Iowa Facts

Introduction

Iowa is a U.S. state between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the Midwest. Cornfields and rolling plains characterize its landscape. In the city’s capital, Des Moines, you’ll find the gold-domed, 19th-century State Capitol Building and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park, complete with a contemporary art collection. Grant Wood’s paintings are displayed at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT IOWA

  • Capital City: Des Moines
  • Largest City: Des Moines
  • Nickname: The Hawkeye State
  • Statehood: December 28, 1846; 29th state
  • Population (as of 2020): 3,190,369
  • Abbreviation: I.A.
  • State bird: Eastern goldfinch
  • State flower: wild rose
  • Total Size Of The State: 55,857.1 sq mi (144,669.2 km2)

Historical Background

Approximately 12,000 years ago, the first people came to Iowa. The land was home to Native American tribes such as the Dakota Sioux, the Illini, the Ioway, the Missouria, and the Otoe thousands of years ago.

France claimed the land in 1682 after French explorers reached the area in 1673. During the next century, Spain and France fought multiple wars over the region, and control of the land fluctuated between the two countries. Finally, the U.S. gained control of the area through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1846, Iowa became the 29th state.

Traditionally, Iowa kicks off every U.S. presidential campaign with its first caucuses (when people gather to choose delegates who will vote for their preferred candidate at the next convention-a step on the road to selecting a presidential candidate).

Why Does It Have That Name?

Iowa’s origin is a topic of disagreement among experts. However, the Ioway tribe is credited with naming the state.

Iowa’s nickname, the Hawkeye State, is also subject to debate. A Native American chief is said to be the inspiration for the name. In addition, it is said to be based on the character Hawkeye from James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Geographic Features and Landforms

In the north, South Dakota and Minnesota border the state. In the east, Wisconsin and Illinois border the state. In the south, Illinois and Missouri border the state. Iowa is categorized into three regions, according to some sources.

The flat, fertile Young Drift Plains region covers North and central Iowa. During the last ice age, glaciers left behind drift, a mixture of clay, sand, sandstone, and gravel. This area also contains lakes and swamps.

Northeastern Iowa is part of the Driftless Area. The region is composed of pine-forested hills and cliffs.

Across southern Iowa and into the northwest are the Dissected Till Plains. Due to rivers and streams dissecting (or cutting into) the land, hills, ridges, and bluffs have been formed.

The Natural World

The most common mammals in Iowa are red foxes, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, least weasels, and white-tailed deer. In the state, there are a variety of birds, including tanagers and grasshopper sparrows. Reptiles found in Iowa include Great Plains skinks, western hognose snakes, and yellow mud turtles. 

A variety of amphibians can be found in Iowa, including blue-spotted salamanders, central newts, Great Plains toads, and mudpuppies (a type of salamander).

Iowa’s most common trees include sugar maple, sycamore, red cedar, and oak (the state tree). Wildflowers in the state include Indian blanket flowers, squirrel corn, morning glory, and dalmatian toadflax.

Natural Resources

Hawkeye State’s top crops, corn and soybeans, are grown in rich soil. As the nation’s leading corn producer, Iowa even converts some of its corn into ethanol-Iowa produces most of the nation’s ethanol.

Some Fun Facts About Iowa

Among the notable Iowans born in the past century were Herbert Hoover, Johnny Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Mildred Wirt Benson (who wrote Nancy Drew detective stories as Caroline Keene).

Effigy Mounds National Monument contains more than 200 prehistoric earthen mounds shaped like giant panthers, bison, deer, and other animals. Many Native Americans consider the mounds sacred and may have served as territory markers.

Eldon, Iowa, is home to the house that inspired Grant Wood’s famous painting “American Gothic.” Take a selfie by copying the pose of the people featured in the photograph.

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