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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 Macbride, Wildcat Den, Lake Darling, and Pleasant Creek.
9 thoughts on “Spelunking Maquoketa & Discovering a Lost Nation”
This is another descriptive, engaging post. Nice photos, too!
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.