This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park’s caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome.
The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion.
The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain. The park’s limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the Dancehall Cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys. The first Euro-American explorers first visited the caves as late as the mid-1830s. The area was originally known as Morehead Caves or Burt’s Cave. It had become a popular place for exploration, picnics, parties, and dances by the 1860s. A dance floor was constructed north of Natural Bridge in 1868, and a pavilion, which was used until the 1920s, was built sometime later. By the turn of the 20th century the area had become seriously degraded, and its popularity declined. (wiki)
The every popular Western Meadowlark. The western meadowlark has distinctive calls described as watery or flute-like, which distinguish it from the closely related eastern meadowlark. The western meadowlark is the state bird of six states: Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.
The Hooded and Common Merganser. In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid. They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving. Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.
The Ruffed Grouse. Ruffed grouse have two distinct morphs: grey and brown. In the grey morph, the head, neck and back are grey-brown; the breast is light with barring. There is much white on the underside and flanks, and overall the birds have a variegated appearance; the throat is often distinctly lighter. The tail is essentially the same brownish grey, with regular barring and a broad black band near the end (“subterminal”). Brown-morph birds have tails of the same color and pattern, but the rest of the plumage is much more brown, giving the appearance of a more uniform bird with less light plumage below and a conspicuously grey tail. There are all sorts of intergrades between the most typical morphs; warmer and more humid conditions favor browner birds in general.
The ruffs are on the sides of the neck in both sexes. They also have a crest on top of their head, which sometimes lies flat. Both genders are similarly marked and sized, making them difficult to tell apart, even in hand. The female often has a broken subterminal tail band, while males tend to have unbroken tail bands, though the opposite of either can occur. Females may also do a display similar to the male. Another fairly accurate sign is that rump feathers with a single white dot indicate a female; rump feathers with more than one white dot indicate a male.
The red-necked grebe is a migratory aquatic bird found in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Its wintering habitat is largely restricted to calm waters just beyond the waves around ocean coasts, although some birds may winter on large lakes. Grebes prefer shallow bodies of fresh water such as lakes, marshes or fish-ponds as breeding sites.
The red-necked grebe is a nondescript dusky-grey bird in winter. During the breeding season, it acquires the distinctive red neck plumage, black cap and contrasting pale grey face from which its name was derived. It also has an elaborate courtship display and a variety of loud mating calls. Once paired, it builds a nest from water plants on top of floating vegetation in a shallow lake or bog.
The barred owl, also known as northern barred owl or hoot owl, is a true owl native to eastern North America. Adults are large, and are brown to grey with barring on the chest. Barred owls have expanded their range to the west coast of North America, where they are considered invasive.
The common loon or great northern diver is a large member of the loon, or diver, family of birds. Breeding adults have a plumage that includes a broad black head and neck with a greenish, purplish, or bluish sheen, blackish or blackish-grey upperparts, and pure white underparts except some black on the undertail coverts and vent. Non-breeding adults are brownish with a dark neck and head marked with dark grey-brown. Their upperparts are dark brownish-grey with an unclear pattern of squares on the shoulders, and the underparts, lower face, chin, and throat are whitish. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly heavier than females.
Looking for spectacular views with a short hike among some of the most unique rock formations in the United States? Look no further than Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. The most popular hike in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods gives tourists amazing insight into the geologic structure of Southern Illinois and a view that stretches for miles high over the pristine hills of Shawnee Forest.
More than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain patiently started to chisel away at large deposits of sedimentary rock located in what is now, Shawnee National Forest . Over the years, the elements have sculpted some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. There are also plenty of trails for backpacking and horseback riding, allowing nature lovers a welcome tour of what the lively environment has to offer.
There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest including the 160-mile River to River Trail.
One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods’ scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.
The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.
Looking for premier hiking in the Midwest. Look no furture….The Ice Age Trail is a National Scenic Trail located entirely within Wisconsin. The trail is also one of 42 designated Wisconsin state trails and the only one specifically designated as a “State Scenic Trail.” From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail winds for more than 1,000 miles, following the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.
One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is intended to be a premier hiking trail and conservation resource for silent sport and outdoor enthusiasts. The trail traverses some of Wisconsin’s most scenic landscapes and helps tell the story of the last Ice Age by highlighting Wisconsin’s unique glacial features.
Primary attractions include topography left by glaciation in the Last Ice Age. Glacial features along the trail include kettles, potholes, eskers, and glacial erratics. Many of the best examples of glacial features in Wisconsin are exhibited in units of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, most of which lie along the trail.
The Ice Age Trail is primarily an off-road hiking and backpacking trail that provides excellent opportunities for sightseeing, wildlife viewing and bird watching. In winter, some sections of the trail are open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Opportunities are available for camping along the Ice Age Trail in national, state and county forests and in many state and county parks, including some private campgrounds. Campgrounds can vary from primitive walk-in campsites to facilities complete with electric hookups. When planning a trip, it is best to check ahead of time for camping locations and availability. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Guidebook, which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.
The Ice Age Trail travels through 30 counties on state, federal, county and private lands, connecting dozens of communities. There are hundreds of trailheads and access points located along the trail route. More than 600 miles of trail are open. The completed sections of the trail are connected by less-traveled roadways and other temporary routes.
Stone steps lead the way up the bluff trails at Devil’s Lake State Park.
The Ice Age Trail goes through several state and federal lands in Wisconsin, including traveling many miles through county and private lands. In addition to the state parks and forests listed below (from west to east along the trail), the Ice Age Trail travels through many state wildlife and fishery areas and some state natural areas.
Interstate State Park, Saint Croix Falls
Straight Lake State Park, near Frederic
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area, near New Auburn
Brunet Island State Park, Cornell
Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Hartman Creek State Park, near Waupaca
Devil’s Lake State Park, near Baraboo
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Southern Unit, Eagle
Lapham Peak Unit, near Delafield
Loew Lake Unit, near Monches
Pike Lake Unit, near Hartford
Northern Unit, near Campbellsport
Point Beach State Forest, near Two Rivers
Potawatomi State Park, near Sturgeon Bay
The Ice Age Trail includes parts of other Wisconsin state trails.
Gandy Dancer, St. Croix Falls to Frederic
Tuscobia, Rice Lake to Birchwood
Mountain-Bay, near Hatley
Military Ridge, near Verona
Badger, near Fitchburg
Sugar River, Monticello to Albany
Glacial Drumlin, near Wales
Eisenbahn, near Kewaskum
Ahnapee, Casco Junction to Sturgeon Bay
Interstate State Park, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area and the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest – all units of the Ice Age Scientific Reserve – have Ice Age Educational and Interpretive Centers with major displays in glacial history and geology.https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/iceagetrail/
Located in the Nebraska National Forest, the Dismal Trail to Scott Lookout Tower is a 7.8 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Halsey, Nebraska. It features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options like camping, mountain biking, off road driving, running, forest views and varied wildlife. The elevation climb is 721 feet and the hiking route is a loop-type format. Once you reach the Scott Lookout Tower, you will discover the most beautiful views as seen here below.
Don’t let a snowy forecast stop you from setting aside time for a enjoying the great outdoors. Head to the woods for a peaceful hike, snow shoeing or cross country skiing.
Turkey Run State Park, Indiana
For picturesque views!
You’ll marvel at the natural geologic wonders of this beautiful park as you hike along its famous trails. Nestled along State Road 47 southwest of Crawfordsville, the park offers the chance to explore deep, sandstone ravines, walk along stands of aged forests, and enjoy the scenic views along Sugar Creek.
Door County, Wisconsin
Sightseeing along frozen Lake Michigan
Many people call Door County the Cape Cod of the Midwest, and that’s no less true in winter, when snow covers the picturesque northeast Wisconsin peninsula. Shops, galleries and inns stay open for visitors who come for cozy shopping and peaceful walks along frozen Lake Michigan beaches. Sleigh rides, trolley tours and wine tastings round out a romantic weekend.
Interstate State Park, Wisconsin and Minnesota
Hardy hikers can snowshoe on fresh white snow
Interstate Park comprises two adjacent state parks on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, both names Interstate State Park. The staddle the Dalles of the beautiful St. Croix River, a deep basalt gorge with glacial potholes and other rock formations.
Southwest Lake Michigan shore
A stunning winter lighthouse road trip landscape!
Every winter, lake-effect storms leave southwest Michigan’s lighthouses and sand dunes cloaked in ice and snow. From South Haven to New Buffalo and beyond winter is the perfect time to take a road trip along Lake Michigan, especially since the beautiful scenes of winter are in full force now.
The Blue Water River Walk is a one mile stretch of land that runs along the St. Clair River in Port Huron, Michigan. It has it’s own unique naturalized shoreline that is made up from natural rocks, pebbles and boulders while also consisting of many native plants, flowers, trees and shrubs that grow in their own natural landscape and habitat onshore. The River Walk provides for a place where the natural habitat can thrive and visitors can take a walk along the shoreline and enjoy looking for turtles, watch the freighters or enjoy a nice outdoor picnic. A very unique and noticeably different feature of the new St. Clair river shoreline along the Blue Water River Walk is the huge boulder and stone structures sticking up from the water just offshore. These are huge offshore reefs that extend downwards almost 15 feet into the river bottom. These large boulders weigh as much as 4,000 pounds and are resting on two other layers…recycled slabs of cement on the very bottom and a middle layer of smaller boulders. All together over 8,000 tons of rock, stone, cement and boulders were used to build these reefs.
These offshore reefs are a critical element to the overall naturalization of the St. Clair River shoreline. The reefs are there to serve two purposes: first, they help to knock down the incredibly strong wave energy caused by passing boats and if left unchecked those waves can create serious damage and erosion to the new shoreline. Secondly, they create new shallow water habitats between the reefs and the shoreline which is critical to the growth and development of small fish, reptiles and amphibians.
The River Walk has a 10′ wide asphalt Pedestrian trail that runs the entire length of the Blue Water River Walk. Posts have been placed along the west edge of the trail for increased safety for walkers and to keep vehicles off the trail.
“IN ORDER TO SEE BIRDS, IT IS NECESSARY TO BECOME PART OF THE SILENCE” – ROBERT LUND
A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago. A rewilding, brought about first through neglect and now through intentional human effort, is occurring on all over the world and certainly here in the Midwest. Over the years, I have discovered unique beauties on ambling adventures along the Wisconsin and Michigan Shoreline, and even in the heart the city…downtown Chicago.
The early interest in observing birds for their aesthetic rather than utilitarian (mainly food) value is traced to the late 18th century in the works of Gilbert White, Thomas Bewick, George Montagu and John Clare The study of birds and natural history in general became increasingly prevalent in Britain during the Victorian Era, often associated with collection, eggs and later skins being the artifacts of interest. Wealthy collectors made use of their contacts in the colonies to obtain specimens from around the world. It was only in the late 19th century that the call for bird protection began leading to the rising popularity of observations on living birds. The Audubon Society was started to protect birds from the growing trade in feathers in the United States while the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds began in Britain.
Bird watching will get your children to go outside. …
Bird watching allows for introspection and contemplation. …
Bird watching can improve cardiovascular health. …
Bird watching gives you an excuse to travel. …
Bird watching builds a sense of community. …
Bird watching quickens reflexes.
“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes” – Charles Lindbergh
Birding in North America was focused in the early and mid-20th century in the eastern seaboard region, and was influenced by the works of Ludlow Griscom and later Roger Tory Peterson. Bird Neighbors (1897) by Neltje Blanchan was an early birding book which sold over 250,000 copies. It was illustrated with color photographs of stuffed birds.
Between two large cities, Lincoln and Omaha, you will find Platte River State Park, and a Trail Loop that is a 6.7 mile heavily used located near South Bend, Nebraska that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail. The elevation gain is 797 feet and the trail is of a loop type design.
The trail is kid friendly and ideal for camping, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trips, walking, running, bird watching and is dog friendly. It also offers great forest views and river views throughout the year.
Other popular attractions are the park’s waterfall, spray park and biking trails and two observation towers that allow those who climb to the top a spectacular view of the Platte River Basin.
This little hidden gem…the Duck Creek Trail in Wisconsin is a crushed limestone trail in Outagamie and Brown Counties in northeast Wisconsin. The Duck Creek Trail spans seven miles (11 km), beginning at the eastern end of the Newton Blackmour State Trail, just east of Vanderheuvel Road in Seymour.
The trail continues east through the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin in northern Outagamie County paralleling State Route 54, and continues to the Village of Oneida. The Duck Creek Trail will eventually extend to Pamperin Park in Green Bay.
With the connection to the Newton Blackmour State Trail, the combined trails are over 30 miles (48 km) long. The combined trails extend from Village of Oneida to New London. (wiki)