Iowa, or the Hawkeye State, is a dynamic and historically significant state in the heart of the United States. Iowa offers a wonderful experience with its strong agricultural sector, cities, landscapes, and community. Renowned as the Corn Belt, Iowa's fertile lands have made it a leader in agriculture, producing crops like corn, soybeans, and hogs.
Cities like Des Moines and Iowa City offer culture, while their parks provide outdoor fun. Iowa's sense of community is clear in its friendly and close-knit residents who come together for local events and celebrations. The state values education, with prestigious universities and colleges contributing to its intellectual vibrancy.
Iowa provides a balanced lifestyle, blending rural charm with urban amenities, celebrating its agricultural background, fostering community, and providing recreational and educational experiences. Whether you seek a strong community, cultural richness, or natural beauty, Iowa is a state that combines tradition with progress, making it a remarkable place to live or visit.
Located in the midwestern part of the United States, Iowa is known for its rolling landscapes and rich soils of grasslands and high prairie plains. Minnesota lies to the north, Wisconsin and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, and Nebraska and South Dakota to the west of Iowa. The Mississippi River forms its eastern border, and its western border is the Missouri River and Big Sioux. It is the only U.S. state to have two rivers define its borders.
Iowa is known for its rich soils left from the continental ice sheets of the Pleistocene Epoch. As the ice sheets moved southward, they created the Des Moines Lobe, where the modern-day City of Des Moines is along the Des Moines River. As the ice sheets retreated, they created the Loess Bluffs along the Mississippi River. Westward, there were fewer loess mounds, which gave way to more flat and rolling hills with prairie grasses and highly fertile soil.
The elevation in the state increases from east-southeast to west-northwest. The lowest point is the city of Keokuk, where the Des Moines River enters the Mississippi at 480 feet above sea level. The highest elevation in Iowa is Hawkeye Point in northwest Iowa, at 1,677 feet (511 meters) above sea level.
Iowa has defined seasons with frigid winters that average 14 Fahrenheit (-10 C°) in the northwestern part of the state and an average low of 20 Fahrenheit (-6 C°) in the southeast. Snowfall is generally light, but it can be heavy. Summers are warm and more humid, reaching an average of 80 Fahrenheit (30 C°) and rarely reaching 100 Fahrenheit. The state receives a fair amount of rain, mainly in the summer, and is prone to heavy thunderstorms. Statewide, severe flooding from fast snowmelt and heavy rain is a continual problem. To help prevent flooding, a series of dams have been built and are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including the Rathbun Dam on the Chariton River, the Red Rock and Saylorville Dams on the Des Moines River, and the Coralville Dam on the Iowa River. They were all built to help control flooding, but they have also provided significant recreational and environmental benefits to the state.
Most of the native prairie and wetland vegetation has been lost to massive agriculture and farmlands, which now grow corn and other crops. The original woodlands of black walnut and hickory trees were eliminated by extreme lumbering, and now only 5% of the state is forested with ash, hickory, and elm trees. The state has varied wildlife suitable for the grassland and prairie lands, such as deer, raccoons, opossums, and squirrels. After being nearly made extinct, river otters and wild turkeys have been reintroduced. In the 1900s, ring-necked pheasants were introduced to the state and have remained a vital gaming bird. The eastern goldfinch is the official state bird. In recent decades, there have been attempts to create prairie preserves and protected areas.
Iowa People and Population
According to the U.S. Census, as of 2022, Iowa had an estimated population of approximately 3,200,517 people. The people of Iowa are known as Iowans. The state is predominantly rural, with a significant agricultural industry that has shaped the culture and economy of the region. Iowans are friendly and hospitable, embodying the Midwestern values of hard work, community, and family.
Located in Polk County, Iowa's largest city and capital is Des Moines, with a population of 211,034, which serves as a central economic and cultural hub for the state. Other significant cities in Iowa include Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, and Iowa City.
Iowa has a diverse population, although 89.9% identify as white. In recent years, there has been a gradual increase in the number of racial and ethnic minorities residing in the state. The largest minority groups in Iowa include African Americans at 4.4%, Hispanics/Latinos at 6.9%, Asians at 2.8%, and Native Americans at only .6%.
Iowa is known for its strong emphasis on education. The state has a well-regarded education system, an excellent department of education, a public school system, and the Iowa School for the Deaf. The state has several prestigious universities and colleges statewide, including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and Drake University. According to the U.S. Census, 92.8% of Iowans have a high school degree, and 29.7% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Overall, Iowa offers a blend of rural charm, a strong sense of community, and opportunities for economic growth. The state's population continues to evolve, reflecting a changing demographic landscape while preserving its agricultural heritage.
The Executive Branch comprises Gov. Kim Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, and other staff like the secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer and their respective Iowa department agencies. Their duties include approving or vetoing bills and carrying out and recommending laws. The governor can serve an unlimited number of terms.
The legislative branch comprises the Iowa General Assembly, the Iowa Senate, and the House of Representatives. There are 50 senate districts in Iowa, and there is a senator for each district. The House of Representatives has 100 members, each representing a different district. Iowans are represented by one senator and one representative in the General Assembly, and the districts are divided into even numbers of people. Every ten years, the state goes through reorganization and redistricting to maintain consistency and allow for population increases or decreases. Lawmakers serve for two years. The General Assembly meets in regular legislative sessions annually on the second Monday in January. The members of the General Assembly choose the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.
The judicial branch comprises the state’s Supreme Court and the lower courts, which work to interpret the Constitution and other laws. There are two general court systems: district courts, the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals. The General Assembly appoints Supreme Court judges.
Local governments are divided into 99 counties, which are codified as part of the state constitution and can only be changed by an amendment. A board of supervisors governs counties and has elected auditors, county sheriffs, recorders, other state agencies, and health and human services. Counties provide social services and maintain the many rural roads throughout the state. The state has several municipalities, and smaller towns and cities have a mayor-council government.
Historically, Iowa has been a politically competitive state and considered one of the swing states, often switching between the Democratic and Republican parties. It’s best known for having one of the first national caucuses, often an indicator of a candidate's chances of winning the votes. In presidential elections, the state often leans Republican while voting Democrat in more state elections. But overall, the state is fairly balanced between the two parties, identifying with ideals and platforms.
Added Section: State Economy
As of 2022, Iowa has a population of 3,204,758 and a gross state product of $179.5 billion. The top sectors by total employment are manufacturing, finance and insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing. The state's unemployment rate in 2022 was 3.1%. The state imposes an income tax on individuals, estates, and trusts with different tax brackets. Iowan taxpayers have a sales tax rate of 6% along with property tax, which varies depending on the property type.
Iowa relies heavily on its agricultural sector because of its rich soils and relatively flat landscape, making it perfect for big industrial farming of corn, soybeans, hogs, and cattle. According to the 2021 USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Iowa had 84,900 farms taking up 30.5 million acres of land and an average farm size of 359 acres.
The state of Iowa also has a large manufacturing sector that includes food processing, heavy machinery, and the making of agricultural chemicals. It is home to several major companies, such as ConAgra Foods, General Mills, and Tyson Foods. John Deere and Procter & Gamble also have factories in Iowa. Principal Financial Group, Wells Fargo, and Nationwide Group are based in the state. The state has a vital higher education system with schools such as the University of Iowa, which has an extensive research department.
The state has also been making progress within the renewable energy sector, putting significant research and finances into wind energy, and is second in wind-generated power. Ethanol is also significant, accounting for a third of Iowa’s corn production.
Iowa Interesting Facts
Iowans are renowned for their warm and friendly nature, and the state itself is considered a heartland gem that is rooted in its blend of natural beauty, cultural contributions, and the genuine warmth of its people. Its expansive fields of corn and soybeans have made it part of the midwestern "Corn Belt," symbolizing its prominence in agriculture.
Prestigious institutions like the University of Iowa and Iowa State University exemplify the state's educational commitment. Iowa's landscapes captivate visitors with rolling farmlands, quaint small towns, and nostalgic covered bridges. Iowa has also made notable contributions to American literature, nurturing renowned writers within its borders. The Iowa State Fair, a cherished event, embodies the vibrant agricultural community of the state and offers a tapestry of entertainment and indulgence.
The Iowa State Fair
The Iowa State Fair is an iconic event held annually in Des Moines, the state’s capital. The beloved event attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world and lasts for 11 days. At the Iowa State Fair, one of the main attractions is the exhibition of livestock, where breeders can proudly display and compete with their prized animals, including cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, and poultry. For visitors, it is an opportunity to explore numerous exhibition halls with displays of local products, crafts, and artwork by native Iowans. The Iowa State Fair has various delicious foods, including funnel cakes, cotton candy, and other snacks. There are also carnival rides, entertainment, and carnival games. The State Fair is an event that brings people together from all over, connects the local community, and allows people to enjoy Iowan-friendly nature and hospitality.
A Strong Literary and Arts History
Iowa has a rich literary and art history, with notable contributions to American literature and the arts. The state is renowned for the Iowa Writers' Workshop, established in 1936 at the University of Iowa. This prestigious creative writing program has produced acclaimed authors like Flannery O'Connor, John Irving, and Pulitzer Prize winners Robert Penn Warren, Philip Roth, and Marilynne Robinson. The Iowa Writers' Workshop continues to attract aspiring writers worldwide.
In addition to the Writers' Workshop, Iowa City holds the UNESCO City of Literature designation, emphasizing its commitment to literary endeavors. The Iowa City Book Festival is a notable event that brings authors, publishers, and readers together for a week of literary celebration and discourse.
Iowa also boasts a thriving arts scene with renowned museums and galleries. The Des Moines Art Center, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art showcase diverse artistic styles and mediums. The Iowan artist Grant Wood, best known for his painting “American Gothic”, became the ironic image that would describe the Midwest and America’s heartland and become what is considered America’s most famous painting.
RAGBRAI Bike Race
The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is a non-competitive bicycle ride organized by The Des Moines Register. The route is 468 miles long and begins along the western border of the Missouri River and ends at the eastern border of the Mississippi River. The race draws recreational riders from all across the globe for an opportunity to cruise through the state’s scenic farmland and high prairies. It was first held in 1973 and remains the largest bike-touring event in the world. Every year, different hosting communities are selected for starting, beginning, and overnight stops for bicyclists.
Iowa, a Midwestern state in the United States, has a diverse and storied history. From Native American tribes to European settlements, Iowa played a significant role in America's expansion. It became a state in 1846, known for its agricultural prowess and the nickname "Hawkeye State."
Throughout the 20th century, Iowa faced challenges such as the Great Depression and the farm crisis, but it diversified its economy and embraced industries like manufacturing and biotechnology. Iowa is known for its friendly communities, strong work ethic, and agricultural production. With a rich history and a blend of tradition and modernity, Iowa offers a unique living experience.
During the period of early colonization and trade, European explorers made significant contributions to the exploration and documentation of the area that would eventually become Iowa. In 1673, Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet embarked on a journey along the Mississippi River, and they encountered Indigenous villages on the Iowa side, taking extensive notes of their explorations and experiences.
The region initially came under French control as part of the colonial empire of New France. However, the French era in Iowa ended in 1763 when France ceded the territory to Spain because of their defeat in the French and Indian War. Despite this transfer of ownership, Spain maintained relatively loose control over the Iowa region, allowing French and British traders to operate and establish trading posts along the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers. These traders sought to exploit the region's rich resources, particularly lead and fur obtained through trade with the Indigenous populations.
Iowa was an integral part of the vast Louisiana Territory, encompassing a significant portion of North America. European traders, drawn by the lucrative opportunities presented by the trade in lead and furs, focused their attention on the area. The Sauk and Meskwaki tribes controlled trade along the Mississippi in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Notable traders of the time, such as Julien Dubuque, Robert de La Salle, and Paul Marin, played instrumental roles in fostering trade relationships and establishing trading houses. These trading houses extended their reach along the Missouri River, further contributing to the region's economic growth and development and further Western movement by Europeans.
The pivotal moment in the region's history came with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 when the United States acquired the vast Louisiana Territory from France. Following the purchase, the territory was divided into two administrative divisions: the Territory of Orleans and the District of Louisiana. Present-day Iowa falls within the jurisdiction of the District of Louisiana. They established the Indiana Territory in 1800 to govern this portion, with William Henry Harrison as its first governor. The mapping efforts conducted by Zebulon Pike in 1805 provided valuable geographical knowledge about the Iowa region. However, it wasn't until the establishment of Fort Madison in 1808 that the United States began to establish tenuous military control over the area, marking a crucial milestone in the region's transition under American authority.
Pre-Civil War History
The U.S.-built Fort Madison during the War of 1812 to gain control of the Upper Mississippi region and secure trading dominance. However, the fort faced numerous challenges. It was poorly designed and disliked by the Sauk and Fox tribes, who formed alliances with the British, still claiming territorial rights. In 1813, British-supported Indigenous forces defeated Fort Madison, while Fort Shelby in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, also fell to the British. Black Hawk, a prominent Sauk leader, participated in the siege of Fort Madison. Indigenous forces attacked a military outpost in Bellevue in 1813 but were repelled. Nevertheless, the area was abandoned until settlers returned in the mid-1830s.
After the War of 1812, the United States regained control over the region by constructing Fort Armstrong, Fort Snelling in Minnesota, and Fort Atkinson in Nebraska. These forts were crucial in maintaining stability and protecting American interests in the newly acquired territories.
Between 1814 and 1832, the U.S. government promoted settlement on the eastern side of the Mississippi River and advocated for the removal of Indigenous tribes to the west. A contentious treaty in 1804, known as the Quashquame Treaty, resulted in the cession of a significant portion of Illinois to the United States and fueled resentment among the Sauk tribe. This tension eventually led to the Black Hawk War in 1832, during which the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes fought against U.S. forces. Because of the conflict, the tribes sold their land in the Mississippi Valley through the Black Hawk Purchase of 1832. In 1842, they sold their remaining land in Iowa, with many tribal members relocating to a reservation in Kansas. However, some Meskwaki returned to Iowa and settled near Tama, where the Meskwaki Settlement exists today. In a rare move, the Iowa Legislature passed a law in 1856 allowing the Meskwaki to purchase land. Conversely, the U.S. government forcibly removed the Ho-Chunk tribe from Iowa in 1848 and the Dakota tribe by 1858. The western part of Iowa, particularly around Council Bluffs, served as an Indian reservation for Council of Three Fires members.
The period of U.S. settlement and statehood in Iowa commenced in 1832 and extended until 1860. The first American settlers came to Iowa in June 1833, mainly from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. They established settlements along the western banks of the Mississippi River, founding cities like Dubuque and Bellevue. On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa and appointed Robert Lucas as its governor. Iowa achieved statehood on December 28, 1846, becoming the 29th state in the Union. With boundary disputes resolved and the land acquired from Native tribes, Iowa focused on development and actively promoted campaigns to attract settlers and investors. The state boasted fertile farmlands, a vibrant citizenry, a free and open society, and a well-governed administration.
Post-Civil War History
During the period from 1865 to 1930, Iowa witnessed remarkable agricultural expansion and a surge in population. The state experienced a substantial population increase following the Civil War, from 674,913 in 1860 to 1,624,615 by 1880. Iowa was one of the first states to grant African American men the right to vote in 1868. The war brought temporary higher profits to the region. In 1917, the United States' entry into World War I led to a wartime economy that affected all residents of Iowa, particularly farmers, who enjoyed economic prosperity throughout the war. The state also underwent notable transformations in its economic sector. Processing locally grown materials has been the focus of industrial development since the 1830s. As a result, Iowa witnessed a steady rise in business and manufacturing operations.
The expansion of railroads, the end of the Civil War, and the removal of Native American populations opened up settlement opportunities for immigrants from the East and Europe. By 1900, land claims had filled the state, but a slight population decline occurred in the subsequent decade as the children of the initial settlers moved away. Barbed wire enabled diversified agriculture, and draining wetlands improved agricultural production. Corn (maize) was crucial in Iowa's agriculture, with most of the crop being utilized as livestock feed.
World War I created a temporary demand for maximum production, leading to high prices. However, Iowa faced recurring agricultural surpluses, low prices, and high land values after the war. Despite economic panics and depressions in the 19th and 20th centuries, Iowa's growth pattern remained intact. Notably, Iowa politicians gained national prominence during farm crises, with figures like Henry A. Wallace serving as secretary of agriculture during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and later becoming Roosevelt's vice president.
The last significant exploitation of natural resources in Iowa occurred in southern Iowa's coalfields. Beginning in the mid-19th century and peaking in the first two decades of the 20th century, the coal industry experienced rapid growth. However, the coal deposits were quickly depleted, resulting in miners' departure and towns' subsequent abandonment. This left behind a deteriorating landscape as a testament to the once-thriving coal mining industry.
From 1930 to 1985, Iowa experienced significant economic and social transformations. The shift from an agricultural economy to a mixed economy occurred gradually. Still, it was accelerated by the Great Depression and World War II, which led to the decline of smallholder farming and the rise of urbanization. The manufacturing sector saw substantial growth during the post-World War II period.
In 1975, Governor Robert D. Ray requested that President Henry Ford allow Iowa to accept and resettle Tai Dam refugees escaping the Indochina War. An exception was granted despite policy restrictions, and Iowa successfully resettled 1,200 Tai Dam refugees. This marked the beginning of Iowa's acceptance of refugees from various countries, including Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Bhutan, and Burma.
The 1980s brought a severe farm crisis to Iowa, resulting in a major recession and widespread poverty reminiscent of the Great Depression. This crisis led to a significant decline in the state's population over the course of a decade.
Following the farm crisis, Iowa's economy began diversifying and reducing its agriculture dependence from 1985 on. The state saw the rise of manufacturing, biotechnology, finance, insurance, and government services as the main economic sectors in the early 21st century. While the state's population growth rate remained slower than the national average, there was a notable shift toward urban areas.
Throughout the 20th century, agriculture remained a crucial part of Iowa's economy. However, increased productivity resulted in lower prices and intensified competition among farmers. This, combined with the trend of rural outmigration as fewer farmers' children chose to continue farming and less successful farms went out of business, led to a decline in the number of farmers and the emergence of larger farms. The average farm size increased from about 170 acres in 1950 to approximately 350 acres by the end of the century.
By the turn of the 21st century, the service industry had become Iowa's dominant economic sector. The state held on to its agricultural background while expanding into biotechnology, R&D, and other industries. Iowa also experienced demographic changes, with a growing ethnically diverse population, primarily due to the increasing number of Hispanic residents.
Politically, Iowa became more competitive as Democrats surpassed Republicans in voter registration, challenging the traditional Republican dominance. Iowa has been at the forefront of LGBTQ+ civil rights in the United States. In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, making Iowa the third state to do so. This decision showed a significant step forward in recognizing equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
People Also Ask…
If you are interested in more information about the state of Iowa, then keep reading — we have compiled answers to the most common FAQs below. Plus, test your newfound knowledge by taking our U.S. Constitution Quiz: The Executive and Judicial Branches and explore the country’s history as a whole with American History 101.
What Is Iowa Famous For?
Iowa is renowned for its agricultural activities, educational centers, sports teams, natural beauty, literary contributions, and state fairs, featuring agricultural displays, livestock contests, entertainment, and unusual food items.
What State Is Close to Iowa?
Iowa is bordered by six states: Minnesota to the north, Wisconsin and Illinois to the east, Missouri to the south, and Nebraska and South Dakota to the west.
Is Iowa a Good Place To Live?
Iowa offers a strong sense of community, a low cost of living, a stable economy centered on agriculture and manufacturing, and a relatively low crime rate. The state has quality health care and schools for disabilities. The state is known for its friendly residents, quality education systems, and ample outdoor recreational opportunities.
Famous Iowa Natives and Residents
Bix Beiderbecke jazz musician;
Norman Borlaug Nobel Peace Prize winner;
William "Buffalo Bill" F. Cody scout;
Johnny Carson TV entertainer;
Gardner Cowles, Jr. publisher;
George H. Gallup poll taker;
Susan Glaspell writer;
Herbert Hoover president;
MacKinlay Kantor novelist;
Charles A. Kettering inventor;
Ashton Kutcher actor;
Cloris Leachman actress;
John L. Lewis labor leader;
Glenn L. Martin aviation manufacturer;
Elsa Maxwell writer;
Glenn Miller bandleader;
Kate Mulgrew actress;
Harriet Nelson actress;
David Rabe playwright;
Donna Reed actress;
Lillian Russell soprano;
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 United States Census Bureau QuickFacts. (n.d.). U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Iowa. Census Bureau QuickFacts. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/IA
 United States Census Bureau QuickFacts. (n.d.). U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Iowa. Census Bureau QuickFacts. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/IA
 “The Three Branches of Government and How They Work in Iowa” | IDCA. (n.d.). https://www.iowaculture.gov/history/education/educator-resources/primary-source-sets/government-democracy-and-laws/three
 Iowa AG News – farms and land in farms - USDA - national agricultural ... (2022 February 18). https://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Iowa/Publications/Other_Surveys/2022/IA-Farms-02-22.pdf