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State Guide

The State of Iowa is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States of America. It is the 29th state of the United States, having joined the Union on December 28, 1846. The state is named for the Ioway people, a Siouan tribe of Native Americans that formerly lived there. It is officially known as the "Hawkeye State" and unofficially known as the "Tall Corn State".


The Mississippi River separates Iowa from Illinois and Wisconsin to form the eastern boundary of the state. The Missouri River on the west edge of the state forms the boundary for Nebraska (with the exception of Carter Lake). The Big Sioux River in the northwest corner of the state forms the North/South boundary with South Dakota. To the north lies Minnesota and to the south lies Missouri. There are several natural lakes in the state, most notably Spirit Lake, West Okoboji Lake, and East Okoboji Lake in northwest Iowa (see Iowa Great Lakes). Man-made lakes include Lake Odessa, Saylorville Lake, Lake Red Rock, Coralville Lake, Lake MacBride and Rathbun Lake.

Iowa's natural vegetation is the Tallgrass prairie and Savanna while the topography of the state is gently rolling plains. Loess hills lie along the western border of the state, some of which are several hundred feet thick. In the northeast, along the Mississippi River, is a section of the Driftless Zone, which in Iowa consists of low rugged hills covered with conifers—a landscape not usually associated with this state.

The point of lowest elevation is Keokuk in southeastern Iowa, at 480 feet (146 m). The point of highest elevation, at 1,670 feet (509 m), is Hawkeye Point, located in a feedlot north of Sibley in northwest Iowa. The mean elevation of the state is 1,099 feet (335 m). Considering the size of the state at 56,271 square miles (145,743 km²), there is very little elevation difference.

Iowa has 99 counties. The state capital, Des Moines, is located in Polk County (#60).

Iowa has the highest average radon concentrations in the nation due to significant glaciation that ground the granitic rocks from the Canadian Shield and deposited it as soils making up the rich Iowa farmland. Many cities within the state, such as Iowa City have passed requirements for radon resistant construction in all new homes.


Iowa, like most of the Midwest, has a humid continental climate throughout the state (Koppen climate classification Dfa) with extremes of both heat and cold. The average annual temperature at Des Moines is 50 °F (10 °C); for some locations in the north the figure is under 45 °F (8 °C), while Keokuk, on the Mississippi River, averages 52 °F (12 °C). Winters are brisk and snowfall is common. Spring ushers in the beginning of the severe weather season. Iowa averages about 50 days of thunderstorm activity per year. Tornadoes are common during the spring and summer months, with an average of 37 tornadoes in a single year. The Iowa summers are known for heat and humidity, with daytime temperatures often near 90 °F (32 °C) and sometimes exceeding 100 °F (38 °C).


The first Europeans to explore Iowa were French citizens following the Sac and Fox tribes, presently known jointly as the Meskwaki (Mesquakie) Nation. The first American settlers officially moved to Iowa in June 1833. Primarily, they were families from Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. On December 28, 1846, Iowa became the 29th state in the union. Iowa supported the Union during the American Civil War, voting heavily for Lincoln, though there was a strong antiwar "Copperhead" movement among settlers of southern origins and among Catholics. There were no battles in the state, but Iowa sent large supplies of food to the armies and the eastern cities. Following the Civil War, Iowa's population continued to grow dramatically, from 674,913 people in 1860 to 1,194,020 in 1870. 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. The period since World War II has witnessed a particular increase in manufacturing operations. While agriculture continues 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 that are shipped around the world.



As of 2007, Iowa has an estimated population of 2,988,046, which is an increase of 15,480, or 0.5%, from the prior year and an increase of 61,722 or 2.1%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 53,706 people (that is 197,163 births minus 143,457 deaths) and a decrease due to net migration of 11,754 people out of the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 29,386 people, while migration within the country produced a net loss of 41,140 people. 6.1% of Iowa's population were reported as under the age of five, 22.6% under 18, and 14.7% were 65 or older. Males made up approximately 49.2% of the population. The center of population of Iowa is located in Marshall County, in the city of Marshalltown.

Race and ancestry

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%). The racial make up of the state is 91.0% white (non-Hispanic), 3.8% Hispanic, 2.5% black, 1.6% Asian, and 0.4% American Indian. 1% of respondents report two or more races.

Rural flight

Iowa, in common with other Midwestern states (especially Kansas, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota), is feeling the brunt of rural flight, although Iowa has been gaining population since approximately 1990. 89% of the total number of cities in those states have fewer than 3,000 people; hundreds have fewer than 1,000. Between 1996 and 2004, almost half a million people, nearly half with college degrees, left the five states.


A 2001 survey from the City University of New York found that 52% of Iowans are Protestant, while 23% are Roman Catholic, and other religion made up 6%. 13% responded with non-religious, and 5% did not answer.

Linguistic Regions

William Labov and colleagues, in the monumental Atlas of North American English found that the English spoken in Iowa divides into two large linguistic regions. Natives of Northern Iowa - including Sioux City, Fort Dodge, and the Waterloo region - tend to speak the dialect that linguists call North Central American English, which is also found in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Natives of Central and Southern Iowa - including such cities as Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Iowa City - tend to speak the "North Midlands" dialect also found in Nebraska, central Illinois, and Northern Indiana.


The state of Iowa has many attractions. The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum are located in West Branch. They contain the birthplace and grave of former president Herbert Hoover along with his Presidential museum. The Iowa State Fair is located in Des Moines. Adventureland is an amusement park located in Altoona just northeast of Des Moines. Arnolds Park is in the center of the Iowa Great Lakes resort region, and is home to a historic amusement park, also called Arnolds Park. The Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in Allamakee County and Clayton Counties. The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of German Pietists comprising of seven villages. Much of the movie Field of Dreams was shot in Dyersville. Terrace Hill is located in Des Moines and is the official residence of the governor. 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. Also, the nation's longest running soda jerk, the Wilton Candy Kitchen is located in Wilton, Iowa. Established in 1867, the Wilton Candy Kitchen is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The John Wayne Birthplace and museum is in Winterset. The Clint Eastwood movie "The Bridges of Madison County" took place and was recorded in Madison County Iowa, which is where Winterset is located. Maquoketa Caves State Park is located in Jackson County, Iowa. It stands northwest of the city of Maquoketa. The park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced.


If the economy is measured by gross domestic product, in 2005 it was about $124 billion. If measured by gross state product, for 2005 it was US$113.5 billion. Its per capita income for 2006 was US $23,340. The role of agriculture in Iowa's economy can be measured in multiple ways, but its total impact, including agriculture-affiliated business, has been measured as 16.4% (in terms of value added) and 24.3% (in terms of total output). This is lower than the economic impact in Iowa of non-farm manufacturing, which accounts for 22.4% of total value added and 26.5% of total output. Iowa's main agricultural outputs are hogs, corn, soybeans, oats, cattle, eggs and dairy products. Its industrial outputs are food processing, machinery, electric equipment, chemical products, publishing and primary metals. Iowa produces the nation's largest amount of ethanol. Des Moines also serves as a center for the insurance industry.

Iowa imposes taxes on net state income of individuals and estates and trusts. There are currently nine income tax brackets, ranging from 0.36% to 8.98%. The state sales tax rate is 5%, with non-prepared food having no tax.[16] Iowa has two local option sales taxes that may be imposed by counties after an election at which the majority of voters favors the tax. They are in addition to the 5% state sales tax. The regular local option tax is imposed on the gross receipts from sales of tangible personal property. It usually remains in effect until it is repealed, but the ordinance may include a sunset clause. The school infrastructure local option tax is automatically repealed 10 years after it is imposed, unless the ballot imposes a shorter time frame.

Property tax is levied on the taxable value of real property, that is, mostly land, buildings, structures, and other improvements that are constructed on or in the land, attached to the land or placed upon a foundation. Typical improvements include a building, house or mobile home, fences, and paving. The following five classes of real property are evaluated: residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial and utilities/railroad (which is assessed at the state level). Homeowners pay less than half of the property tax collected each year in Iowa. Farmers pay 21%, and businesses and industry, a total of 23%. Utility companies, including railroads, pay 10%. Iowa has more than 2,000 taxing authorities. Most property is taxed by more than one taxing authority. The tax rate differs in each locality and is a composite of county, city or rural township, school district and special levies.


Iowa is the headquarters for seven of the top 1,000 companies for revenue. They include Principal Financial, Rockwell Collins, Casey's General Stores, and HNI. Iowa is also headquarters to other companies including Hy-Vee, a major grocery store in Iowa and six other states, Pella Corporation, Vermeer Company, Kum & Go gas stations, Von Maur (a department store), Pioneer Hi-Bred, McLeodUSA, and Fareway grocery stores, among others.


Interstate highways

Iowa has four primary interstate highways. Interstate 29 goes along the western edge of the state through Council Bluffs and Sioux City. Interstate 35 goes from the southern border to the northern border thorough the center of the state, including Des Moines. Interstate 80 goes from the west end of the state to the east end through Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Iowa City, and the Quad Cities. Interstate 74 has its western terminus at the junction with Interstate 80 in northeastern Davenport, Iowa. Interstate 380 is an auxiliary Interstate Highway, which runs from Interstate 80 in Iowa City through Cedar Rapids ending in Waterloo and is part of the Avenue of the Saints highway.

US highways

Iowa has a number of major United States highways. U.S. Route 18 runs along the northern edge of the state from South Dakota to Wisconsin. U.S. Route 20 runs from Sioux City through Fort Dodge and Waterloo before crossing into Illinois in Dubuque. U.S. Route 30 runs from the Nebraska border just north of Council Bluffs through Cedar Rapids and crossing into Illinois in Clinton, staying north of Interstate 80. U.S. Route 6 winds its way along a similar path to Interstate 80, from Council Bluffs through the Quad Cities into Illinois. U.S. Route 34 runs along the southern part of the state from Nebraska through Burlington to Illinois. U.S. Route 59 runs a path similar to Interstate 29, from south to north along the western edge of the state. U.S. Route 61 runs from the Southeastern edge of Iowa in Keokuk through Burlington, the Quad Cities and into Illinois in Dubuque. U.S. Route 63 runs south from Missouri north through Waterloo and into Minnesota along the eastern central part of the state. U.S. Route 65 and U.S. Route 69 run from Missouri around Des Moines into Minnesota on paths similar to Interstate 35. U.S. Route 71 and U.S. Route 75 run a south to north path along the western edge of the state. U.S. Route 169 is a south to north highway in the west central part of the state. U.S. Route 218 is almost all in the state of Iowa. It runs from the southern edge in Keokuk through Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo on its way to Minnesota.

Airports with scheduled flights

Iowa is served by a few major airports including the Des Moines International Airport, The Eastern Iowa Airport, Quad City International Airport which is located in Moline, Illinois, and Eppley Airfield located in Omaha, Nebraska. Smaller airports in the state include the Dubuque Regional Airport, Fort Dodge Regional Airport, Mason City Municipal Airport, Sioux Gateway Airport, Southeast Iowa Regional Airport and Waterloo Regional Airport

Law and government

The current Governor is Chet Culver (D)

Other statewide elected officials are:

  • Patty Judge (D) - Lieutenant Governor
  • Michael Mauro (D) - Secretary of State
  • David Vaudt (R) - Auditor of State
  • Michael Fitzgerald (D) - Treasurer of State
  • Bill Northey (R) - Secretary of Agriculture
  • Tom Miller (D) - Attorney General

The two U.S. Senators:

  • Tom Harkin (D)
  • Chuck Grassley (R)

The five U.S. Congressmen:

  • Bruce Braley (D) - First District
  • Dave Loebsack (D) - Second District
  • Leonard Boswell (D) - Third District
  • Tom Latham (R) - Fourth District
  • Steve King (R) - Fifth District

The Code of Iowa contains the statutory laws of the State of Iowa. It is periodically updated by the Iowa Legislative Service Bureau, with a new edition published in odd-numbered years and a supplement published in even-numbered years.

Iowa is an alcohol monopoly or Alcoholic beverage control state.

Political parties

In Iowa, the term "political party" refers to political organizations which have received two percent or more of the votes cast for president or governor in the "last preceding general election".[18] Iowa recognizes two political parties - the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Third parties, officially termed "nonparty political organizations" can appear on the ballot as well - five of these have had candidates on the ballot in Iowa since 2004 for various positions: the Constitution Party, the Iowa Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Pirate Party, and the Socialist Workers Party.[19][20]

Voter trends

Iowa is currently listed as a swing state in national politics. From 1968 to 1988, it voted Republican in the Presidential Election, voting for Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Gerald Ford in 1976, and Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 However, in 1988, Democratic Candidate Michael Dukakis won the state, beating Republican candidate George H. W. Bush by a surprisingly large margin in that state, and winning in several traditionally Republican counties. The state subsequently voted Democratic in succeeding elections, voting for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, and Democrat Al Gore in 2000, but in 2004, George W. Bush won the state by less than 1% margin.

In the 2006 elections, the Iowa Democrats gained two seats in the Iowa delegation to the United States House of Representatives, and Democrats won a majority in both houses of the Iowa General Assembly.

On the January 4, 2008 National Primaries for President of the United States, Iowa voters selected the Democratic Party nomination contender U.S. Senator Barack Obama(D) of Illinois as the winner. This win is believed to be the first crucial test for the rest of the campaign, as the Iowa caucuses, is considered a key stepping stone on the path to the White House. It helped catapult Senator Obama's quest for winning caucuses and primaries throughout the rest of the country. He won the Democratic Party Nomination.

Presidential caucus

The state gets considerable attention every four years because it holds the first presidential caucuses, gatherings of voters to select delegates to the state conventions. Along with the New Hampshire primary the following week, Iowa's caucuses have become the starting points for choosing the two major-party candidates for president. The caucuses, held in January of the election year, involve people gathering in homes or public places and choosing their candidates, rather than casting secret ballots as is done in a primary election. The national and international media give Iowa (and New Hampshire) much of the attention accorded the national candidate selection process, which gives Iowa voters enormous leverage. Those who enter the caucus race often expend enormous effort to reach voters in each of Iowa's 99 counties.

Sister states

Iowa has seven official partner states:

  • Hebei Province, People's Republic of China (1983)
  • Stavropol Krai, Russia (1989)
  • Taiwan (1989)
  • Terengganu, Malaysia (1987)
  • Veneto Region, Italy (1997)
  • Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan (1960)
  • Yucatan, Mexico (1964)


Iowa takes pride in its education system. The graduation rate for high school seniors has gradually increased to 90.8% in 2006. The state has the third highest graduation rate in the nation. Iowa continually ranks in the top 3 for ACT and SAT scores. Iowa has 365 school districts, and has the twelfth best student to teacher ratio of 13.8 students per teacher. Teacher's pay, however, is ranked forty-second with the average salary being $39,284. Iowa has three state universities: the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa; and many private colleges and universities and community colleges.


Iowa has sports teams in all major sports including Baseball, Football, Hockey, and Basketball. The state has 4 major college teams; each are Division I for all sports. For football, two are in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and the other two are in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).


Iowa has 4 class A minor league teams in the Midwest League. They are the Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, and the Quad City River Bandits. The Sioux City Explorers are part of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. The Waterloo Bucks play in the Northwoods League. Des Moines is home to the Iowa Cubs, a division AAA team in the Pacific Coast League.


Sioux City Bandits are an Indoor football team in the United Indoor Football League. The Quad City Steamwheelers are an af2 football team whose home games are played in Moline, Illinois. The Iowa Barnstormers resumed play after a 7 season layoff in the af2 football league they, play their home games at Wells Fargo Arena.


The American Hockey League has two teams the Quad City Flames whose games are played in Moline, Illinois and the Iowa Stars from Des Moines, though the Des Moines team will take on a new name and logo beginning in the 2008-2009 season, as their affiliation with the Dallas Stars of the NHL has come to an end.

The United States Hockey League has five teams in Iowa the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Sioux City Musketeers, Waterloo Black Hawks, Des Moines Buccaneers, and the Omaha Lancers whose games are played in Council Bluffs. The North Iowa Outlaws play in the North American Hockey League in Mason City.


Iowa has two professional basketball teams. The Iowa Energy, an NBA Development League team that plays in Des Moines, is affiliated with the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns of the NBA. The Quad Cities Riverhawks of the Premier Basketball League are based in Davenport, Iowa, but play at Wharton Field House in Moline, Illinois.


Des Moines Menace they play their home games at Valley Stadium on the grounds of Valley High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.


The state has 4 NCAA Division 1 college teams. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones are Division I FBS teams, while the University of Northern Iowa Panthers and Drake University Bulldogs play in Division I FCS.

Famous Iowans

The following is an alphabetical list of famous people born in Iowa.

State symbols

  • Nickname(s): The Hawkeye State, The Tall Corn State
  • Bird: Eastern Goldfinch
  • Fish: Channel catfish (unofficial)
  • Flower: Wild Rose
  • Grass: Bluebunch wheatgrass
  • Tree: Oak
  • Colors:Red, white, and blue (in state flag)
  • Fossil: Crinoid (proposed)
  • Motto: "Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"
  • Rock: Geode
  • Song: The Song of Iowa

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