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Clockwise from top: Main Street in downtown Ames, Iowa State University Alumni Hall, Marston Water Tower and Hoover Hall at ISU, Reiman Gardens, a train station in Ames, and Beardshear Hall.
Clockwise from top: Main Street in downtown Ames, Iowa State University Alumni Hall, Marston Water Tower and Hoover Hall at ISU, Reiman Gardens, a train station in Ames, and Beardshear Hall.
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Location in the State of Iowa
Location in the State of Iowa
Ames, Iowa is located in Iowa
Ames, Iowa
Ames, Iowa
Location in Iowa
Ames, Iowa is located in the United States
Ames, Iowa
Ames, Iowa
Location in the United States
Ames, Iowa is located in North America
Ames, Iowa
Ames, Iowa
Location in North America
Country  United States
State Iowa
County Story
Incorporated 1864
 • City 27.92 sq mi (72.32 km2)
 • Land 27.58 sq mi (71.43 km2)
 • Water 0.34 sq mi (0.89 km2)
942 ft (287 m)
 • City 66,427
 • Rank 9th in Iowa
 • Density 2,408.61/sq mi (929.96/km2)
 • Urban
 • Metro
89,542 (estimate based on Story County)
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP code(s)™
50010, 50011-50013 (UNIQUE ZIP Codes™-for Iowa State University), 50014
FIPS code 19-01855
GNIS feature ID 0454167
Interstates I-35 (IA 1957).svg

Ames is a city in Story County, Iowa, United States, located approximately 30 miles (48 km) north of Des Moines in central Iowa. It is best known as the home of Iowa State University (ISU), with leading agriculture, design, engineering, and veterinary medicine colleges. A United States Department of Energy national laboratory, Ames Laboratory, is located on the ISU campus.

According to the 2020 census, Ames had a population of 66,427, making it the state's ninth largest city. Iowa State University was home to 33,391 students as of fall 2019, which make up approximately one half of the city's population.

Ames also hosts United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sites: the largest federal animal disease center in the United States, USDA's Agricultural Research Service's National Animal Disease Center (NADC), as well as, one of two national USDA sites for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which comprises the National Veterinary Services Laboratory and the Center for Veterinary Biologics. Ames also hosts the headquarters for the Iowa Department of Transportation.


The city was founded in 1864 as a station stop on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri Railroad and was named after 19th century U.S. Congressman Oakes Ames of Massachusetts, who was influential in the building of the transcontinental railroad. Ames was founded by local resident Cynthia Olive Duff (née Kellogg) and railroad magnate John Insley Blair, near a location that was deemed favorable for a railroad crossing of the Skunk River.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.27 square miles (62.86 km2), of which 24.21 square miles (62.70 km2) is land and 0.06 square miles (0.16 km2) is water.

Ames is located on Interstate 35, U.S. Route 30 & 69, and the cross country line of the Union Pacific Railroad, roughly 30 miles (48 km) north of the state capital Des Moines. Two small streams run through the town: the South Skunk River and Squaw Creek.


Leedzsalon in Campustown
Café Beaudelaire in Campustown

Campustown is the neighborhood directly south of Iowa State University Central Campus bordered by Lincoln Way on the north. Campustown is a high-density mixed-use neighborhood that is home to many student apartments, nightlife venues, restaurants, and numerous other establishments, most of which are unique to Ames.


Ames has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa). On average, the warmest month is July and the coldest is January. The highest recorded temperature was 102 °F (39 °C) in 1988 and the lowest was −28 °F in 1996.

Climate data for Ames, Iowa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
Average high °F (°C) 30
Average low °F (°C) 12
Record low °F (°C) −26
Average precipitation inches (mm) .74
Source: Weather Channel


Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1870 636 —    
1880 1,153 +81.3%
1890 1,276 +10.7%
1900 2,422 +89.8%
1910 4,223 +74.4%
1920 6,270 +48.5%
1930 10,261 +63.7%
1940 12,555 +22.4%
1950 22,898 +82.4%
1960 27,003 +17.9%
1970 39,505 +46.3%
1980 45,775 +15.9%
1990 47,198 +3.1%
2000 50,731 +7.5%
2010 58,965 +16.2%
2020 66,427 +12.7%
Source: and Iowa Data Center
U.S. Decennial Census
The population of Ames, Iowa from US census data

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 58,965 people, 22,759 households, and 9,959 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,435.6 inhabitants per square mile (940.4/km2). There were 23,876 housing units at an average density of 986.2 per square mile (380.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 84.5% White, 3.4% African American, 0.2% Native American, 8.8% Asian, 1.1% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.4% of the population.

There were 22,759 households, of which 19.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 5.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 56.2% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.82.

The median age in the city was 23.8 years. 13.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 40.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.9% were from 25 to 44; 15% were from 45 to 64; and 8.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 53.0% male and 47.0% female.

Metropolitan area

Ames-Boone CSA
Location of the Ames-Boone CSA and its components:      Ames Metropolitan Statistical Area      Boone Micropolitan Statistical Area

The U.S. Census Bureau designates the Ames MSA as encompassing all of Story County. While Ames is the largest city in Story County, the county seat is in the nearby city of Nevada, 8 miles (13 km) east of Ames.

Ames metropolitan statistical area combined with the Boone, Iowa micropolitan statistical area (Boone County, Iowa) make up the larger Ames-Boone combined statistical area. Ames is the larger principal city of the Combined Statistical Area that includes all of Story County, Iowa and Boone County, Iowa. which had a combined population of 106,205 at the 2000 census.

Arts and culture

Velma Wallace Rayness Ames, Iowa was home to Gerard M. and Velma Wallace Rayness. Both artists taught art and were nationally recognized artists. Their art was exhibited nationally as well as abroad. Gerard died in the 1940s. Velma Wallace Rayness died in 1977. Velma Wallace Rayness usually signed her paintings "V.W. Rayness"

Ames Historical Society
Collects, preserves, and provides access to evidence of the history of Ames and its immediate vicinity from pre-settlement times to the present
Brunnier Art Museum (Scheman Building)
Ames Public Library
The Ames Public Library is a Carnegie library founded on October 20, 1904. It currently has 1,386,273 items in circulations, including 799,349 books and 586,924 multimedia items.
The Octagon Center for the Arts
The Center includes galleries, art classes, art studios, and retail shop. They sponsor the local street fair, The Octagon Arts Festival. Also have the Annual National Juried Exhibition Clay, Fiber, Paper Glass Metal, Wood.
The Space for Ames
Formally known as the Ames Progressive, The Space for Ames was a community space that served as an art gallery, music venue and classroom for community workshops.

Popular culture

  • The city is featured in the bestselling book The Girls from Ames written by Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow. It examines the lives and friendships of several young girls who grew up in Ames and have moved on with their adult lives but still remain close.
  • The city was featured in the episode "Heartache" of the television show Supernatural.
  • The character "Kate Austen" from the television show Lost is from Ames.

Parks and recreation

The Ames area has a large number of parks and arboretums.

Specialized Parks:

  • Ada Hayden Heritage Park
  • Ames Dog Park
  • Bandshell Park
  • Charles & June Calhoun Park
  • Daley Park & Greenbelt
  • Furman Aquatic Center
  • Gateway Park
  • Greenbriar Park
  • Homewood Golf Course
  • Georgie Tsushima Memorial Skate Park
  • Squaw Creek (Community Gardens)

Community Parks:

  • Brookside Park
  • Daley Park & Greenbelt
  • Emma McCarthy Lee Park
  • Inis Grove Park
  • Moore Memorial Park
  • River Valley Park

Neighborhood Parks:

  • Bandshell Park
  • Christofferson Park
  • Duff Park
  • Franklin Park
  • Hutchison Park
  • Lloyd Kurtz Park
  • Moore Park (On Beach Ave)
  • Old Town Park
  • O'Neil Park
  • Parkview Park
  • Patio Homes West Park
  • Roosevelt Park
  • Stuart Smith Park
  • Teagarden Park

Other topics


Iowa is a political "battleground state" that has trended slightly Democratic in recent years, and Ames, like Iowa City, also trends Democratic. Because Iowa is the first caucus state and Ames is a college town, it is the site of many political appearances, debates and events, especially during election years.

From 1979 through 2011, Ames was the location of the Ames Straw Poll, which was held every August prior to a presidential election year in which the Republican presidential nomination was undecided (meaning there was no Republican president running for re-election—as in 2011, 2007, 1999, 1995, 1987, and 1979). The poll would gauge support for the various Republican candidates amongst attendees of a fundraising dinner benefiting the Iowa Republican Party. The straw poll was frequently seen by national media and party insiders as a first test of organizational strength in Iowa. In 2015, the straw poll was to be moved to nearby Boone before the Iowa Republican Party eventually decided to cancel it altogether.


Ames is home of Iowa State University of Science and Technology, a public land-grant and space-grant research university, and member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. At its founding in 1858, Iowa State was formerly known as the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Ames is the home of the closely allied U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Animal Disease Center (See Ames strain), the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory (a major materials research and development facility), and the main offices of the Iowa Department of Transportation. State and Federal institutions are the largest employers in Ames.

Other area employers include a 3M manufacturing plant; Danfoss Power Solutions, a hydraulics manufacturer; Barilla, a pasta manufacturer; Ball, a manufacturer of canning jars and plastic bottles; Workiva, a global cloud computing company; Renewable Energy Group, America's largest producer of biomass-based diesel; and the National Farmers Organization.

The Iowa State University Research Park is a not-for-profit, business development incubator located in Ames, and affiliated with Iowa State University.

In 2015, Ames was ranked in the top 15 "Cities That Have Done the Best Since the Recession" by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Ames and Boulder, CO as having the lowest unemployment rate (2.5%) of any metropolitan area in the US in 2016. By June 2018, unemployment in Ames had fallen even further, to 1.5%, and wage increases for workers were not keeping pace with rising rents.

Top employers

According to Ames's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Iowa State University 16,647
2 City of Ames 1,573
3 Mary Greeley Medical Center 1,407
4 Danfoss 1,015
5 Iowa Department of Transportation 975
6 Hy-Vee 725
7 McFarland Clinic 675
8 Ames Community School District 650
9 Workiva 550
10 Hach Company 500


Iowa Sports Foundation

The Iowa State Cyclones play a variety of sports in the Ames area. The Iowa State Cyclones football team plays at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. Also, the Cyclones' Men's and Women's Basketball teams and Volleyball teams play at Hilton Coliseum just across the street from Jack Trice Stadium. The Iowa State Cyclones are a charter member of the Big 12 Conference in all sports and compete in NCAA Division I-A. The Iowa State Women's Tennis is also well known and very successful.

The Ames Figure Skating Club provides recreational to professional level skating opportunities. The club sponsors the Learn to Skate Program. Coaches provide on and off ice lessons or workshops. The club hosts the figure skating portion of the Iowa Games competition every summer. In the fall the club hosts Cyclone Country Championships.

The Ames ISU ice arena also hosts the Iowa State Cyclones hockey team. The arena also hosts the Ames Little Cyclones hockey program for high school students and children in elementary or middle school.


Much of the city is served by the Ames Community School District.

A portion of northern Ames is zoned to the Gilbert Community School District.

Public high school in Ames

Ames High School: Grades 9–12

Public elementary/middle schools in Ames
  • David Edwards Elementary: K-5
  • Abbie Sawyer Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Kate Mitchell Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Warren H. Meeker Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Gertrude Fellows Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Ames Middle School: Grades 6–8

Gilbert CSD students are zoned to Gilbert High School.

Private schools in Ames
  • Ames Christian School
  • Saint Cecilia School (preK – 5th grade)

Iowa State University

Iowa State University of Science and Technology, more commonly known as Iowa State University (ISU), is a public land-grant and space-grant research university located in Ames. Iowa State University is the birthplace of the Atanasoff–Berry Computer, the world's first electronic digital computer. Iowa State has produced a number of astronauts, scientists, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners. Until 1945 it was known as the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. The university is a member of the American Association of Universities and the Big 12 Conference.

Memorial Union, Iowa State College, 1940

ISU is the nation's first designated land-grant university In 1856, the Iowa General Assembly enacted legislation to establish the State Agricultural College and Model Farm. Story County was chosen as the location on June 21, 1859, from proposals by Johnson, Kossuth, Marshall, Polk, and Story counties. When Iowa accepted the provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862, Iowa State became the first institution in nation designated as a land-grant college. The institution was coeducational from the first preparatory class admitted in 1868. The formal admitting of students began the following year, and the first graduating class of 1872 consisted of 24 men and 2 women.

The first building on the Iowa State campus was Farm House. Built in the 1860s, it currently serves as a museum and National Historic Landmark. Today, Iowa State has over 60 notable buildings, including Beardshear Hall, Morrill Hall, Memorial Union, Catt Hall, Curtiss Hall, Carver Hall, Parks Library, the Campanile, Hilton Coliseum, C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, Fisher Theater, Jack Trice Stadium, Lied Recreation Center, numerous residence halls, and many buildings specific to ISU's many different majors and colleges.

The official mascot for ISU is Cy the Cardinal. The official school colors are cardinal and gold. The Iowa State Cyclones play in the NCAA's Division I-A as a member of the Big 12 Conference.


Power plant in Ames
City power plant at night blows steam into the air


The town is served by U.S. Highways 30 and 69 and Interstate 35. Ames is the only town in Iowa with a population of greater than 50,000 that does not have a state highway serving it. As of 2019, Ames currently has three roundabouts constructed on University Avenue/530th Avenue. The first is at the intersection of Airport Road (Oakwood Rd.) and University Avenue, the second at the intersection of Cottonwood Road and 530th Avenue and the third at Collaboration Place and 530th Avenue.

Ames was serviced by the Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Railroad via a branch from Kelley to Iowa State and to downtown Ames. The tracks were removed in the 1960s. The Chicago and North Western Transportation Company twin mainline runs east and west bisecting the town and running just south of the downtown business district. The C&NW used to operate a branch to Des Moines. This line was removed in the 1980s when the Spine Line through the nearby city of Nevada was purchased from the Rock Island Railroad after its bankruptcy. The Union Pacific, successor to the C&NW, still runs 60–70 trains a day through Ames on twin mainlines, which leads to some traffic delays. There is also a branch to Eagle Grove that leaves Ames to the north. The Union Pacific maintains a small yard called Ames Yard east of Ames between Ames and Nevada. Ames has been testing automatic train horns at several of its crossings. These directional horns which are focused down the streets are activated when the crossing signals turn on and are shut off after the train crosses the crossing. This system cancels out the need for the trains to blow their horns. Train noise had been a problem in the residential areas to the west and northwest of downtown.

Ames Municipal Airport is located 1 mile (1.6 km) southeast of the city. The current (and only) fixed-base operator is Hap's Air Service, a company which has been based at the airport since 1975. The airport has two runways – 01/19, which is 5,700 by 100 feet (1,737 m × 30 m), and 13/31, which is 3,492 by 100 feet (1,064 m × 30 m).

The City of Ames offers a transit system throughout town, called CyRide, that is funded jointly by Iowa State University, the ISU Government of the Student Body, and the City of Ames. Rider fares are subsidized through this funding, and are free for children under five. Students pay a set cost as part of their tuition.

In 2009, the Ames metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked as the third highest in the United States for percentage of commuters who walked to work (10.4 percent).

Ames has the headquarters of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Parks and recreation

On September 10, 2019 the City of Ames proposed a $29,000,000 bond for building a fitness center called the Healthy Life Center. It failed to pass. Iowa State University owns the land it was to be built on.

Notable people

This is a list of notable people associated with Ames, Iowa arranged by career and in alphabetical order.


  • Evan Helmuth, actor (Fever Pitch, The Devil Inside)

Artists and photographers

  • John E. Buck, sculptor
  • Margaret Lloyd, opera singer
  • Laurel Nakadate, American video artist, filmmaker and photographer
  • Velma Wallace Rayness (1896–1977), author and artist, painted "Roof Tops in Fall"
  • Brian Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, born July 16, 1959


  • John Darnielle, musician from indie rock band The Mountain Goats; former Ames resident
  • Envy Corps, indie rock band
  • Leslie Hall, electronic rap musician/Gem Sweater collector, born in Ames in 1981
  • Peter Schickele, musician, born in Ames in 1935
  • Richie Hayward, drummer and founding member of the band Little Feat; former Ames resident and graduate of Ames High School




  • Harrison Barnes, NBA player, 2015 NBA champion, 2016 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, Ames HS graduate
  • Joe Burrow, NFL player, 2019 Heisman Trophy Award Winner, 2020 CFP National Championship Winner. Born in Ames, but grew up in The Plains, Ohio
  • Juan Sebastián Botero, soccer player
  • Kip Corrington, NFL player
  • Dick Gibbs, NBA player, Ames HS graduate
  • Terry Hoage, NFL player
  • Fred Hoiberg, retired NBA basketball player; raised in Ames, ISU graduate, former ISU basketball coach, former coach of the Chicago Bulls and current Nebraska men’s basketball coach.
  • Doug McDermott, basketball player, Ames HS graduate
  • Cael Sanderson, U.S. Olympic gold medalist; undefeated, four-time NCAA wrestling champion; former ISU wrestling coach and alumnus
  • Herb Sies, pro football player and coach
  • Billy Sunday, evangelist and Major League Baseball player; born in Ames in 1863
  • Fred Tisue, Olympian water polo player


  • George Washington Carver, inventor, Iowa State University alumnus and professor
  • Laurel Blair Salton Clark, astronaut, died on STS-107
  • Charles W. "Chuck" Durham, civil engineer, philanthropist, civic leader, former CEO and chairman Emeritus of HDR, Inc.; raised in Ames
  • Lyle Goodhue, scientist, lived and studied here 1925–1934
  • Dan Shechtman, awarded 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "the discovery of quasicrystals"; Professor of Materials Science at Iowa State University (2004–present) and Associate at the Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory
  • George W. Snedecor, statistician, founder of first academic department of statistics in the United States at Iowa State University

Writers and poets

  • Ann Cotten, poet, born in Ames, grew up in Vienna
  • Brian Evenson, author
  • Jane Espenson, writer and producer for television, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation, grew up in Ames
  • Michelle Hoover, author, born in Ames
  • Meg Johnson, poet and dancer
  • Fern Kupfer, author
  • Joseph Geha, author
  • Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate; raised in Ames and ISU graduate
  • John Madson, freelance naturalist of tallgrass prairie ecosystems
  • Sara Paretsky, author of the V.I. Warshawski mysteries; born in Ames in 1947
  • Jane Smiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist; former instructor at ISU (1981–1996); used ISU as the basis for her novel Moo
  • Neal Stephenson, author, grew up in Ames
  • Hugh Young, coauthor of University Physics textbook
  • Lincoln Peirce, cartoonist/writer of the Big Nate comics and books


  • Neva Morris, at her death (2010) second-oldest person in the world and oldest American at the age of 114 years; lived in Ames her entire life
  • Nate Staniforth, magician

See also

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