MAQUOKETA, Iowa — The iconic caves at Maquoketa Caves State Park soon will be fully open to the public after more than a year of closures.

The caves will be open starting on April 15, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. They had been closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and winter bat hibernation season.

Given the park’s popularity, officials recommended that visitors plan their trips for midweek or outside of the peak window of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. There are less than 150 parking spots and as many as 1,500 people entering the park on a summer weekend day, the DNR reports.

Officials also asked visitors to observe social distancing as much as possible.

“Exploring Maquoketa Caves involves a boardwalk system with enclosed railings in some places, along with several staircases and limited walkways,” a press release states.

Those entering the caves will be required to attend a short program on white nose syndrome in bats and how to prevent it from spreading. The disease has killed an estimated 6 million bats nationwide since it was first detected in 2006.

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