Malanaphy Springs State Preserve is located on the Paleozoic Plateau landform region and contains a rugged forest, a large spring and a waterfall. Visitors can follow a trail from the parking area to a spring flowing from a cliff's opening. Visitors are also encouraged to visit the beautiful 10 foot waterfall, which is at the end of a series of cascading falls flowing over a porous lime deposit at their base and emptying into the Upper Iowa River (total height is ~ 60').
The steep slopes contain a forest with many rock outcrops throughout. The preserve houses more than 300 native vascular plants including sugar maple and basswood in the forest canopy and ironwood in the understory. Although there are dozens of springs which flow into the waters along your float from Bluffton to Decorah, Malanaphy Springs is the most well-known spring along the Upper Iowa River.
This beautiful landmark is best viewed from the the water. When referring to the Upper Iowa River Canoe Guide, Malanaphy Springs is just short of bridge 10 on your float down from Bluffton, IA. You can rent canoes, kayaks, or tubes from Randy's Bluffton Store (see their listing under recreation). If you have your own watercraft, it's a great idea to start at Randy's, get supplies and ask for any float updates! Their friendly staff will be more than happy to help you out.
To view the spring from above, take Pole Line Road Northwest out of Decorah off of US Hwy 52.
- From the intersection of IA-9 and US-52, head north on US-52.
- After a mile or so (give or take), you’ll turn left onto Pole Line Road.
- Drive on Pole Line Road for just over 2 miles to Bluffton Road.
- Turn right onto Bluffton Road, and drive about 0.7 miles to a parking area on your right. It’s 100′ or so off the road. (If you’ve crossed the bridge over the Upper Iowa River, you’ve gone too far.)
- From the parking area, take the trail to the falls. It’s not clearly marked, but there’s only one trail. You’ll be following the Upper Iowa River going upstream.
Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: ~2 miles roundtrip