Spook Cave Boat Tour - McGregor Iowa

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Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa
Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa

Spook Cave is a privately owned and operated show cave and campground located along Bloody Run in McGregor Iowa. This unique cave tour floats adventurers on a 40 minute boat tour of the flooded Spook Cave. This original 1950's roadtrip attraction remains unchanged today. In fact, the seven punts used to glide tourists through the caverns are the original boats commissioned for this tour.

It includes garish tongue and cheek humor, hand painted signage, a scripted tour narrative, and all of the razzle dazzle you would expect from the by-gone romantic high period of American tourism. Not only does the main attraction continue to delight and charm off-the-beaten-path travelers, but the surrounding campgrounds and leisure-park seem frozen in a time when kids waded carelessly through streams attempting to net minnows, climbed on waterfalls without regard, and jockeyed for turns on the pinball machine.

A trip to Spook Cave is a welcome respite in a world of buzzing smartphones, facetime marathons, tablet games, and all of the flashy go-go-gadgetry that pretends to deliver a superior interactive, engaging, and learning experience.

Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa
Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa

Buried under the karst topography of the driftless region of Wisconsin and Iowa lie treasures waiting for discovery. The cave dubbed Spook Cave was first unearthed in 1953. In all probability, stalagmites and stalactites grow in similar damp and dark chambers nearby that remain hidden from humans to this day. The entire region is speckled with sinkholes, dolines, and underground rivulets.

A rich geological history of the driftless region is preserved and on display in Spook Cave. A zebra striped flowstone wall presents white stripes of pure calcite along with black stripes of manganese. As your boat is deftly guided through the tight quarters of a meandering elliptical stone tube of close to a half mile in length you are forced to hunker
Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa
Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa
down beneath jagged Dog Tooth Formations and hairy stalactites. Rounding blind corners, the chambers open up to an infinite chimney and a 35 foot high dome room that presents a frozen mineral waterfall. Farther back, now 120 feet beneath a cow pasture, you are presented with a final chance to look up and inspect the high ceilings of Spook Cave before turning back.

Spook Cave is less than a geological museum. It lacks the sort of educational lectures you might be treated to at Cave of the Mounds. Making up the difference are tall tales of alligator sightings and the evidence of scratch marks on the cave walls by Old Joe - a solo cave explorer who reportedly capsized his boat  and managed to drown in the bathtub deep waters of Spook Creek.

Your tour guide and captain will also regale you with legends of the attraction's founder: Gerald Mielke. The hollow that now supports a bucolic campgrounds alongside Bloody Run, was once the community of Beulah - a true ghost town. For as long as Bloody Run Hollow was inhabited a spring hole was referred to as Spook Hole. Strange noises and echos could be heard emanating from a hole impossibly small to host such pompous clatter.Surely the sounds of Spook Hole were the voices of trapped spirits. (If you would like to imagine what Spook Hole looked like before Spook Cave was dynamited open then walk over to Beulah Falls and observe the small elevated hole that produces the falls.)

Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa

In 1953, along came Gerald Mielke, an experienced show cave developer who had another idea what might be the cause of the mysterious voices. Armed with dynamite he blasted open Spook Hole to find the lengthy cave now dubbed Spook Cave. He cleverly, created a dam and millpond that could be drained in the winters but would flood the cave in the summers deep enough to float curious tourists to the farthest corners of the cave. He wrote a script for the tours, procured aluminum punts, and established Spook Cave as a campground and attraction.

The history of of the site yields even more interesting tales and legends. The nine mile long Bloody Run emptied into the Mississippi directly across the river from Fort Crawford where one Lieutenant Martin Scotts was stationed in 1826. This legendary hunter and sportsman once declared before a hunt in the area that he would make the rivers run with blood from the game he scored. Ever since, the river has been referred to as Bloody Run.

Later in history, The disastrous flood of 1896 turned Beulah into a ghost town. This newspaper account describes the scene in vivid detail:

The most disastrous storm in the history of the county, in loss of life, occurred in the latter part of May, 1896. This was a storm partaking of the nature, both of a cyclone and a cloudburst. This storm was general throughout the west. The most damage was done at St. Louis and among the other losses there, was that of the steamer "Libbie Conger" of the Diamond Jo line, the boat sinking in the middle of the river with Captain Seaman, his wife and six of the crew. In this county the full force of the storm was felt on Bloody Run. It came between 11 and 12 o'clock of a Sunday night. A terrific stream of water poured down Bloody Run Hollow, filling the bottoms to a depth of from ten to twenty feet. About a mile west of Beulah the flood began tearing out railway bridges and the track bed. When it struck the Beulah depot it swept everything away. William Lord, the agent and his family, occupied the upper rooms. They heard the
rushing water and escaped to the bluff but lost everything they had. The flood struck the house of Mrs. Patrick Burke, taking her and her grandson, William Burke, down the torrent. Their bodies were found a few miles below. At John Maloney's three young men, John Kodletz, Michael Havljeck and John Levostch had stopped to await the passing of the storm. These three, with Mr. Maloney, his wife and brother Michael were lost in the flood. The water piled up against the bridge and embankment until these gave way and carried the track and bridge against the house, but three of the bodies from this home were recovered. The next home was that of Lawrence Meyer and he and his wife and five children perished. In the McGregor yards, seven canvas men, of Kirkhart and Ryan Circus, were caught in the flood and sought safety in a box car. This was overturned and flooded and the canvas men were lost ; thus at least twenty were killed in this storm. At North McGregor, the scene of destruction was startling. houses, cars, engines and bridges being scattered in a promiscuous heap at the mouth of the valley. The flood rose so quickly that train- men going to work in the yards had to climb onto box cars to save themselves and the men at the round house had to seek the tops of the engines for safety. Tracks, saw mills and lumber piles were also destroyed. It was not until June 12, that railroad traffic was resumed in the county.
-History of Clayton County
What remains of Beulah is the namsake waterfall found in the Spook Cave campgrounds.
It was clamored upon in years past as it is clamored on today.
Beulah Falls in the late 1800's
Beulah Falls in 2014

For a weekend getaway - Spook Cave Campgrounds provides all of the accommodations you will need. For a day trip, Spook Cave is just one essential stop along a procession of natural wonders that line the banks of The Mississippi River surrounding McGregor.

Directions and Map

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Address for your GPS: Spook Cave and Campground, 13299 Spook Cave Rd, McGregor, IA 52157. | coordinates: N43.033017, W091.307649 |

From Milwaukee3.5 Hours
From Madison2 Hours
From Green Bay4.5 Hours
From Wausau4 Hours
From Minneapolis3.5 Hours
From Chicago4.5 Hours


Entrance to Spook Cave - McGregor Iowa

Boarding the Rafts at Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa
Boarding the Rafts at Spook Cave - Mcgregor Iowa