon, squirrels and a very friendly skunk that wanted to say hi from the middle of the road. Would recommend the park to any one. You have got to see this park. This should be on everyone's bucket list.
  • Love the sights. Love how the trails are kept up. The litter is policed very well. The park staff were very helpful and eager to teach. Peaceful place to get away and relax.

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