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100 Years of Iowa Parks

Jerry Reisinger at the Solon United Methodist Church, Feb. 7, 2020

Dedicated in 1920 as Iowa’s first state park, Backbone State Park, is one of the most geographically unique locations in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The steep and narrow ridge of bedrock from the Maquoketa River forms the highest point in northeast Iowa — The Devil’s Backbone — giving the park its legendary name.

The park originally had three words in its name: Devil’s Back Bone, according to Jerry Reisinger who gave a presentation about the state parks on Feb. 7 at the United Methodist Church. That was a bit spooky so the “devil” part was dropped.

The centennial celebration is replete with organized fishing tourneys, bicycle touring, jogging, hiking, boating, bird watching and other events. While it’s a bit old school, taking a picnic luncheon to enjoy with family at a state park is a popular activity.

There is a traveling art exhibition called 20 artists 20 parks organized by DNR, the Iowa Arts Council and Iowa State University.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Backbone State Park’s dedication, a three-day festival is planned May 28-30 with all events open to the public.

Expansion of the state park system seems unlikely as farmers seek to increase acreage for crop production. The state parks made it to the centennial and that seems worth celebrating.

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