Midwest Living Review
The 1,380 acres of Mines of Spain State Recreation Area feel spread out: You have to do some driving among the major sites unless you want to hike for miles. Nevertheless, if you're in the Dubuque area and would like an uncrowded place for a hike in the bluffland, Mines of Spain is worthwhile. (Though we visited in summer, we imagine the fall colors along the river and bluffs are gorgeous.) It's a designated Watchable Wildlife Area, with lush plant life and lots of critters to see, and 15 miles of clearly marked trails (signs do not include mileage, so make sure you have a map before you head out). Start your visit at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, where you can pick up excellent brochures and get the lay of the land. The trails right around the Center border prairie plantings, woodland flower gardens, a historic farmsite and more. A major landmark is the Julien Dubuque Monument, perched high above the Mississippi. Dubuque is believed to be the first European to settle in what is now Iowa. He arrived in 1788, and eventually married the daughter of Chief Peosta of the Mesquakie. Another site to visit is Horseshoe Bluff, where a 2-mile loop leads to a 15-acre wetland with two floating trails and an observation blind. Though this is more of a DIY park, there are guided hikes Saturdays, and Friends of Mines of Spain offers canoe trips on Catfish Creek some Sunday afternoons; call the park office for details.