On our recent visit to climb Charles Mound, Illinois’ highpoint, we also spent a few days in the Dubuque, IA area. One of the things our family loves to do is to visit caves. Dubuque gave us the opportunity to check out Crystal Lake Cave.
Crystal Lake Cave is a cave with passageways created to showcase the stalactites, stalagmites, and other amazing formations. Crystal Lake Cave continues to grow and change, due to it being a live/wet cave.
While this is not a show-stopper cave, it’s worth a visit. However, it’s on the small side and many of the features are hard to see. For example, the “Lake” in the name can only be viewed one person at a time and is much smaller than expected.
That being said, for a small cave it is chock full of amazing things to see. It also has a more basic, simple feel to it than other caves we’ve visited. It’s also a bit rougher and less developed in feeling, which to me is a positive.
Crystal Lake Cave, Dubuque, Iowa slideshow:
Tours take about 45 minutes and the passageways are on the smaller side, so expect to do plenty of ducking and squeezing through narrower areas, if you are a bigger person. It’s probably a good idea to wear waterproof boots or shoes you don’t mind getting wet, because there is a lot of water on the ground. A jacket might also be a good idea, since the temperature in the cave stays around 52 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
For braver visitors, Crystal Lake Cave also offers Wild Cave Tours, an exploration of un-excavated passageways, which last approximately 1.5 hours. With the regular passageways feeling somewhat cramped, we opted to save that tour for another day perhaps.
Outside of the cave entrance/gift shop, there is plenty of free parking, a gem mining sluice, and a picnicking area.
Positives: It’s a cave!; very friendly staff; great gift shop with some inexpensive souvenirs; good addition to a Dubuque or Galena visit.
Negatives: Smallish cave for the price; many of the features can only be seen one person at a time; our guide knew very little about the cave (she admitted it openly); on the pricy side for the tour (of course a good guide might have changed this).
At the time of this writing, rates for the tour of the cave were $15 – Adults, $7 – Children ages 4-11, and Free for Children under 4 years old.
Directions to Crystal Lake Cave:
Got time for lunch? Go for a cruise on the American Lady!