Crystal Lake Cave. (c) 2012 J.S. Reinitz

Last weekend, while people were busy getting trapped at Maquoketa Caves, we took an easier route to explore the underworld.

Temporarily forsaking the mud and claustrophobia of wild caves, we sought a tour of Crystal Lake Cave in Dubuque. It came complete with steps, lighted passages and a level floor. There were even mats to get us over the occasional spot of standing water

The kids loved it. It was our 5-year-old daughter’s first time in a cave, and she shined her flashlight in everybody’s eyes and got to see a real bat. Our 9-year-old son took pictures of everything that dripped.

Discovered on farmland in 1868 during the lead mining craze, Crystal Lake Cave is a private show cave near the banks of the Mississippi River. If you go, be sure to catch the great views at the Mines of Spain park and the Julien Dubuque monument.