Monona Area Business Spotlight: Spook Cave and Campground

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Russ and Tabbi Bries, with their kids Kylee and Autumn, are the owners of Spook Cave and Campground, located between Monona and McGregor. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

 

Spook Cave and Campground has been a popular northeast Iowa attraction for nearly 70 years. Owners Russ and Tabbi Bries pride themselves on keeping that tradition alive while continuing to update, and add to, all the amenities the destination offers.

 

“I remember last year talking to a couple who’s been coming here for 20-some years. It made me feel so good because they’re like, ‘I cannot believe what you guys have done. It’s even prettier now,’” recalled Tabbi. “It makes me want to do something else. We’re constantly thinking what’s the next project.”

 

2022 marks the third season of involvement for the Bries family. 

 

They helped oversee renovations at the Spook Cave store the first year, then new sidewalks the next. The picturesque water wheel was also taken out and repainted, and a basketball court was added near the playground.

 

Even the boats for the one-of-a-kind guided cave tours are new.

 

“The old boats we were using, it was nice because it was history, but they were 68 years old and showing wear and tear,” Tabbi said. “We had Kann Manufacturing make us new boats and they’re nice and sturdy, a little roomier and easier to control. You can fit more people in them.”

 

“It’s easier on the tour guides too because they don’t have to go in the cave as many times as they did with the older boats,” added Spook Cave employee Katie Bockenstedt.

 

Also of note this year: a revamped website that makes booking camping reservations and cave tours easier. An event center is being created in the former game room space, allowing people to host family reunions and parties, and birthday packages are available too.

 

“We have three different packages, and all include the cave tour and mining, which are two of our biggest features. One includes swimming and another includes swimming and fishing,” Katie detailed.

 

An online store and shelter house picnic area are next up on the to-do list.

 

Tabbi and Katie said the cave tours for which the site is named remain one of Spook Cave’s biggest draws. Guides use the same script to tell the story of how Gerald Mielke discovered the cave between McGregor and Monona in 1953, all while pointing out the unique formations of stalactites and stalagmites.

 

“But it’s a different experience every time you go through the cave because you never know what tour guide you’re going to get,” said Katie. “Yes, they all have the same information, but they all tell their own story, and that’s what’s really nice.”

 

“We have people who come back year after year and want to go through it,” she continued. “They remember bits and pieces of a story from when they were kids, and it’s something they hold onto. Then, their kids or grandkids want to go through.”

 

Spook Cave offers more than just cave tours, though. Visitors can enjoy trout fishing, swimming, paddling, mining and a playground. People can hike or drive their UTVs on the property’s trails, where scenic beauty and wildlife is plentiful.

 

The beauty of Beulah Falls, located near the Spook Cave and Campground entrance, brings visitors too.

 

“A lot of people come just to see the waterfall, and then they’ll end up going through the cave,” Tabbi said.

 

Events are held monthly, and often more frequently, at Spook Cave. They include a summer color run through the campground and trails as well as the October Cobb Fest with a poker run, parade, bacon fest, music, bonfire and other activities.

 

“It’s been a missed opportunity, and we have a lot to offer as a campground,” Katie said. “People who have never been here might be more willing to come in because there’s more we offer.”

 

“And it will maybe push our permanents to be involved more. When you camp here every weekend, you’re not necessarily going to come down and do a cave tour every time,” Tabbi added. 

 

For those who’d like to stay at Spook Cave and Campground, multiple options are available. There are nearly 50 seasonal campsites and another 60 sites for public overnight use, in addition to 10 cabins in varying degrees of rusticity.

 

The newest cabin sleeps up to 16 people and is listed on Airbnb for year-round use.

 

“We’re thinking for bigger families, instead of renting a motel, it would be nice they could rent that,” Tabbi shared.

 

The campground is full most weekends throughout the summer, and the fall remains busy as well, according to Tabbi. Cave tours run at their height in August.

 

She and Katie said making connections with guests is their favorite part of being involved with the business.

 

“The busy days where you’re going out of your mind, it’s so nice to hear people tell those stories,” Katie remarked. “It’s awesome to see the kids pull up in the boats after the tour and just listen to them talk about how cool it was, how they can’t wait to go again. It makes it all worth it.”

 

“We hope everyone feels welcome whether they camp here or live in town and want to come out,” she concluded.

 

To learn more about Spook Cave and Campground and its amenities, visit spookcave.com.

 

This business spotlight is supported by Monona Chamber and Economic Development, Inc.

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