Backbone Beach (Dundee, Delaware County, IA) Beed's Lake Beach (Hampton, Franklin County, IA) Big Creek Beach (Polk City, Polk County, IA) Denison Beach (Black Hawk Lake, Lake View, Sac County, IA) George Wyth Beach (Waterloo, Black Hawk County, IA) Lake Darling Beach (Brighton, Washington County, IA) Lake Keomah Beach (Oskaloosa, Mahaska County, IA) Lower Pine Lake Beach (Eldora, Hardin County, IA) McIntosh Woods Beach (Clear Lake, Ventura, Cerro Gordo County, IA)
Iowa celebrates the 100th anniversary of the state parks system this year. Iowa has 72 state parks that span the breadth of Iowa’s geological and biological diversity. As one of the lowest-ranking states in the nation for public lands, each state park is precious to Iowans for appreciating nature and the benefits of time spent outdoors.
Because of Covid-19, many anniversary events have been postponed, including the celebratory Centennial kickoff at Backbone State Park in Eastern Iowa. Dedicated in 1920, Backbone is Iowa’s first state park. It is one of the most outstanding parks in the state, offering diverse activities including: camping; a large beach and swimming area; challenging hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails; rock climbing; and more.
Backbone consists of 2,000 forested acres surrounding Backbone Lake and a portion of the Maquoketa River in Delaware County. The predominately oak and maple woodland serves as habitat for a variety of wildlife including deer, raccoon, fox, turkeys, ruffed grouse, and many species of songbirds. The park is named for the “Devil’s Backbone” – a distinct narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by the Maquoketa River. It is one of the highest points in northeast Iowa.
Another unique aspect of the park is the many historical buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1933 and 1941. The CCC was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal following the Great Depression. The CCC put many Americans to work on public projects that endure to this day. Among the projects completed at Backbone were the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, a cluster of rustic family cabins, a beach and boathouse, auditorium, bridges, roads, picnic shelters, restrooms, and trails. Some of these structures are currently being restored.
Despite the park’s beauty and special features, Backbone has a more recent legacy that is not as admirable: chronic E. coli contamination on Backbone Beach.