While in Dubuque Iowa we read about several parks in the area. After our downtown urban tour we wanted to balance that out with a nature outing to familiarize ourselves with the scenery in this hilly, rocky area of Iowa. The plan was to visit Mines of Spain Recreation Area which has the Julien Dubuque Monument and Eagle Point Park on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River locks.
Once we arrived at Mines of Spain Park, we were a little confused about where to start. We soon realized that the Visitor Center was on the other end of the park and did not want to waste time finding it so we decided to wing it. The signage was a little confusing in that a couple of pullouts indicated a trailhead was there when in fact it was a connecting trail instead.
We then decided to try to find the Julien Dubuque Monument. Up a winding road we found the short walk to a beautiful site. The monument overlooks the Mississippi River and offers views of Dubuque. The monument itself is unique and beautiful so we enjoyed photographing it from all angles. There were several plaques and signs along the walk describing Dubuque’s history. We were amused to read that the first murder and public hanging occurred in Dubuque in the 1834.
We couldn’t decide between hiking the Calcite Trail or the Horseshoe Bluff trail next. The confusing signage made the decision for us as the pullout we chose was a connecting trail to the Horseshoe Bluff trail. It must have been serendipity because this trail was fantastic. Although there were a few other hikers, we mostly had the trail to ourselves that meandered first through tall fields of grasses and wildflowers opening up to a stunning view of bluffs looming above on both sides of the trail. It took our breath away as its beauty was a welcome surprise!
The signage indicated that this rock was 400 million years old and was of the Ordovician Age. We so enjoyed walking through the bluffs on this beautiful sunny day lighting the contrasting colors of the rocky bluffs against the crisp blue sky. The trail took us up and across one bluff and at this juncture of the trail we saw a bunny and minutes later a fox! We have seen a fox before in the wild from afar but this view, although fleeting was really up close and personal! We wondered if we actually saved that bunny’s life as we theorized that fox was hoping for a rabbit lunch! Anyway, we spent quite a lot of time admiring this encounter and the bluffs above and then headed back to the car to decide where to go next.
We debated finding the Calcite Trail but decided instead to drive to the Visitor Center. The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center was very well done. It had lots of information regarding the Mines of Spain mining history as well as the Native American History. It also had a lot of animal exhibits as well as information about the vegetation and geology of the area. In the back of the building was a view of the “back yard” with bird feeders attracting Downy Woodpeckers, Titmouse, Red Breasted Grosbeaks and others. It was fun to watch the birds fly in and around the feeders.
We noticed a trail alongside the feeding area so we decided to check it out. It began with an interpretative trail describing plants along the way. The Junkerman Trail descended down 172 steps (Sharon counted) over to a site that was a farm belonging to Otto Junkerman and his family in 1859. Though the house was gone there was an old water pump and another trail upward to Otto’s Retreat and his farm. He built a miniature replica of a his old church in Germany to use as his study and retreat and called it the Pine Chapel. It was a beautiful place and must have offered him much enjoyment in its peaceful solitude.
The day got away from us so we scrapped the trip over to Eagle Point opting instead to drive home for a nice dinner then a we walked over to the nearby casino and gambled the $5.00 each free play they gave us as new members. Since we won about $10.00 (no we are not big gamblers) we decided to watch some of the greyhound races that were held in the same casino/track. We bet on five races and pretty much broke even but had a great time on this last day in Dubuque Iowa.
NOTE: We are currently in Madison Wisconsin hiding out for the fourth of July weekend and have not yet decided where we will go next.