Explore Iowa: Mines of Spain
This wooded bluff on Dubuque's south side, named for its historic lead mines, is the site of the first non-Indian settlement in Iowa. Now a state recreation area, the site includes a variety of stunning natural features and historically significant landmarks.
The 1387-acre site includes Julien Dubuque's Monument and burial site, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. Prior to Dubuque’s arrival, the mouth of Catfish Creek hosted a Meskwaki village, which traded with French trappers on the Mississippi River. The Meskwaki formed a tight relationship with Dubuque, to the point that he was buried with full tribal honors.
When INHF was founded in 1979, it undertook the protection of the Mines of Spain as its first major project. The landowners did not want to deal directly with government agencies, but were willing to sell the land for conservation and public use. INHF managed to negotiate the purchase and put together $3 million in various public funds and private donations to protect this bluff – within a single year!
This achievement established INHF’s reputation for accomplishing complex projects, bringing private leadership to land protection, and doing what government agencies cannot do alone. This protection has ensured that 3.5 miles of Mississippi River Bluffland frontage will remain natural, with its wildlife habitat intact.
In 2011, INHF began a partnership effort to add 52 acres to the park that will enhance the scenic and natural experience for visitors, improve access and public safety, and improve water quality for two streams that run in and near the park. Project partners are the Friends of the Mines of Spain, the City of Dubuque and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Plan a visit
The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center, a Mississippi River Scenic Byway Interpretive Center, provides a gateway into visitor’s exploration of the site The center received a major update in 2010, with the addition of 7,400 square feet to the existing 6300 square feet. The addition includes new exhibits and information about the history and features of the park. The Mines of Spain Park includes 21 miles of hiking trails and five miles of ski trails. Various paths lead to rock outcroppings, Indian Mounds, 250-year-old bur oak trees, aspens and birch, lead mine pits and the remnants of an 1859 farm area – all while winding through a 15-acre wetland, creeks, forest, prairies, and meadows. The trails offer great opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography and hiking and skiing. The park is an undeveloped area offering over 300 acres of restored prairie, upland and lowland forests all in rough terrain. For more information visit the Mines of Spain website.
EB Lyons Interpretive Center
8991 Bellevue Heights
Dubuque, IA 52003-9214
Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce
The Friends of the Mines of Spain is a non-profit group organized to inform and educate the public about nature, conservation, greenbelt concept, natural history, archeology and current events related to the Mines of Spain and its locale. The club assists the park with educational programs, coordinates volunteers efforts, and locates funding and materials for projects.