Ziplining in Dubuque

By , August 7, 2017 6:30 am

This is the fourth year in a row we’ve vacationed with Gina, Steve, and Luca (nuestra otra familia) in Guttenberg, Iowa. Why Guttenberg? Because my family has cabins there (free lodging!), it’s on the Mississippi River (fun on the water!), and it’s beautiful and relaxing (Gina and Steve’s phones don’t even work there!).

The first two years, our river trips were over Labor Day. The trip shifted to July the third year/last year so Gina could do RAGBRAI, and because Luca started kindergarten before Labor Day. At the end of each visit, we always lament how fast it went, and last year we decided we should try to extend it to a whole week (from three full days and two partial days). It takes Gina and family two days to drive to Guttenberg from their home near Dallas – there should at least be more vacation days than car days, right?!

So, this year, we were in Guttenberg almost an entire week – we arrived Friday night and left Thursday afternoon. RAGBRAI kicked off our vacation in Iowa, but we did a lot more (besides bum around on the beach) while we were there! And now, you get to read about it… starting with ziplining!

Ziplining wasn’t on my radar for this trip until I saw a post on Facebook in April about Sky Tours Ziplining in Dubuque (near Guttenberg). Gina and Steve were interested, so when we were all together and river trip planning in May, we added it as a definite possibility on the activities tab on our trip spreadsheet (oh yes – there was a spreadsheet and LOTS of planning for this trip!). Gina looked up all of the information about it so we’d have it ready to go when we were in Guttenberg!

[Side note: I don’t know why it’s my style to include all of these decision making details and extra information in my blog posts. Like I think I will need to remember this down the road? Ha ha.]

At first glance, ziplining seemed a bit pricey to me – $65 per person, for nine lines/an hour and twenty minutes of entertainment. But that is probably (just guessing) cheaper than it is in tropical/exotic locations? However it compares, it ended up being worth it, and a total blast!

You have to have a reservation to zipline, and Sky Tours recommended making it twenty-four hours in advance, but when we called late Sunday night (I was impressed someone answered) we were able to make an appointment for Monday July 31st at 11:00 am.

Sky Tours asks that you get there fifteen minutes before your appointment to sign waivers and put the safety gear on. I was happy that they were prepared for us, and ready for us to go right at 11:00!

Our group consisted of the four of us, a woman (and I am assuming) her daughter, and two guides. The guides said they can do groups up to twelve or fifteen people! I liked our smaller group size.

Our guides were friendly and funny. They teased each other, teased us, and made jokes the entire time. It was right up my alley (although maybe a serious person wouldn’t like all the safety jokes?!?!).

We started with putting our harnesses on – it consisted of two leg straps, a strap that goes around your waist, and the front straps and carabiners that actually attach to the zipline. The guides pointed out to us that there was no upper body harness and to not tip upside down, because you could fall out of your harness (eek!). And they told us our helmets were just to protect our heads from hitting the lines/trees, etc., not from a fall. And with that, we were ready to go!

We walked to the first line and the guides started with sharing the history of the area we were in. It’s currently (and has been since the 40s) a YMCA camp, but in the 1890s, it was actually Union Park (click on the link for cool old drawings and photos) – an amusement park owned by the local electric company. It thrived until it flooded in 1919, and many structures were destroyed. Parts of it were rebuilt, but it was never as popular as it was in its heyday. In the mid 1930s the structures were dismantled, and in 1946 the YMCA and Boy Scouts bought the land.

While we were ziplining, we could actually see remnants of some of the structures – paths, walls, bases, and the large Olympic size swimming pool (rumored to fit 2,000 bathers). And we could see how they were built in low-lying land that flood waters would fill.

There are nine ziplines in the park, but recent storms made the dual-racing line unsafe (sad face), so Sky Tours actually cut the lines on that one until it could be rebuilt, and we ended up doing the longest line twice so that we still got to do nine lines.

Our first line (and most of them) started in the woods. One guide went to the other side to help us come in, and one guide stayed back to get everyone clipped in. For the first line, they went over basic safety (don’t tip back, where to put your hands, etc.) but not how to steer. I hadn’t even though of the fact that we could spin around on this thing! But you do! Weeeeeeeeee!

Steve coming in off the first line

Gina coming in off the first line

I was definitely spinning on my first line (and the following seven lines). When we were all done with the first line, and getting ready for the second, they explained how you can put one hand on the carabiner and turn it toward the direction you are spinning in order to not spin that way. Or hold it steady and turn your knees toward the way you are spinning? Yeah, I didn’t quite get it and found it counter-intuitive. But I tried to figure it out!

Most of the first few lines were from a high spot to a low spot in the woods, and had a short hike between them. Each one would have a different start and finish – sometimes you had a running start on the ground, sometimes you stepped off a platform, sometimes you finished on the ground, sometimes you finished on a platform, etc. The guides would explain each time what to expect, and what to do with our legs/body so we didn’t hit anything!

One of the middle lines we did went out to a tall freestanding platform. When we got out to it, we had to be strapped in to another line, so we wouldn’t fall off. The platform was wobbly, especially as more people got on it. I could see people being scared by that, but it didn’t bother me.

Steven coming in to the platform

Steven getting ready to leave the platform

In fact, I was never scared, or hesitant doing this, at all. I didn’t even have any gut reactions like “don’t jump!” when we went off the platform.

The line we did after the tower had what they called the “beanie drop.” They opened up a big box FULL of beanie babies and told us to pick one to take with on the line and try to drop in to a red bucket on the ground!

Our guides had stickers all over their helmets, and one of them told us it was for how many people they had fall off the lines (ha), but they later said it was actually for how many successful drops they’d made it to the bucket on the beanie drop. None of us made it! I swore mine was close, but there was another guide on the group batting at the dropped beanies with a stick, and he hit mine when I dropped it, ha ha ha.

We had a bit of a hike between some of the later lines, and got to see some of the ruins from Union Park. The tour guides provided water at two of the stops, which we appreciated.

The last lines we did were the longest ones – I think the longest was 1200 or so feet long and about 75 feet above ground (I turned my watch on and got to 34 mph on it). We hiked to the long line, rode it, zipped back down on another line, then finished with the long line, and I FINALLY FIGURED OUT THE STEERING (you can tell I am corrected my spin twice in the video):

Yay! Only took nine tries! Ha ha.

After we finished, it was a short walk back, we took off our equipment, said goodbye and were done!

The tour went by quickly, in a good way. With our smaller group, there was less waiting for everyone to do the line (and it’s fun to watch people go/come in, anyway). We all hiked at a good pace and the guides were organized and kept us moving. I enjoyed our guides, and the stories they told about the park and their ziplining adventures.

The ziplining itself was exciting! It was neat to be up in the trees, seeing things from a perspective I’ve never experienced before. I loved the flying sensation. It was never scary (even when I was spinning and landing backwards) and I always felt safe. We all had fun and agreed that we’d love to do it together again! Gina mentioned there is a place that does it by where they live in Dallas…

18 Responses to “Ziplining in Dubuque”

  1. Maggie says:

    I’ve never been ziplining because Robert is always over the weight limit (he’s 6’4, so … a big guy), so I’d have to go without him. Looks like fun though!

  2. This looks awesome! I thought $65 was pretty steep at first, too, but the more you talked about it, the more it sounded like a pretty good deal! It sounds like a really fun way to spend part of your day, and the history of the area is super fascinating! I’ve only done small amounts of zip-lining (the summer camp I went to in middle school had a zip line that went into the lake, but it was just one short line, not several lines covering a lot of distance), but that was always my favorite activity at camp 🙂

    • kilax says:

      That is the exact same reaction I had about the price. I do really wonder what other places cost now. I should look up the cost of the place near Lake Geneva!

      The history was so neat! And I loved seeing the photos/drawings of what used to be there (they had them printed in the room where we harnessed up).

      That is awesome that your camp had one! This made me want to put one at our house! Ha!

  3. Karen says:

    I never thought about spinning, so I’ll be prepared when I try it. I am kicking myself that I did not go while I was in Montana.
    It looks really awesome 🙂

  4. Shelley B says:

    OK, throwing the Beanie Babies into the bucket while ziplining sounds extra fun! I went ziplining in Maui a while back and really liked it – would totally do it again. What a neat adventure for you guys to do together!

  5. Amy says:

    I’ve never done it but you make it sound like fun!

  6. Kiersten says:

    This looks so fun and I love that you guys have a spreadsheet to plan everything! That totally sounds like me and my husband always makes fun of me for it. I’ve always passed on zip-lining because of the price- I didn’t think it would be worth it, but this makes me reconsider.

    • kilax says:

      Oh gosh. That spreadsheet helped SO much. We had a lot of meals on it, and who was buying what, etc. And there was a packing tab and a few other things. Does your husband thinks that stuff is unnecessary or just that a spreadsheet takes it too far?

      Definitely reconsider! I thought it was so fun! I bet there are some beautiful places to try it by you!

      • Kiersten Pfeifer says:

        He thinks vacation is for relaxing and he doesn’t think planning is relaxing. When we did our road trip to New Zealand he just wanted to get off the plane and start driving and see where we ended up. Not knowing where I am going to sleep at night is not relaxing for me! Plus I always worry that I am going to miss seeing something really cool and regret it forever if I don’t research my destination ahead of time.

        • kilax says:

          Is his last Myers Briggs letter “P”?! 😉 Good for him for being chill! I like to have a rough idea in mind, and like you, know what is out there to see so I don’t miss anything!

  7. Stephany says:

    Ah! Ziplining is my favorite. I’ve done it four times and it’s always my go-to activity when I’m traveling somewhere. It’s just so much fun!

    I dated a guy who ran zipline tours and I loved hearing about the people on his tours. The tours he ran, he always joked around and had fun with it, and most of the people did NOT get the humor in it. Haha. I think the jokey nature of ziplining tour guides is what makes the experience so much fun!

    • kilax says:

      I thought of you and all the times you’ve been ziplining when I was out there! 🙂

      I bet he had so many fun stories! I can’t believe most people did NOT like it! I’d kind of assume people doing this would be more … free spirited? ha ha

  8. Anne says:

    This looks so cool! I’ve never gone ziplining before, so I looked it up after your trip – it looks like some of the metroparks and preserves around us have courses you can complete, even some full-day trips! I had no idea it could be such an elaborate thing.

    Anyway, I’m glad you guys could do this! And it’s cool that you had such a small group – that’s definitely more fun.

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