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Celebrating 100 Years at Iowa’s First State Park

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DUNDEE, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources kicked off its celebration of Iowa parks 2020. This is the 100th anniversary of the starting of Iowa’s state park system.

The celebration was delayed in May due to COVID-19, which was the actual month of Backbone State Park’s first dedication. The original dedication was also delayed in October 1919 when flooding hit the park.

“At a time when we’re all looking for the right place to get away to relax a little bit and recharge, there’s never been a better time for Iowans to explore our network a great state parks,” said Gov. Kim Reynolds. “Since the beginning, this beautiful place has been one of our state’s natural treasures and the birthplace for Iowa’s state park system. Backbone, as you’ve heard, is more than that. It’s been the backdrop for generations of family traditions.”

The land for the first state park was donated to the state for this purpose. Mike Carr, whose grandfather made the donation, also spoke at the event.

“The old name for the area was Devil’s Backbone, one which was discarded at the dedication ceremony. And the park formally became Backbone State Park,” said Carr. “However, the vestiges of the old name still exist. Devil’s Oven, these are rock formations, and the Devil’s Stairway, which are found along the Backbone trail.”

Many outdoor tourism attractions in Iowa are seeing huge attendance. The same is true for Iowa’s state parks.

“My family and I cherish and value the park system,” said Kayla Lyon, Iowa DNR director. “We’ve camped, we’ve hiked, we’ve fished, we’ve boated, we’ve gone trail riding on horseback, we’ve burned a lot of marshmallows in many of our parks and forests.”

Lyon said the pandemic has caused more people to discover what Iowa has.

“During the past few months as people have been driven outdoors to our natural spaces, visitors have discovered the vast opportunities our parks provide,” said Lyon. “More often than not we hear from folks who say they never realized they had these gems right out their backdoor.”

The governor helped to unveil a new sign for the park, part of a redesigned look for Iowa park signs.

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