Mines of Spain State Recreation Area

Location: Dubuque, Iowa

Webpage: Iowa State Park

General Description: The history of Dubuque, Iowa begins in 1788 when Julian Dubuque was granted rights by the Meskwakie Indians to mine lead from the area of Catfish Creek along the Mississippi River.  Since the land west of the Mississippi River was controlled by Spain at that time, he also obtained a land grant from Spain in 1796.  Although he never made much money, Dubuque continued to work the mines and live in the area for the rest of his life, marrying the Meskwakie Chief Peosta’s daughter Potosa.  When he died the Meskwaki tribe built a log crypt for Dubuque which was replaced in 1897 by a stone tower that exists today and forms the center point of the recreation area.  The main draw today are the 21 miles of maintained hiking trails which become cross country ski trails in the winter.  In addition to the many trails in the Mines of Spain area is the Edwin B. Lyons Interpretive Center which was constructed as a nature center in 1972.  This center includes many exhibits of the wildlife to be found in the area, including a very active bird feeding area behind the building.



1) I strongly suggest that anyone visiting the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area to locate the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center first.  In addition to the many stuffed animals on exhibit, you can obtain very useful trail maps for the Mines of Spain.  There is very limited information at the trailheads within the Recreation Area to figure out the many trails through the area.


2) We began our visit to the Mines of Spain with the short drive and hike to the Julien Dubuque Monument, which is an old stone tower over his grave.  The monument overlooks the Mississippi River so you are also rewarded with some great views of the river valley and the town of Dubuque around a curve in the river.

3) There are many trails in the recreation area ranging from just under a mile to over 8 miles and difficulty from easy to hard.  We choose a two mile loop trail through the reestablished prairie that was an easy trail.  The trail skirted the edge of the prairie where it met a woody ravine before turning back through the prairie after a quick look at the Mississippi River.  It is a well maintained trail that is mowed frequently through the prairie grasses.