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Iowa’s Backbone

By Linda Tancs

Dedicated in 1920, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s first state park. Located in Dundee, its name derives from the narrow and steep ridge of bedrock carved by a loop of the Maquoketa River that was coined the “Devil’s Backbone.” Needless to say, it’s a sought-after spot for rock climbers, particularly around Backbone Trail. Interestingly, many of Backbone’s buildings were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was established in 1933 as part of the New Deal program of President Roosevelt in an effort to provide work for unemployed Americans during the Great Depression. Among the CCC projects completed at Backbone were the dams on the Maquoketa River forming Backbone Lake, an auditorium, bridges and roads. Near the park’s west gate is a museum dedicated to the work of the CCC in the state.

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