Geography of Iowa

Learn 10 Geographic Facts about the U.S. State of Iowa

Iowa State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa

 Michael Snell / robertharding / Getty Images 

Population: 3,007,856 (2009 estimate)
Capital: Des Moines
Bordering States: Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin
Land Area: 56,272 square miles (145,743 sq km)
Highest Point: Hawkeye Point at 1,670 feet (509 m)
Lowest Point: Mississippi River at 480 feet (146 m)

Iowa is a state located in the Midwest of the United States. It became a part of the U.S. as the 29th state to be admitted into the Union on December 28, 1846. Today Iowa is known for its economy based on agriculture as well as food processing, manufacturing, green energy and biotechnology. Iowa is also considered one of the safest places to live in the U.S.

Ten Geographic Facts to Know About Iowa

1) The area of present-day Iowa has been inhabited as long as 13,000 years ago when hunters and gatherers moved into the region. During more recent times, various Native American tribes developed complex economic and social systems. Some of these tribes include the Illiniwek, Omaha and Sauk.

2) Iowa was first explored by Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in 1673 when they were exploring the Mississippi River. During their exploration, Iowa was claimed by France and it remained a French territory until 1763. At that time, France transferred control of Iowa to Spain. In the 1800s, France and Spain built various settlements along the Missouri River but in 1803, Iowa came under U.S. control with the Louisiana Purchase.

3) Following the Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. had a hard time controlling the Iowa region and built several forts throughout the area after conflicts like the War of 1812. American settlers then began moving to Iowa in 1833, and on July 4, 1838, the Territory of Iowa was established. Eight years later on December 28,1846, Iowa became the 29th U.S. state.

4) Throughout the rest of the 1800s and into the 1900s, Iowa became an agricultural state after the expansion of railroads across the U.S. After World War II and the Great Depression however, Iowa's economy began to suffer and in the 1980s the Farm Crisis caused a recession in the state. As a result, Iowa today has a diversified economy.

5) Today, most of Iowa's three million residents live in the state's urban areas. Des Moines is the capital and largest city in Iowa, followed by Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Iowa City and Waterloo.

6) Iowa is divided into 99 counties but has 100 county seats because Lee County currently has two: Fort Madison and Keokuk. Lee County has two county seats because there were disagreements between the two about which would be the county seat after Keokuk was established in 1847. These disagreements led to the formation of a second court-designated county seat.

7) Iowa is bordered by six different U.S. states, the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers on the west. Most of the state's topography consists of rolling hills and due to prior glaciations in some portions of the state, there are some steep hills and valleys. Iowa also has many large natural lakes. The largest of these are Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake and East Okoboji Lake.

8) Iowa's climate is considered humid continental and as such it has cold winters with snowfall and hot and humid summers. The average July temperature for Des Moines is 86˚F (30˚C) and the average January low is 12˚F (-11˚C). The state is also known for severe weather during the spring and thunderstorms and tornadoes are not uncommon.

9) Iowa has a number of different large colleges and universities. The largest of these are Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.

10) Iowa has seven different sister states - some of these include Hebei Province, China, Taiwan, China, Stavropol Krai, Russia and Yucatan, Mexico.

To learn more about Iowa, visit the state's official website.

References (n.d.). Iowa: History, Geography, Population and State Facts- Retrieved from: (23 July 2010). Iowa - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Iowa." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 28). Geography of Iowa. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Iowa." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 29, 2023).