East Iowa · Iowa State Parks

Spelunking Maquoketa & Discovering a Lost Nation

It's warm, sunny and just right for cave'n. Jackson County Style!
It’s warm, sunny, and just right for cave’n. Jackson County Style!

Maquoketa, IA: Jackson County

Lost Nation, IA: Clinton County

Deep into the Jackson County woods is an absolute treasure trove of discovery. A place surrounded by the classic Iowa prairie and turning into a thick forest with a valley that cuts through the terrain with its creeks, trails, towering trees, rocky earth, and a collection of some of the mid-west’s greatest caves. Team Goodvin gallivants to Maquoketa Caves State Park with a special guest appearance from our friend Bella. Let’s explore……After we dine of course.

Bluff Lake Catfish Farm it is! Only a few minutes from Maquoketa Caves State Park. http://www.blufflakecatfishfarm.com/
Bluff Lake Catfish Farm it is! Only a few minutes from Maquoketa Caves State Park.
http://www.blufflakecatfishfarm.com/

If you love destination type dining experiences, than you’re going to love your trip to this local legend. Bluff Lake Catfish Farm is quick turn off the highway on to a dirt road and into a valley with no outlet. Their food is hot, plentiful, and delicious. Our Maquoketa experience begins here.

as you can see....Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was packed on this Sunday afternoon. And we quickly figured out why. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bluff-Lake-Catfish-Farm/60038136387?fref=ts
as you can see….Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was packed on this Sunday afternoon. And we quickly figured out why.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bluff-Lake-Catfish-Farm/60038136387?fref=ts

We waited a total of two minutes to be seated but it only took a few minutes longer for their dining room to spillover. The popularity Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was something to envy. The cooks were jamming in the kitchen. The servers were blazing quick and bartender was somehow keeping up with the Bloody Mary orders getting called out like artillery orders. The Bluff Lake team was burning and turning and showing the world how you run a high volume restaurant.

Gigi, Bella and Leah ready for lunch at Bluff Lake Catfish Farm with the lake and it's waterfall behind them.
Gigi, Bella, and Leah ready for lunch at Bluff Lake Catfish Farm with the lake and it’s waterfall behind them.
Today's special. All you care to eat Fried Chicken and Fried Shrimp! And they all found a good home.
Today’s special. All you care to eat Fried Chicken and Fried Shrimp! And they all found a good home.

Yup, you guessed it. JayJay was the one who managed his way through their Sunday special. Monie went for the fried Haddock while Lake Bluff unloaded pizza burgers, mac and cheese nuggets, and chicken fingers for the kids. Everything needed to cool down before we could attack. Because when the food is ready the food is expedited to your table with precision speed at Lake Bluff Catfish Farm. Our lunch was great and all the kids asked if we could return the next day. And we’ve only completed a 1/3 of our experience at this Jackson County landmark.

Pick a spot on their patio and toss some feed in the water and watch the catfish bolt to the top. The fish and the ducks have figured out a way to get along. Now for me and people who drive slow in the left lane.
Pick a spot on their patio and toss some feed in the water and watch the catfish bolt to the top. The fish and the ducks have figured out a way to get along. Now for me and people who drive slow in the left lane.
Packed parking lot: Check. Packed dining room: Check. Packed Patio: Check.
Packed parking lot: Check. Packed dining room: Check. Packed Patio: Check.
And the last stop at Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was their gift shop. Monie grabbed a few of their decorative garden stakes. because you need that stuff that' s why!
And the last stop at Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was their gift shop. Monie grabbed a few of their decorative garden stakes because you need that stuff, that’ s why!

Our visit to Bluff Lake Catfish Farm was an obvious success and they provided us with the necessary energy boost for some hiking and cave exploring. Only a few miles from the restaurant is our featured destination!

One of Iowa's most environmentally diverse areas. And without a doubt one of the most popular state parks. http://www.iowadnr.gov/Destinations/StateParksRecAreas/IowasStateParks/ParkDetails.aspx?ParkID=610127
One of Iowa’s most environmentally diverse areas. And without a doubt one of the most popular state parks.
http://www.iowadnr.gov/Destinations/StateParksRecAreas/IowasStateParks/ParkDetails.aspx?ParkID=610127

Our first stop was at the interpretative center close to the park’s entrance. Inside was Joann and her arsenal of knowledge for areas main attraction and surrounding area. Her passion for the park and the collection of artifacts housed at the center was fun to listen to. She came from a family that has been tending the park’s land for generations.

Stopping by Maquoketa Caves State park was a group of students from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. GO KOHAWKS!
Stopping by Maquoketa Caves State park was a group of students from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. GO KOHAWKS!
One of a few displays of Native American arrowheads from the area in and around Maquoketa Caves State Park.
One of a few displays of Native American arrowheads from the area in and around Maquoketa Caves State Park.

The kids are charged up and ready to take it all in. It was in the mid 70’s outside and made for an absolutely perfect day to spend hiking. However, don’t shy away from this state park when the mercury rises this summer. The caves are all natural air conditioners only Mother Nature can provide. Our breath could be seen in the damp air the deeper we went.

Get the maps out and start planning your journey at Maquoketa Caves!
Get the maps out and start planning your journey at Maquoketa Caves!
A view from the top of the stairs leading into our first cave of the day at Maquoketa Caves!
A view from the top of the stairs leading into our first cave of the day at Maquoketa Caves!
Watch that cranium of yours! The first 20 yards could yield some
Watch that cranium of yours! The first 20 yards could yield some “gosh-darn-it-to-heck” moments if you’re not careful at Maquoketa Caves.
Maquoketa Caves provides one of Iowa's best photo opportunities.
Maquoketa Caves provides one of Iowa’s best photo opportunities.
Like frogs, toads and minnows? Maquoketa Caves has those too!
Like frogs, toads and minnows? Maquoketa Caves has those too!
We at Team Goodvin have a rule. Never miss and opportunity to look fabulous.
We at Team Goodvin have a rule. Never miss an opportunity to look fabulous.
One of many picturesque hiking trails at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
One of many picturesque hiking trails at Maquoketa Caves State Park.
Lost Nation, IA and then found by Bella and Team Goodvin! http://www.lostnation-iowa.com/
Lost Nation, IA, and then found by Bella and Team Goodvin!
http://www.lostnation-iowa.com/

Miles and miles later, we called it a day at Maquoketa Caves State Park. Our day in Maquoketa that is. Monie got the map out, and yes people still do that, and combed her finger over the eastern Iowa county roads and found us a scenic route that would take the whole family through towns we’ve never been to. And literally led us into Lost Nation.

And discover we did! Small town Iowa is one of our places to be. We live in it and travel to it as much as possible. Lost Nation is in southern Clinton County and proved to be a primo stop for us to get even more energy out. Because hiking a bazillion miles at Maquoketa Caves only fueled the kids on this day. We stopped by the Tri Stop Convenience Store to get some logistical matters straightened out with the locals. Lucky for us Michelle and Jessica were there and knew right where to direct us. A couple boxes of nerds and 5 bottles of Gatorade later we were at one of the most unique rural city parks Iowa has to offer. Time for another adventure. This is Lost Nation!

Gilroy Rustic Park. One of Lost Nation's best places to kick back, play, picnic and just plain enjoy the day.
Gilroy Rustic Park. One of Lost Nation’s best places to kick back, play, picnic and just plain enjoy the day.

The days are getting longer and so are the times spent at any random playground/park we can find. We drove down a long lane that started at the parks entrance. You could tell right away that Lost Nation was very proud of Gilroy-Rustic Park. The grass was plush and the landscaping was well maintained. There were locals having meals in their shelters and children playing in its creek when we arrived. And as many of our loyal readers have noticed, we seek and LOVE public art. Lost Nation had plenty for us to observe and they’re wood carvings didn’t disappoint.

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A view of the creek from the bridge overlooking Gilroy-Rustic Park in Lost Nation, IA.
A view of the creek from the bridge overlooking Gilroy-Rustic Park in Lost Nation, IA.

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Historic Harry Rohling Memorial Field in Lost Nation, IA.
Historic Harry Rohling Memorial Field in Lost Nation, IA.

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Michelle and Jessica could tell within seconds on where to direct us when we rolled in to Lost Nation and we can’t thank you enough for encouraging us to visit your great park. Lost Nation is also looking forward to Rustic Days, in mid July and their 29th annual 5k Rustic Run. We know some of our readers are very active so why not take drive out to Lost Nation and take in one of Clinton County’s great communities. All of our stops on this day kept us entertained and most importantly, very active. Spring is in full swing and the long summer is right around the corner. Tell Lost Nation that Team Goodvin sent you and don’t forget to bring some flashlights like we did. Some may call that an amateur move. The Iowa Gallivant calls it a reason to return.

Be sure to read about our other adventures at Iowa State Parks like Lake MacbrideWildcat DenLake Darling, and Pleasant Creek.

 

9 thoughts on “Spelunking Maquoketa & Discovering a Lost Nation

    1. Thank you, David! I may be going to southern Arizona in August. Going to be heading to Picacho Peak State Park. Western most battle of the civil war. Driven by it hundreds of times and finally going to stop.

      Liked by 1 person

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