The view from Ice Cave at Maquoketa Caves State Park. The caves may reopen this year.

After being closed for two years, the caves at Iowa’s Maquoketa Caves State Park may be open for tourists later this year.

The caves, a series of popular sacrificial caverns located in east Iowa, were shut down because of concerns over white nose syndrome. The ailment is being blamed for the collapse of bat colonies in the eastern United States, but there have been no reported cases in Iowa, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Two years ago, officials closed all state caves because experts feared that humans visiting an infected cave could pickup some contaminated material on their clothing or shoes and spread it to other caves.

Earlier this week, area media quoted park officials saying the caves could open later this year, although with some restrictions. A state lawmaker also told news outlets about possible legislation to open the caves.

Other state caves closed because of white nose concerns include Starr’s Cave near Burlington, and Searryl’s Cave in Jones County. Iowa has nine bat species and of those only four roost in caves: Big Brown, Little Brown, Long Eared and Eastern Pipistrelle, according to the Iowa DNR.

Maquoketa is a great place to explore for cavers of all skill levels. The place has large tunnels with paved walkways, steps and lights as well as several cramped caves where an explorer can get good and muddy.

Here’s a good article on the recent developments.

Here’s one of our posts about an earlier (pre-closure) expedition to the park.

DNR’s Maquoketa Caves site.