{22 Trips in 2014} Dunning Springs – Decorah, Iowa

Dunning Dunning Springs Park is right down the road from the Ice Cave and it is certainly worth a visit. Again when I think Iowa, I don’t think of waterfalls. Yet there it was in all of its spectacular glory. Even my parents were shocked to find a water fall in Iowa.

dunning springsDunning’s Spring, a city park in Decorah, is the site of the first mill built in the county seat. A boulder near the stream marks the spot where William Painter built a gristmill in 1849. By 1861, E.C. Dunning owned the property and replaced the original mill. Usage changed through the years. The structure was torn down in 1897. The park has ample parking, picnic tables, benches, and a fire pit. When we arrived we found a ton of people enjoying the park. Everyone was climbing up the sides, playing in the water, and taking pictures of the 200ft water fall.

springWhen I saw the spring I knew I had to climb up to the top, I had to know where the water was coming from. I kicked off my flip flops, donned my sneakers and headed up the side of the falls. The source of the falls is groundwater that flows through an open, cavernous cave. Yes! Two caves in one day! it was almost to much for me to handle. Then I remembered I was in IOWA and clamed down. Anyways it was super cool and the water was extremely clear.

StairsThere I was huffing it up the side of the falls when I spotted what appeared to be steps through the woods. Yep there was steps, damn it! Steps, I could have taken the steps. I made my way back down the side of the falls grabbed my parental units and headed up the steps. The steps took you all the way to the top of the falls and ended at a platform that over looked the cave opening. It was well worth the climb.

pete and meWe had a great time hanging out and climbing around the falls. The sun was starting to set and one could hear our tummies grumbling. I backed out of out of the crowded parking lot like a boss and headed on down to the Pizza Ranch. Hey, don’t judge. A girl’s gotta eat.

Our drive home was not fun, we ended up driving back to Red Wing through a nasty rain storm. Luckily it had died down by the time we hit Rochester and it was smooth sailing from there. If you are looking for adventure head on down to Iowa. Yes I really mean this, head on down to Iowa, it is more than corn and turkeys.

{22 Trips in 2014} Ice Cave? In Iowa?

Ice cave signYes, yes there is an Ice Cave in Iowa. I know the concept of a cave in Iowa blew my mind too! When I think of Iowa I think of never ending corn fields and turkey farms. Never caves or rolling hills. It turns out that northeastern Iowa is filled with rolling hills and is known to have a cave or two.

Originally we wanted to tour the Laura Ingles Wilder Museum in Bur Oak Iowa. Well we got there a little too late and the museum employee turned us down. Well actually she turned 10 people down for the tour. Since that plan was foiled my Dad asked me “get on that Google machine of yours and see what there is to do. I want to see something.” Google machine? Ha! That man cracks me up. Google told me that Decorah was home to Iowa’s only Ice Cave and it was just a few miles down the road. The Ice Cave does not have a physical address, so when you go just punch “Ice Cave Road, Decorah IA” into your GPS and it will get you there in one piece.

The Decorah Ice Cave is one of the largest caverns containing ice in the Midwest, and is famed due to the rare ice deposits that can be seen and felt during the late summer months. The cave itself was formed in 450-million-year-limestone and dolomite. The ice formation is created when the chilly air of winter enters the cave and lowers the rock wall temperature. When spring thaw occurs, surface water seeps into the cave and freezes upon contact with the still-cold walls, and reaches maximum thickness in June. The Ice Cave is not a commercialized tourist attraction and you explore the cave at your own risk.

PeteIt was very easy to find. As in we drove right by the sign and had to make an illegal U turn. Hey it happens and at least I did not get caught or cause an accident. There is a very small parking lot and a picnic area at the base of the hill. A steep set of stone steps leads you to the cave entrance. As you climb the stairs you will notice a drop in air temperature, it was much colder near the cave than it was in the parking lot.

Ice Cave I was the brave one in my party and I wanted to go inside the cave. I went about 25 feet in and boy was it refreshingly cold. My mom and I did not spot any ice at the entrance, oh well it was still cool. My Dad did not go into the cave proclaiming “that’s shale, that is unstable! It could cave in on you!” Armed with my iphone flash light app I was trying to see further into the cave when my dad broke the silence and yelled. “If you go in there, throw me the keys I want to be able to get home.” To his surprise the car keys came flying at his feet. Seeing that I was in flip flops and not prepared to climb around on my knees I bid adue to the cave and trucked out of there.