By Craig Purcell

Enjoying a happy marriage is far from child’s play, but when Chelsea and Ryan Putz were considering venues where they could exchange their vows, they went back to a place Ryan knew well from his childhood.

The Putz’s were married in Backbone State Park.

“When we started our wedding planning, the one thing that I really wanted was to have an outside wedding that was close to fall so the leaves were starting to change,” said Chelsea. “We had looked at a couple of state parks in the area. Ryan had been to Backbone as a kid and talked about how nice it was, so on a weekend we were traveling up to see his parents in Edgewood, we took a tour to Backbone.”

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, Backbone was dedicated as Iowa’s first state park in 1920. The park consists of 2,001 heavily wooded acres, and is named for a steep and narrow ridge of bedrock cut by a loop of the Maquoketa River and forming the highest point in northeast Iowa — the Devil’s Backbone.

It is located three miles south of Strawberry Point.

The park features a number of open shelters, an auditorium and a stone lodge that can be reserved for special occasions. The surrounding woodlands boast trees of primarily oak and maple, providing the fall colors sought after and appreciated by many.

After visiting the auditorium and falling in love with the stone and the flora, Ryan and Chelsea knew they had found their venue. “It was also secluded so it still felt very intimate,” Chelsea said.

Not all of their wedding guests were familiar with Backbone either, but Chelsea said those who were able to help her and Ryan celebrate thought it was beautiful. She said some mentioned that they never would have thought of the location for a wedding.

Ryan and Chelsea were both excited about finding the ideal outdoor location for their nuptials, but when deciding on a natural setting to tie the knot, it’s important to remember that you might also be subject to the whims of Mother Nature herself.

“When we got married I wouldn’t say everything went as planned,” Chelsea recalled. “With every wedding event, something is bound to go wrong. One of those things was the weather. We had a ton of rain that, on Friday, flooded parts of Manchester. There was only one entrance that we could get into for the park. Other than the natural roadblocks, everything was great.”

Ryan and Chelsea also got the exact setting they knew would result in some gorgeous wedding photos, set against the natural autumnal hues. “We had all of our pictures taken at Backbone,” said Chelsea. “All of our photos were either taken in the auditorium or the lodge. I really loved our pictures. Our photographers were great, and they had us go into the woods to get some great shots.”

For information on renting any of the facilities at Backbone State Park, call the DNR at 924-2527.