2013 Mining History Association Tours


Mines of Spain, Dubuque, Iowa

Tour Leader, Bob Spude

June 6, 2013





The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area south of Dubuque, Iowa was the site of the earliest mining by Europeans in the Upper Mississippi Valley Zinc and Lead District.  The lead deposits were known to the Native Americans who revealed them to French explorer Nicholas Perrot around 1690.  A trading post was established to barter for lead but it was soon abandoned.  In 1788, French Canadian trader Julien Dubuque reached an agreement with the Mesquaki (Fox) Indians to work the mines.  He established a fur and lead trading post at Catfish Creek on the Mississippi River.  French laborers and the Mesquaki (Fox) operated the mines and smelters for Dubuque.  In 1896, the Spanish governor recognized his right to operate Dubuque’s Mines of Spain.  Dubuque died in 1810 and was buried on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi and Catfish Creek.

The Mines of Spain Recreation Area occupies part of the area where lead was mined and smelted.  The E. B. Lyons Visitor Center interprets the natural, mining, and agricultural history of the area.  Hands-on educational activities for children include a “Kids Mine.” 


Rudy Pruszko gives a presentation on the Mines of Spain at the Visitors Center before the MHAers begin their tour of the area.

MHAers on the trail above Catfish Creek, site of many of the early lead mining and smelting operations.

Another 2-mile long hiking trail at Horseshoe Bluff provides an excellent view of the limestone that contained the lead deposits mined by the early miners and Native Americans.

From the top of Horseshoe Bluff, Dubuque lies to the north along the Mississippi River.



A monument from the late 1800’s marks the spot where the Mesquaki (Fox) buried Julien Dubuque in 1810.  The site offers an impressive southerly view of the Mississippi.


The grave marker of Julien Dubuque inside his monument.


Close to Dubuque’s grave is a memorial to Chief Peosta of the Mesquaki (Fox), his friend and father-in-law.


The MHAers take in the view of the Mississippi from the Julien Dubuque Monument.

MHAers at the Dubuque Shot Tower. It was erected adjacent to the Mississippi in 1856 and produced lead shot until 1881.

The Dubuque Shot Tower survived fires and floods.  The tower and the revitalized waterfront are now protected by a levee.  The gold dome in the distance is the county courthouse.

The “drop process” for producing spherical lead shot was invented by William Watts in England in the 1760’s.  Today, it is one of only a few remaining shot towers in the USA.

Photo Credits: Mike and Pat Kaas, Bob Spude




All contents copyright 2011. This is a ZStudios website.