Information on:

Backbone State Park

1347 129th Street

Backbone State Park was dedicated in 1920. It was Iowa's first state park and remains one of the most significant. Backbone is named for its narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River. Folklore named this high ridge of rock the "Devil's Backbone". Nearly a hundred years ago, State Geologist Samuel Calvin wrote these words about "The Backbone":

"Its sides are in places precipitous, the rocky cliffs rising sheer for more than 80 feet. Erosion and secular decay have carved the rocks into picturesque columns, towers, castles, battlements and flying buttresses."

Backbone consists of 2,001 acres and is heavily wooded with a variety of tree species, predominantly oak and maple. This woodland serves as a valuable refuge for a variety of wildlife including deer, raccoon, fox, turkeys, ruffed grouse and many species of songbirds.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in April, 1933 as part of the New Deal program of President Roosevelt as an effort to provide work for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. Many of Backbone's buildings were constructed by the CCC from 1933 to 1941. Among the projects completed at Backbone were the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, a cluster of rustic family cabins, beach and boat house, an auditorium, bridges, roads, picnic shelters, rest rooms and trails. Some of these structures are currently being restored and the effort is continuing.


Jessica Raye

Monday, June 11, 2018
It's a very beautiful park, but they really need to have bridges over the river. Instead they have concrete down that the water is always going over. When the water isnt high I'm told it's barely noticeable that there's water over the road but when we went it was up and the gates were closed and had to walk through all of it. We went to see Richmond Springs and ended up walking 3 miles one way to get to it from where we had to park.

Amy McKay

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
This is a great place to camp. Lots of trails to hike, creeks to Wade, beach to laze around. You can rent paddle boats at the beach, or bring your kayak. Beautiful scenery... Just fantastic.

Susan Barrett

Sunday, July 1, 2018
Had a great picnic. Walked in the creek, then enjoyed some ice cream at the beach. Great extended family outing!

Jon Cahill

Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Absolutely gorgeous, most trails are fairly primitive, so if you are looking for crushed limestone and handrails....look elsewhere. Backbones beauty is relatively untouched.

Andy Holcomb

Thursday, July 5, 2018
Nice park but it is difficult to find your way around. More signs clarifying directions would be helpful

Backbone State Park is not affiliated with AmericanTowns Media