Explore Elkader-a Great American Main Street Community

The lake at Backbone State Park

Area Attractions

Unique geological formations, scenic overlooks, protected natural areas, American Indian mounds, plenty of hiking, picnicking and camping locations, historic sites and museums, trout stream and river fishing and nature and wildlife centers are all within a 25 minute drive of Elkader.

Backbone State Park
15 miles SW of Elkader off Highway 13
Park Office: (563)924-2527

Dedicated in 1920, Backbone is Iowa's first state park. It encompasses 2,000 acres of wooded bluffs along the Maquoketa River. The rugged, narrow ridges cut into the bedrock by the river are the "Devil's Backbone" for which the park was named. Many of the park's stone shelters, buildings and facilities were constructed during the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Activities include picnicking, camping, trout fishing, and rock climbing. The 21 miles of trails in the park offer hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Swim, boat or fish on Backbone Lake. Open shelters, auditorium, stone lodge and cabins are available for rent. Iowa State Parks


Big Springs Trout Hatchery pond
Big Springs Trout Hatchery
16212 Big Spring Road
(563)245-2446
10 miles northwest of Elkader on the Turkey River

This state-owned facility receives rainbow, brook and brown trout fingerlings from the state hatchery in Manchester, raises them to stockable size and later releases them into trout streams throughout northeast Iowa. Water for the hatchery's 24 raceways and 4 earthen ponds is supplied from Big Springs, Iowa's largest spring. Special tours, trout fishing information and licenses are available. Picnic, camp or launch your canoe and trout fish in the spring outflow to the Turkey River.

Bixby Preserve
10 miles southeast of Elkader
DNR/Parks Bureau: (563)924-2527

In 1979 this 184 acre state park was designated a state preserve to permanently protect the park's unique geological formations and to maintain the habitat of endangered plants and animals. Visitors may hike, picnic or photograph while enjoying the natural beauty of the sinkholes, springs and ice caves. Facilities include picnic shelter, pit toilets and a parking lot. No camping. Iowa State Parks

Brush Creek Canyon Preserve
2 miles north of Arlington
20 miles west of Elkader
(563)425-4161
Hike the trails along the steep, wooded gorge in this 217 acre forested preserve to observe its geological and biological treasures. A parking lot, picnic shelter and restroom are available. No camping is allowed. Iowa State Parks

Clayton Country Stone Structures
See an inventory of stone structures located in Clayton County.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
25 miles northeast of Elkader
Open: 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily
except on national holidays
Park Visitor Center: (563)873-3491
Established in 1949 to preserve ceremonial mounds constructed by Native American mound builders inhabiting the upper Mississippi River valley between 450 B.C. and 1300 A.D. Explore the mounds and experience the beauty of this 1,481 acre park on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Hike its extensive trail system and enjoy the visitor center where you will find a museum, bookstore and restroom facilities. Interpretive tours, films, nature lectures and activities are offered year round. Visit the Effigy Mounds website for more information.
Froelich Village Museum
Located in Froelich
12 miles north of Elkader
Discover the history of Froelich, Iowa, where John Froelich invented the first gasoline powered traction engine, the Froelich Tractor, which could propel itself backward as well as forward. The village also includes a Blacksmith's Shop, Iron Clad Store, Train Depot, Schoolhouse and more. Visit the Froelich Village website.
Mississippi River-Lock and Dam #10
20 miles south of Elkader
Built between 1935-1937 under the federal government's Public Works Program, the Mississippi River lock and dam system is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Millions of tons of cargo pass through this lock every year. An observation deck allows visitors to view each craft, from canoe to mighty barge, as it maneuvers through the lock system.
Motor Mill
5 miles southeast of Elkader on the Turkey River
Owned and managed by the Clayton Country Conservation Board. (563)245-1516
Historic six story gristmill and four other limestone buildings erected between 1840-1870 sit on approximately 20 acres of park area. Hike the trails, camp or launch your canoe for a float down the Turkey River to Garber and beyond. Visit the Motor Mill website.

Osborne Visitor, Nature Center
Osborne Visitor, Welcome and Nature Center
Hwy. 13
(563)245-1516
5 miles south of Elkader on Highway 13
The Welcome Center houses a gift shop offering unique Iowa products, wildlife and conservation displays, travel information and educational facilities for classroom visits. The Pioneer Village, arboretum and a live animal exhibit are located outside on the Nature Center grounds. Nature trails, exercise trails, hiking, cross country skiing, archery range, primitive camping and picnic areas are also available. Managed by the Clayton County Conservation Board.
Visit the Osborne Conservation Center website.
Pikes Peak State Park
1.5 miles south of McGregor on Highway 340
25 miles northeast of Elkader
(563)873-2341
Located atop a 500' bluff, this park offers a stunning view of the Mississippi River valley and the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. Bald eagles may often be observed here in large numbers on their winter feeding grounds. Experience the beauty and history of this park by hiking the boardwalk to Bridal Veil Falls or to effigy mounds built by members of the prehistoric Native American Woodland Culture. Bicycling, picnicking, shelters, camping, restrooms and shower available. Iowa State Parks
Volga River Recreation Area
4 miles north of Fayette
25 miles west of Elkader on Highway 150
(563)425-4161
5700 acres of rolling woodlands and a 135 acre lake provide a variety of recreational opportunities including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, camping, fishing and boating. Iowa State Parks

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