Maquoketa River

The Maquoketa River is a tributary of the Mississippi River, approximately 150 miles (240 km) long,[2] in northeastern Iowa in the United States. Its watershed covers 1,694 square miles (4,387 km2)[3] within a rural region of rolling hills and farmland southwest of Dubuque. It is not to be confused with the Little Maquoketa River, another distinct direct tributary of the Upper Mississippi River meeting the Big River north of Dubuque. The river and its tributaries mark the border of the Driftless Area of Iowa, with the areas east of it not having been covered by ice during the last ice age. Its name derives from Maquaw-Autaw, which means "Bear River" in Meskwaki.[4]

Maquoketa River
North Fork Maquoketa River.jpg
The North Fork of the Maquoketa River at Dyersville, Iowa in 1996
Maquoketa River highlighted
EtymologyMaquaw-Autaw, "Bear River" in Meskwaki
CountryUnited States
Physical characteristics
 • coordinates42°43′08″N 91°42′39″W / 42.7189°N 91.7107°W / 42.7189; -91.7107
MouthMississippi River
 • elevation
591 ft (180 m)
Length150 mi (240 km)
 • locationMaquoketa, IA
 • average1,141 cu/ft. per sec.[1]
U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Maquoketa River


The Maquoketa rises in southeastern Fayette County just southwest of Arlington in Fairfield Township, and approximately 10 miles (16 km) east of Oelwein. It flows briefly northeastward, then generally southeastward through Clayton, Delaware, Jones and Jackson Counties, through Backbone State Park and the towns of Dundee, Manchester and Monticello.

At Maquoketa, it receives the North Fork Maquoketa River from the north; the North Fork rises in northern Dubuque County and flows 96 miles (154 km)[2] generally southward past Dyersville and Cascade. The Maquoketa then flows generally eastward in a meandering course as it approaches the Mississippi. It enters Pool 13[5] of the Mississippi from the southwest in eastern Jackson County a few miles upstream from Sabula approximately 30 mi (48 km) southeast of Dubuque.

The river is considered one of the best smallmouth bass and trout fisheries in Iowa.[6]


There are four small dams on the river:


The stretch of river from just below the Mon-Maq dam to Iowa Highway 136 is one of Iowa's most popular canoe trips.[11] Along much of this stretch, the river flows through a canyon bounded by steep cliffs of Silurian dolomite. Large tracts of surrounding land are open to the public, including the Pictured Rocks Wildlife Management Area (1,138 acres, cooperatively managed by Jones County and the Iowa DNR,[12] and the Indian Bluffs Primitive Area State Preserve (845 acres, privately owned, managed by the Iowa DNR).[13] The canyon walls in Pictured Rocks make it one of the most popular rock climbing areas in Eastern Iowa, with numerous routs and pre-set anchors for climbing ropes; the highest rock face is 75 feet (23m).[14]

Maquoketa Caves State Park, a few miles upstream from Maquoketa protects a segment of the Driftless Area's karst topography, characterized by caves, ice caves and sinkholes.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^,00060
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map Archived 2012-03-29 at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 13, 2011
  3. ^ "Evaluating Agricultural Nonpoint Loadings on Pool 13 from Maquoketa River Watershed, Iowa", USGS, Retrieved July 18, 2007
  4. ^ "Maquoketa as the Centre of Trade". Maquoketa Jackson Sentinel. May 12, 1870.
  5. ^ Pool 13, Army Corps of Engineers, Retrieved July 18, 2007
  6. ^ Iowa DNR: Trout fishing on the Maquoketa Archived 2004-07-03 at the Wayback Machine, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, retrieved July 18, 2007
  7. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Hartwick Lake and Dam, Retrieved July 18, 2007
  8. ^ Iowa DNR, Retrieved July 18, 2007 Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "CNN:Dam fails in eastern Iowa, causing massive flooding". July 24, 2010. Retrieved July 24, 2010.
  10. ^ Dam Removal Study & Local Floodplain Master Planning (Floodplain Management Services, Iowa), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, 2014-Aug-21.
  11. ^ Nate Hoogveen, Maquoketa River 3, Paddling Iowa, 2nd ed, Trails Books, Madison, 2006; page 90-91. Includes map.
  12. ^ Pictured Rocks Wildlife Management Area,, retrieved Feb. 15, 2017.
  13. ^ Ruth Herzberg and John Pearson, Indian Bluffs Primitive Area State Preserve, The Guide to Iowa's State Preserves, University of Iowa Press, 2001; page 75.
  14. ^ Pictured Rocks Rock Climbing, the Mountain Project, retrieved Feb. 15, 2017.

External linksEdit