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Ultimate Guide to Decorah Ice Cave, Iowa (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

Ultimate Guide to Decorah Ice Cave, Iowa (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

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June is usually associated with warmth and heat, but you will find a different sight when you come to Decorah Ice Cave. The Ice Cave Preserve is a unique phenomenon; the cave gets filled with loads of ice in the middle of the hottest months. So, you must come here to view this natural attraction whenever you are in Iowa. 

Ultimate Guide to Decorah Ice Cave, Iowa (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

Decorah Ice Cave, Iowa

The destination is a must-visit place as it is one of the largest caves with ice in the Midwest. It is a geological marvel and an iconic attraction in the State. You must take time out of your busy routine to check out this cave. 

History of Decorah Ice Cave

This cave is truly one of the finest geological wonders of the state. It is found in the Driftless region of Iowa, where interesting geology and topology are quite common. Not many people know that the science behind this Ice Cave is simple, although it is pretty interesting.

The total area was not glaciated during the last Ice Age, so the ice here is not formed by any glacier that has not melted. A cold air trap is created in the cave because of how the cave has been formed. Although we do not claim to be geologists, we can surely tell that the whole principle is based on warm air rising.

Since the cave entrance is higher than the area where the ice is, the cold air remains trapped in the cave throughout the summer. The warm air is lighter and escapes from the top part. In the winter, however, sometimes the cooler air gets in and pushes out the warm air, increasing the cave’s chilliness. 

The Ice Cave is open to the public but is designated as an “enter at your own risk” attraction. The town of Decorah has maintained the cave since 1954, although it is a State Preserve. The Ice Cave was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 

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Geological Cave Formations in Decorah Ice Cave

This cave is famous for the huge deposits of ice that coat the cave’s walls and are present for most of the year. It is speculated to be the largest known ice cave in this part of North America. The cave passage follows a vertical fracture through the limestone, which is of permanent type.

Ice formation occurs through the movement of cold air into the cave during winter through a network of crevices. In spring, the surface ice gets thawed, and the water seeps into the cave and gets frozen as soon as it comes in contact with the cold rock walls and the trapped cold air. 

Wildlife in Decorah Ice Cave

Visitors will come across beavers, deer, and grouse in this part of the city park.

Is Decorah Ice Cave Haunted?

While this cave is often considered a true geological wonder, but it is not haunted.

How Big is Decorah Ice Cave?

This cave preserve is spread over 3 acres, and the inside of the cave is accessible up to 60 ft. 

map of the decorah ice cave area

Decorah Ice Cave Tours

One needs to climb a set of stairs to reach the Ice Cave. But the effort is well worth it; everyone should visit this spot at least once in Iowa. The cave is carved from 450-year-old limestone and dolomite, but this is not the only thing that will impress you.

When you come in the summer, you will find a cave full of ice. Due to a scientific phenomenon, you will see ice even during the warmest months. You will come across the largest deposit of ice in June, but you can visit the cave any time of the year, although it is not recommended to come here in winter. 

It is to be remembered that Decorah Ice Cave is an “enter at your own risk” attraction as there is no supervision and not even set hours for visiting. Kids can visit this cave, but adults must accompany them. The cave’s passage tends to become narrow after a few yards, and adults might have to duck their heads or turn sideways in some places.

There is a small warning sign at the cave entrance, indicating that the cave’s trail is slippery, and one should be aware of falling rock too. The City of Decorah will not be responsible for any accident. 

Decorah Ice Cave Tour Prices and Discounts

No charges for the Ice Cave, and no tours are available. 

Is Decorah Ice Cave Cold?

Yes, the cave is cold as the temperature hardly rises more than 35 degrees F, and you will always find ice on the ground and in the cracks of the rock. 

What to Wear?

You must bring jackets here as the temperature inside the cave is quite chilly! You must also carry knee pads and an adequate number of flashlights. It is so cold that you will probably need a coat inside! 

Decorah Ice Cave Hours

This cave can be visited from sunrise to sunset. 


What to Do at the Cave (Beside Tours)

One will not find much to see here apart from exploring the Ice Cave. However, Dunnings Spring Park waterfall is nearby, a 200ft wonder. The area surrounding the Ice Cave is full of picturesque views. So you can spend some time enjoying beautiful scenery all around. 

Best Time to Visit the Decorah Ice Cave

The ice accumulates in March, reaches a thickness of 10 inches by June, and remains like that till late August. So the best time to come here would be between June and the 2nd half of August. Visits in winter are not at all recommended. 

How to Get to Decorah Ice Cave

The Ice Cave is on the north side of the Ice Cave Road. It is about a quarter-mile east of Dunnings Spring Park. You need to watch out for the gravel turn-out and a small sign that indicates the ice cave. It would be just off the road, at the bluff’s base. 

Provide a safe bat habitat
Provide a safe bat habitat!

Hotels near the cave

Several good hotels near the Ice Cave, such as Decorah High Point Cabins and Hotel Winneshiek. 

Places to Stay Nearby

Decorah Ice Cave Fun Facts

  • The Decorah Ice Cave is an ‘enter at your own risk attraction.’ 
  • The cave is a State Preserve managed by the town of Decorah since 1954.  
  • The Ice Cave was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. 
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Decorah Ice Cave Details 

  • Length: The cave Preserve is spread over 3 acres, and the ice cave is not huge but big enough to stand inside it. It is accessible for up to 60 ft. 
  • Time Recommended: 1 to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Kid-friendly: Should be accompanied by adults
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Fees: Free
  • Hours: Sunrise to sunset

Download our Decorah Ice Cave Guide (Unofficial) 

Visiting Decorah Ice Cave

Do you need more information before visiting the cave? Call (563) 382-4158 for an information packet. 

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