The earliest known inhabitants of the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area during historical times were the Mesquakie Indians. Their village was located just south of where the Julien Dubuque Monument now stands, at the mouth of Catfish Creek. From this site, the Indians carried on a fur trade with French voyagers. They also worked the lead mines for many decades dating back to before the Revolutionary War. There is evidence of prehistoric Indian cultures, some dating back as much as 8000 years. Mounds, village sites, rock shelters, trading post sites, and campsites dot the landscape.
Dubuque is credited as being the first European to settle on what is now Iowa soil in 1788. In 1796, Dubuque received a land grant from the Governor of Spain who resided in New Orleans at the time. The grant gave permission for Julien Dubuque to work the land which was owned by Spain, and specified the 189-square mile area to be names as "Mines of Spain". Dubuque eventually married Potosa, daughter of the Mesquakie Indian Chief, Peosta. Dubuque died March 24, 1810.
Facilities and Activities
The Mines of Spain offers fine settings for a family or company picnic. Visitors can enjoy the outdoors, experience the E.B. Lyons Nature Center, hike the many trails and enjoy the natural vistas at the park. Picnicking facilities are available at the center, at the Julien Dubuque Monument, at the Horseshoe Bluff Area, at the canoe launch area, and at the south parking area.
Hiking and cross-country ski trails are available at the Mines of Spain. Four miles of ski trails are maintained for classical and skate skiing and 4 miles of hiking trails. There are 13 individual nature walks within the park, including those at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center and another at the Horseshoe Bluff Site. The EB Lyons Interpretive Center area contains two new trails in 2016- The America State Park Woodland Walk provide opportunities for you to explore the state trees of th 50 states ad the John and Alice Butler ADA Trail. Other trails provide a wide range of opportunities for visitors to view Mines of Spain on old winding logging roads, to view limestone bluffs, scenic vistas, and to enjoy a hike through forests and prairie. Some of the trails are steep and challenging. The trail system is designated as a National Recreation Trails System.
Hunting and Trapping
The Mines of Spain is a wildlife management area that allows trapping and archery hunting for all seasons. Limited firearm hunting for deer (regular gun season in early December) and spring turkey hunting (first season in mid April) is allowed south of Catfish Creek. Call the park ranger for details.
The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area was dedicated in 1981. It was acquired with the assistance of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. The acquisition helped assure the protection of an important piece of Iowa's historical and natural heritage. In 1993, the area was designated as a National Historical Landmark.
The 1439 acres which make up the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area include a variety of interesting land forms, plant species and communities, animals and water types. Much of the area is rugged, wooded Mississippi River Bluffland. While much of the original timber along the Mississippi River was logged off during the steamboat era (1865-1880), portions of the Mines of Spain Area were left untouched, leaving us with burr oak trees today that are over 250 years old.
The Mines of Spain Area was designated as one of Iowa's "Watchable Wildlife Areas", and with good cause. Rare species, including the bobcat, red-shouldered hawk, flying squirrel and bald eagle have all been seen on the area. In addition the area is home to a large variety of songbirds, white-tailed deer, wild turkey and numerous small mammals. With wetlands, creeks forest, prairies, cropland, meadows and the Mississippi River, the Mines of Spain offers a wide variety of Iowa's natural world for those who take the time to look and listen.
Aquarium Display, Bird Watching, Boating, Butterfly Garden, Cross Country Skiing, Day-use Lodge, Fishing, Geological Formations, Hiking, Historic Sites, Interpretive Center, Interpretive Display, Interpretive Programs, Nature Center, Picnic Area, Picnic Shelter, Scenic Driving Routes, Trail, Interpretive, Trails, Cross Country Skiing, Trails, Hiking, Viewing Platform/Overlook, Visitor Center, Wildflower Viewing, Wildlife Viewing