State of Iowa
Flag of Iowa State seal of Iowa
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Hawkeye State
Motto(s): Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.
Map of the United States with Iowa highlighted
Demonym Iowan
Capital
(and largest city)
Des Moines
Largest metro Des Moines metropolitan area
Area Ranked 26th
 - Total 56,272.81 sq mi
(145,746 km2)
 - Width 200 miles (322 km)
 - Length 310 miles (499 km)
 - % water 0.70
 - Latitude 40° 23′ N to 43° 30′ N
 - Longitude 90° 8′ W to 96° 38′ W
Number of people Ranked 31st
 - Total 3,134,693 (2016 est)
 - Density 54.8/sq mi  (21.2/km2)
Ranked 36th
 - Average income $60,855 (16th)
Height above sea level
 - Highest point Hawkeye Point
1,671 ft (509 m)
 - Average 1,100 ft  (340 m)
 - Lowest point Confluence of Mississippi River and Des Moines River
480 ft (146 m)
Became part of the U.S. December 28, 1846 (29th)
Governor Terry Branstad (R)
U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R)
Joni Ernst (R)
U.S. House delegation 1: Rod Blum (R)
2: Dave Loebsack (D)
3: David Young (R)
4: Steve King (R) (list) (list)
Time zone Central: UTC -6/-5
Abbreviations IA, US-IA
Website www.iowa.gov
Iowa State symbols
Flag of Iowa.svg
The Flag of Iowa.

Seal of Iowa.svg
The Seal of Iowa.

Animate insignia
Bird(s) Eastern goldfinch
Flower(s) Wild rose
Grass Bluebunch wheatgrass
Tree Bur oak

Inanimate insignia

Route marker(s)
Iowa Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of Iowa
Released in 2004

Lists of United States state insignia

Iowa is a U.S. state in the Midwestern United States, bordered by the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River on the west.

Surrounding states include Wisconsin and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, Nebraska and South Dakota to the west, and Minnesota to the north.

In colonial times, Iowa was a part of French Louisiana and Spanish Louisiana; its state flag is patterned after the flag of France. After the Louisiana Purchase, people laid the foundation for an agriculture-based economy in the heart of the Corn Belt.

In the latter half of the 20th century, Iowa's agricultural economy made the transition to a diversified economy of advanced manufacturing, processing, financial services, information technology, biotechnology, and green energy production.

Its capital and largest city by population is Des Moines.

Iowa has been listed as one of the safest states in which to live. Its nickname is the Hawkeye State.

Etymology

Iowa derives its name from the Ioway people, one of the many Native American tribes that occupied the state at the time of European exploration.

Geography

Boundaries

See also: List of counties in Iowa
Iowa topography
Topography of Iowa, with counties and major streams.

Iowa is bordered by the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri River and the Big Sioux River on the west. The southern border is the Des Moines River.

Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are formed entirely by rivers.

Iowa has 99 counties, but 100 county seats because Lee County has two. The state capital, Des Moines, is in Polk County.

Geology and terrain

Desoto Lake1
DeSoto Lake at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa.
Fountain-Springs-Park Delaware-County,-Iowa Sunday,-September-4,-2011 tour-03
Fountain Springs Park in Delaware County, Iowa.

Iowa's bedrock geology generally increases in age from west to east. In northwest Iowa, Cretaceous bedrock can be 74 million years old, in eastern Iowa Cambrian bedrock dates to c. 500 million years ago.

Iowa is generally not flat; most of the state consists of rolling hills. Iowa can be divided into eight landforms based on glaciation, soils, topography, and river drainage. Loess hills lie along the western border of the state, some of which are several hundred feet thick.

Northeast Iowa along the Mississippi River is part of the Driftless Zone, consisting of steep hills and valleys which appear almost mountainous.

Several natural lakes exist, most notably Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji Lake in northwest Iowa (see Iowa Great Lakes). To the east lies Clear Lake. Man-made lakes include Lake Odessa, Saylorville Lake, Lake Red Rock, Coralville Lake, Lake MacBride, and Rathbun Lake. The state's northwest area has many remnants of the once common wetlands, such as Barringer Slough.

Ecology and environment

Iowa's natural vegetation is tallgrass prairie and savanna in upland areas, with dense forest and wetlands in flood plains and protected river valleys, and pothole wetlands in northern prairie areas.

Most of Iowa is used for agriculture; crops cover 60% of the state, grasslands (mostly pasture and hay with some prairie and wetland) cover 30%, and forests cover 7%; urban areas and water cover another 1% each.

Threatened or endangered animals in Iowa include the interior least tern, piping plover, Indiana bat, pallid sturgeon, the Iowa Pleistocene land snail, Higgins' eye pearly mussel, and the Topeka shiner. Endangered or threatened plants include western prairie fringed orchid, eastern prairie fringed orchid, Mead's milkweed, prairie bush clover, and northern wild monkshood.

Climate

Iowa has a humid continental climate throughout the state with extremes of both heat and cold. Winters are often harsh and snowfall is common.

Spring ushers in the beginning of the severe weather season. Iowa averages about 50 days of thunderstorm activity per year. The 30 year annual average Tornadoes in Iowa is 47.

Iowa summers are known for heat and humidity, with daytime temperatures often near 90 °F (32 °C) and sometimes exceeding 100 °F (38 °C).

Prehistory

Iowa archaeology edgewater
Excavation of the 3,800-year-old Edgewater Park Site.

When American Indians first arrived in what is now Iowa more than 13,000 years ago, they were hunters and gatherers living in a Pleistocene glacial landscape.

By the time European explorers and traders visited Iowa, American Indians were largely settled farmers with complex economic, social, and political systems. American Indians adapted to local environments and ecosystems, slowly becoming more sedentary as populations increased.

The arrival of European trade goods and diseases in the Protohistoric period led to dramatic population shifts and economic and social upheaval, with the arrival of new tribes and early European explorers and traders.

There were numerous Indian tribes living in Iowa at the time of early European exploration. Tribes which were probably descendants of the prehistoric Oneota include the Dakota, Ho-Chunk, Ioway, and Otoe. Tribes which arrived in Iowa in the late prehistoric or protohistoric periods include the Illiniwek, Meskwaki, Omaha, and Sauk.

History

Early exploration and trade, 1673–1808

Iowa 1718
Iowa in 1718. Modern state area highlighted.

The first known European explorers to document Iowa were Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet who traveled the Mississippi River in 1673 documenting several Indian villages on the Iowa side. The area of Iowa was claimed for France and remained a French territory until 1763.

The French, before their impending defeat in the French and Indian War, transferred ownership to their ally, Spain. Spain practiced very loose control over the Iowa region, granting trading licenses to French and British traders, who established trading posts along the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers.

Iowa was part of a territory known as La Louisiane or Louisiana, and European traders were interested in lead and furs obtained by Indians. The Sauk and Meskwaki effectively controlled trade on the Mississippi in the late 18th century and early 19th century.

Along the Missouri River at least five French and English trading houses were built before 1808. In 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of Louisiana from Spain in a treaty.

After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Congress divided the Louisiana Purchase into two parts -- the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. The latter, of which in was placed. Iowa was placed under United States jurisdiction of the Territory of Indiana.

War of 1812 and unstable U.S. control

Fort Madison 1810
Plan of Fort Madison, 1810.

Fort Madison was built to control trade and establish U.S. dominance over the Upper Mississippi, but it was poorly designed and disliked by the Sauk and Ho-Chunk, many of whom allied with the British, who had not abandoned claims to the territory.

Fort Madison was defeated by British-supported Indians in 1813 during the War of 1812, and Fort Shelby in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, also fell to the British. Black Hawk took part in the siege of Fort Madison.

After the war, the U.S. reestablished control of the region through the construction of Fort Armstrong, Fort Snelling in Minnesota, and Fort Atkinson in Nebraska.

Trade and Indian removal, 1814–1832

Iowa 1905 Census Map Indian Terr Accessions
A map of Iowa Indian Territory Accessions.

The U.S. encouraged settlement of the east side of the Mississippi and removal of Indians to the west.

Trade continued in furs and lead, but disease and forced population movement decimated Indian cultures and economies. A disputed 1804 treaty between Quashquame and William Henry Harrison that surrendered much of Illinois to the U.S. enraged many Sauk and led to the 1832 Black Hawk War. As punishment for the uprising, and as part of a larger settlement strategy, treaties were subsequently designed to remove all Indians from Iowa.

The Sauk and Meskwaki were pushed out of the Mississippi valley in 1832, out of the Iowa River valley in 1843, and out of Iowa altogether in 1846. Many Meskwaki later returned to Iowa and settled near Tama, Iowa; the Meskwaki Settlement remains to this day.

In 1856 the Iowa Legislature passed an unprecedented act allowing the Meskawki to purchase the land; Indians were not usually permitted to do so. The Ho-Chunk were removed from Iowa in 1850, and the Dakota were removed by the late 1850s. Western Iowa around modern Council Bluffs was used as a way station for other tribes being moved west, including the Potawatomi.

U.S. settlement and statehood, 1832–1860

The first American settlers officially moved to Iowa in June 1833. On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of the territory, which at the time had 22 counties and a population of 23,242.

On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the Union when President James K. Polk signed Iowa's admission bill into law.

Iowa has a long tradition of state and county fairs. The State Fair has been held every year since except for the year 1898 due to the Spanish–American War and the World's Fair being held in nearby Omaha, Nebraska. The fair was also a World War II wartime casualty from 1942–1945.

Civil War, 1861–1865

Kirkwoods 1852
Jane and Samuel Kirkwood, 1852.

Iowa supported the Union during the Civil War, voting heavily for Abraham Lincoln. There were no battles in the state, although the battle of Athens, Missouri, 1861, was fought just across the Des Moines River from Croton, Iowa, and shots from the battle landed in Iowa. Iowa sent large supplies of food to the armies and the eastern cities.

Much of Iowa's support for the Union can be attributed to Samuel J. Kirkwood, its first wartime governor.

Most fought in the great campaigns in the Mississippi Valley and in the South.

Agricultural expansion, 1865–1930

Barclay barn 1875
Iowa farm, 1875.

Following the Civil War, Iowa's population continued to grow dramatically. The introduction of railroads in the 1859s and 1860s transformed Iowa into a major agricultural producer.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I and farmers as well as all Iowans experienced a wartime economy. For farmers, the change was significant. Since the beginning of the war in 1914, Iowa farmers had experienced economic prosperity. In the economic sector, Iowa also has undergone considerable change. Beginning with the first farm-related industries developed in the 1870s, Iowa has experienced a gradual increase in the number of business and manufacturing operations.

Depression, World War II, and the rise of manufacturing, 1930 to present day

The transition from an agricultural economy to a mixed economy happened slowly. The Great Depression and World War II accelerated the shift away from smallholder farming to larger farms, and began a trend of urbanization that continues. The period since World War II has witnessed a particular increase in manufacturing operations. While agriculture continued to be the state's dominant industry, Iowans also produce a wide variety of products including refrigerators, washing machines, fountain pens, farm implements, and food products.

The Farm Crisis of the 1980s caused a major recession in Iowa, causing poverty not seen since the Depression. The crisis spurred a major population decline in Iowa that lasted a decade.

After bottoming out in the 1980s, Iowa's economy began to become increasingly less dependent on agriculture, and by the early 21st century was characterized by a mix of manufacturing, biotechnology, finance and insurance services, and government services.

Demographics

Major cities

Iowa's largest cities and their surrounding areas
Recorded by the United States Census Bureau
Rank City 2014 city population 2010 city population Change Metropolitan Statistical Area 2014 metro population 2010 metro population 2014 metro change
1 Des Moines 209,220 203,433 &10000000000000002844671+2.84% Des Moines–West Des Moines 611,549 569,633 &10000000000000007358422+7.36%
2 Cedar Rapids 129,195 126,326 &10000000000000002271108+2.27% Cedar Rapids 263,885 257,940 &10000000000000002304799+2.30%
3 Davenport 104,589 99,685 &10000000000000004919496+4.92% Quad Cities 385,630 379,090 &10000000000000001725183+1.73%
4 Sioux City 82,517 82,684 Template:Number table sorting/negative−0.20% Sioux City 168,806 168,563 &10000000000000000144159+0.14%
5 Iowa City 73,415 67,862 &10000000000000008182782+8.18% Iowa City 164,357 152,586 &10000000000000007714338+7.71%
6 Waterloo 68,364 68,406 Template:Number table sorting/negative−0.06% Waterloo–Cedar Falls 169,993 167,819 &10000000000000001295443+1.30%
7 Council Bluffs 62,245 62,230 &10000000000000000024104+0.02% Omaha–Council Bluffs 904,421 865,350 &10000000000000004515051+4.52%
8 West Des Moines 63,325 56,609 &10000000000000011863837+11.86% Des Moines–West Des Moines 611,549
9 Ames 63,266 58,965 &10000000000000007294157+7.29% Ames 94,073 89,542 &10000000000000005060195+5.06%
10 Dubuque 58,436 57,637 &10000000000000001386262+1.39% Dubuque 96,370 93,653 &10000000000000002901135+2.90%
11 Ankeny 53,801 45,582 &10000000000000018031240+18.03% Des Moines–West Des Moines 611,549
12 Urbandale 43,150 39,463 &10000000000000009342928+9.34% Des Moines–West Des Moines 611,549
13 Cedar Falls 40,859 39,260 &10000000000000004072847+4.07% Waterloo–Cedar Falls 169,993
14 Bettendorf 36,822 33,217 &10000000000000010852876+10.85% Quad Cities 385,630
15 Marion 36,774 34,768 &10000000000000005769673+5.77% Cedar Rapids 263,885

Population

As of 2015, Iowa had an estimated population of 3,123,899.

This is the first time the state has topped the three million mark in population.

Race and ancestry

According to the 2010 Census, 91.3% of the population was White (88.7% non-Hispanic white), 2.9% was Black or African American, 0.4% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.7% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 1.8% from two or more races. 5.0% of the total population was of Hispanic or Latino origin (they may be of any race).

Iowa's population included about 97,000 foreign-born (3.3%). Iowans are mostly of Western European descent. The five largest ancestry groups in Iowa are: German (35.7%), Irish (13.5%), English (9.5%), American (6.6%), and Norwegian (5.7%).

Language

English is the most common language used in Iowa, used by 94% of the population.

After English, Spanish is the second-most-common language spoken in Iowa, with 120,000 people in Iowa of Hispanic or Latino origin and 47,000 people born in Latin America. The third-most-common language is German, spoken by 17,000 people in Iowa; two notable German dialects used in Iowa include Amana German spoken around the Amana Colonies, and Pennsylvania German, spoken among the Amish in Iowa.

The only indigenous language used regularly in Iowa is Meskwaki, used around the Meskwaki Settlement.

Economy

Iowa quarter, reverse side, 2004
Iowa state quarter with reverse image based on a painting by American artist Grant Wood.

While Iowa is often viewed as a farming state, in reality agriculture is a small portion of a diversified economy, with manufacturing, biotechnology, finance and insurance services, and government services contributing substantially to Iowa's economy.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing is the largest sector of Iowa's economy. Major manufacturing sectors include food processing, heavy machinery, and agricultural chemicals.

Agriculture

Iowa harvest 2009
Harvesting corn in Linn County.
Survivor, Northwest Iowa 7-13 (22550505788)
Farm in rural Northwest Iowa

Directly and indirectly, agriculture has been a major component of Iowa's economy.

Iowa's main agricultural products are hogs, corn, soybeans, oats, cattle, eggs, and dairy products. Iowa is the nation's largest producer of ethanol and corn and some years is the largest grower of soybeans.

In 2008, the 92,600 farms in Iowa produced 19% of the nation's corn, 17% of the soybeans, 30% of the hogs, and 14% of the eggs.

Other sectors

Ethanol production consumes approximately one-third of Iowa's corn production, and renewable fuels account for 8% of the state's gross domestic product. A total of 39 ethanol plants produced 3.1 billion US gallons (12,000,000 m3) of fuel in 2009.

Turbines iowa
Wind turbines near Williams.

Renewable energy has become a major economic force in northern and western Iowa, with wind turbine electrical generation increasing exponentally since 1990. In 2010, wind power in Iowa accounted for 15.4% of electrical energy produced, and 3675 megawatts of generating capacity had been installed at the end of the year.

Iowa ranked first of U.S. states in percentage of total power generated by wind and second in wind generating capacity behind Texas.

Attractions

Central Iowa

Des Moines skyline
Skyline of Des Moines, Iowa's capital and largest city.

Des Moines is the largest city in Iowa and the state's political and economic center. It is home to the Iowa State Capitol, the State Historical Society of Iowa Museum, Drake University, Des Moines Art Center, Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, Principal Riverwalk, the Iowa State Fair, Terrace Hill, and the World Food Prize. Nearby attractions include Adventureland and Prairie Meadows Racetrack Casino in Altoona, Living History Farms in Urbandale, Trainland USA in Colfax, and the Iowa Speedway and Valle Drive-In in Newton.

RG Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing
The Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing at Iowa State University, Ames.

Ames is the home of Iowa State University, the Iowa State Center, and Reiman Gardens.

Boone hosts the biennial Farm Progress Show and is home to the Mamie Doud Eisenhower museum, the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad, and Ledges State Park.

The Meskwaki Settlement west of Tama is the only American Indian settlement in Iowa and is host to a large annual Pow-wow.

The Clint Eastwood movie The Bridges of Madison County, based on the popular novel of the same name, took place and was filmed in Madison County. Also in Madison County is the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset.

Eastern Iowa

Old capital iowa city
Old Capitol, Iowa City.
Davenport Skybridge at night
Inside the Davenport Skybridge.

Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa, which includes the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Old Capitol building. Because of the extraordinary history in the teaching and sponsoring of creative writing that emanated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and related programs, Iowa City was the first American city designated by the United Nations as a "City of Literature" in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are located in West Branch.

The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of German Pietists comprising seven villages listed as National Historic Landmarks.

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has collections of paintings by Grant Wood and Marvin Cone. Cedar Rapids is also home to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and Iowa's only National Trust for Historic Preservation Site, Brucemore mansion.

Brucemore entrance
Brucemore, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Davenport boasts the Figge Art Museum, River Music Experience, Putnam Museum, Davenport Skybridge, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Quad Cities, and plays host to the annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, and the Quad City Air Show, which is the largest airshow in the state.

Other communities with vibrant historic downtown areas include West Liberty, Fairfield, Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Fort Madison, LeClaire, Mount Vernon, Ottumwa, Washington, and Wilton.

Western Iowa

Grotto Arcade
View of Grotto of the Redemption's Lower Arcade: Small Stations of the Cross, West Bend.

Some of the most dramatic scenery in Iowa is found in the unique Loess Hills. The Iowa Great Lakes include several resort areas such as Spirit Lake, Arnolds Park, and the Okoboji Lakes. The Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Arnolds Park Amusement Park (one of the oldest amusement parks in the country) in Arnolds Park, The Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, and the Fort Museum and Frontier Village in Fort Dodge are regional destinations.

Every year in early May, the city of Orange City holds the annual Tulip Festival, a celebration of the strong Dutch heritage in the region.

Kurmmann block sioux city
Historic Fourth Street, Sioux City.

Sioux City boasts a revitalized downtown, attractions include the Sergeant Floyd Monument, Sergeant Floyd River Museum, and the Orpheum Theater.

Loess hills
Loess Hills east of Mondamin.

Council Bluffs, the major city of southwest Iowa, sits at the base of the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway. With three casino resorts, the city also includes such cultural attractions as the Western Hills Trails Center, Union Pacific Railroad Museum, the Grenville M. Dodge House, and the Lewis and Clark Monument.

Northwest Iowa is home to some of the largest concentrations of wind turbine farms in the world. Other western communities with vibrant historic downtown areas include Storm Lake, Spencer, Le Mars, Glenwood, Carroll, Atlantic, Red Oak, Denison, Creston, Mount Ayr, Sac City, and Walnut.

Northeast and Northern Iowa

Fort Atkinson Iowa
Ruins of historic Fort Atkinson.

The Driftless Area of northeast Iowa has many steep hills and deep valleys, checkered with forest and terraced fields. Effigy Mounds National Monument in Allamakee and Clayton Counties has the largest assemblage of animal-shaped prehistoric mounds in the world.

Waterloo is home of the Grout Museum and is headquarters of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. Cedar Falls is home of the University of Northern Iowa.

Dubuque is a regional tourist destination with attractions such as the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and the Port of Dubuque.

Dyersville is home to the famed Field of Dreams baseball diamond. Maquoketa Caves State Park, near Maquoketa, contains more caves than any other state park.

Fort Atkinson State Preserve in Fort Atkinson has the remains of an original 1840s Dragoon fortification.

Other communities with vibrant historic downtown areas include Decorah, McGregor, Mason City, Elkader, Guttenberg, Algona, Spillville, Charles City, and Independence.

Statewide

RAGBRAI – the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa – attracts thousands of bicyclists and support personnel. It has crossed the state on various routes each year since 1973. Iowa is home to more than 70 wineries, and hosts five regional wine tasting trails. Many Iowa communities hold farmers' markets during warmer months; these are typically weekly events, but larger cities can host multiple markets.

Transportation

IowaLicensePlate2011
The current state license plate design, introduced in 2011.

Interstate highways

Iowa has four primary interstate highways.

Airports with scheduled flights

Iowa is served by several regional airports including the Des Moines International Airport, the Eastern Iowa Airport, in Cedar Rapids, Quad City International Airport, which is located in Moline, Illinois, and Eppley Airfield, located in Omaha, Nebraska.

Railroads

Amtrak's California Zephyr serves the south of Iowa. Fort Madison is served by Amtrak's Southwest Chief, running daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

Notable Iowans

HerbertClarkHoover
President Herbert Hoover

Iowa was the birthplace of U.S. President Herbert Hoover, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and two first ladies, Lou Henry Hoover and Mamie Eisenhower. Other national leaders who lived in Iowa include President Ronald Reagan, President Richard Nixon, John L. Lewis, Harry Hopkins, Carrie Chapman Catt, Jefferson Davis, Chief Black Hawk, and John Brown.

Images


Iowa Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.