102 Interesting Facts About Iowa

Last updated on May 10th, 2024

Iowa is the 31st most populous and the 26th most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It lies in the midwestern United States. The state attained statehood on December 28, 1846, becoming the 29th state to join the union. Its six bordering states are IllinoisMinnesotaMissouriNebraskaSouth Dakota, and Wisconsin. Iowa (nicknamed: Hawkeye State) has 99 counties. The state’s capital is Des Moines. The postal abbreviation for Iowa is IA. People who live in Iowa or who come from Iowa are referred to as Iowans and upon occasion, they are referred to as Hawkeyes. With these facts about Iowa, let us learn more about its history, people, geography, economy, culture, nature and wildlife and much more. 

1. Iowa has the Unique Name in the US

Iowa is the only state name that starts with two vowels! You can hardly pronounce it on your first trial. Isn’t this a unique and interesting fact about Iowa?

2. First documented in 1673

Iowa was first documented by the Jesuit missionary Jacque Marquette in 1673. They reported several native villages in the area now known as Iowa.

3. The state is named after a tribe called as Ioway

The Ioway tribe has the honor to have the state of Iowa named after them. They used to live here long before European settlers arrived in the area.

4. It was a French colony earlier

The Iowa area remained a French territory until 1763. That was until they were defeated during the Indian War, and Iowa territory was transferred to Spain.

5. A sealed time capsule

In 2013, the City of Iowa sealed a time capsule to be opened after 100 years. It was done on the city’s 100th birthday.

Iowa on the map

 

6. Rivers on East and West

Among other Iowa facts, this is the one you can share with your friends and impress them with your knowledge about the geography of Iowa. Iowa is the only state bordered by two navigable rivers; the Missouri River to the west and the Mississippi River to the east. The eastern and the western borders of the state are completely formed by the rivers.

7. There is only one town island in Iowa

Sabula town in Jackson County, Iowa, is located on an island in Mississippi river. It’s the only island town here. With an area of 1.26 sq mi, approximately six hundred people call it home. Like an island getaway, it is an incredible hideout between the Mississippi River and the eastern border. People often refer to it as the Island City. Sabula did not start as an island. It was always connected to Iowa until Lock and Dam was created in 1939 to link Clinton, Iowa and Fulton, Illinois. The dam submerged the lowland on the west side of town thus separating Sabula from the rest.

8. Three States in One City

Sioux City Iowa may feel a little strange if you are visiting for the first time. You can travel across three states without actually leaving the city. The largest section is the Sioux City and is in Iowa. Then North Sioux is part of South Dakota while South Sioux is in Nebraska.

9. The Heart of Dane County

Elk Horn, Iowa, the Heart of Dane County, was established in 1901. It was only incorporated as a town nine years later, in 1910.

10. Gladbrook Naming: Gladbrook is a city in Iowa

Gladbrook was founded by two gentlemen. When they went to complete the area’s paperwork in Chicago, they had to come up with a name for the town. After a lengthy conversation about what is good in Iowa, the two said they were glad to have enjoyed a nice brook from the town. And that is how they came up with the name ‘Gladbrook’.

11. Coldwater Cave

This is the biggest water cave in the state of Iowa with over 16 miles of passages stretching from northeast Winneshiek County, Iowa, to southeast Fillmore County, Minnesota. 

This natural cave has only one underwater entrance at the base of its 100-feet cliff. The entrance was discovered in 1967 when three fearless scuba divers were trying on rudimentary tools. They revealed this discovery to the state after a few years of cave diving.

12. There are several natural lakes in Iowa

Iowa is the mother of the famous Spirit Lake, the biggest glacier lake in the state. West Okoboji and East Okoboji lakes are the deepest lake in the states. They are recreational centers since they are ice skating spots in winter and fishing and boat-riding venues in summer. However, the majority of the lakes in the state are man-made.

13. Dispute between Iowa and Missouri

There was a border dispute in the 1930s between Iowa and Missouri. It was known as the Honey War and was caused by an inaccurate land survey.

Iowa and its border states
Iowa (in red) on the map with bordering states.

14. Snake Alley

Between Washington and Columbia Streets in Burlington, Iowa, is a road known as the Snake Alley. It is the most crooked street in the state.

15. Trade licenses 

Spain granted many trading licenses to British and French traders from 1682 to 1862 in the Iowa region. Trading posts were established along the De Moines and Mississippi Rivers.

16. Manufacturing is the backbone of the state’s economy

There are countless manufacturing companies in Iowa. Most of which are food processing companies. Electrical equipment, chemical products, publishing, and primary metal companies are a huge source of employment too.

17. It’s an Agricultural Center

Iowa has a high rank in beef, pork, corn, soybean, and cereal production. It’s a source of food to neighboring states. Farms produce enough food to feed over 300 people.

18. More than 85,000 farms

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the state has more than 85,000 farms and the average farm size in Iowa in 2017 was 351 acres. However, the national average in 2017 was 444 acres.

19. Organic farming on the go

The popularity of organic farming is growing rapidly in Iowa. This type of farming has grown, and the Iowa Organic Association is leading at the front.

Corn From Iowa

20. Iowa is the Largest Corn Producer in America

Ninety-two percent of Iowa’s land is covered with farms. The best crop is grown to be corn. Corn production provides income for Iowa’s economy. According to the statistics, they say the state produces even more corn than some countries, like Mexico. And it is 2nd to Illinois in soybean production.

21. The delicious red apple originated in Peru, Iowa

If you are an apple farmer, you might consider getting your propagation material from the orchard in Peru, Iowa where it all started.

22. Wine and Wineries

Over 100 wineries in Iowa produce about 40 varieties of wine. With so many wineries, wine tourism attracts more than 400,000 visitors every year.

Wind turbines.
Wind turbines.

23. Twenty-five Percent is Generated by Wind Power

In terms of wind power capacity installed, Iowa is the third in the nation after Texas (23,262 MW) and Oklahoma (7,495 MW). However, Iowa leads the nation in per-capita wind power capacity with 2,324 MW/million people.

24. The first permanent military fortification

The first permanent military fortification on the Upper Mississippi was the original Fort Madison. It was built in 1808 to control trade and provide US dominance.

25. One of the Largest Trail Bridge

A 25-mile trail bridge winds across five of Iowa towns. It crosses from Woodward to Ankeny across Des Moines River valley. The bridge is half a mile long and its hundred and thirty feet high. It is considered to be among the largest trail bridges in the world.

26. It’s the Home of the World’s Largest Bullhead Fish Statue

The statue is 12 feet long. It sits on a crystal lake which has several hundred real bullhead fish at the bottom. It’s such a breath-taking view for you and your family.

27. State Capitol building is embellished with 5 domes

With as many as five domes, the Iowa State Capitol building is in a class of its own. It is also known for its golden central dome.

28. Iowa River played a major role in the construction of the Old Capital

The stone used in the construction of the Old Capital was floated down the Iowa River on a barge closer to the construction site.

29. Southeast Iowa is a hub for transcendental meditation

One of Iowa’s golden domes is used for meditation and masse. If you want to have mindless healing, consider Iowa for a quality mind relaxation.

30. The Shrine of Grotto redemption

It’s a religious shrine in West Bend Iowa. It has nine caves that portray the life of Jesus. It’s the biggest grotto in the world made of petrifications, shells, and minerals. The largest man-made Grotto in the world, the Grotto contains the largest collection of precious stones and gems found anywhere in one location!

31. The largest coffee pot and cup

A huge Swedish coffee pot and a matching coffee cup can be seen in Stanton, Iowa. They are the largest of their kind in the world.

strawberries
An illustrative image of strawberries.

32. The World’s Largest Strawberry Lives Here

It’s a fiberglass statue of a strawberry. It’s located on the strawberry point building. It’s not edible but is a perfect strawberry marketing strategy.

the world's largest bull made of concrete - Albert bull
Albert the Bull, made of concrete and the world’s largest bull, was erected in 1964 to honor the local Iowa cattle industry.

33. The world’s largest concrete bull

Iowa has the world’s largest concrete bull. He is 28 feet tall and has a 15-foot span between horns. Erected in 1964 in Audubon, he weighs 45 tons.

34. The world’s largest popcorn ball

Sac City, Iowa, is home to the world’s largest popcorn ball. The ball has a circumference of just over 24 feet. 

The World's Largest Wooden Nickel.
The World’s Largest Wooden Nickel. Image credit – Alan Light

35. The wooden nickel

You probably have never seen a wooden nickel, but here in Iowa, on a farm, is a 12-inch world’s largest wooden Nickel.

36. Elwood the Tallest Concrete Gnome

Elwood is the world’s tallest Gnome. He stands in a garden 15 feet tall from his boots to his telltale pointy hat and weighs at least 3500 pounds. He may not be the tallest Gnome, but he is sure is the tallest concrete Gnome.

Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Iowa 80 Truck Stop Sign

37. World’s largest truck stop 

List of Iowa facts cannot be complete without mentioning this. The world’s largest truck stop is in Iowa. It is known as Iowa 80. The truck stop is not just a place for truckers to park their bread and butter earning machines, but it also has a barbershop, chiropractor, and a huge museum with antique trucks. It was established in 1964, and has been dubbed “A Small City” and “A Trucker’s Disneyland.” In short, it’s a trucker’s paradise.

38. The largest Danish rural settlement 

The largest Danish rural settlement in the US is Elk Horn, in Iowa. The picturesque town can be seen in Shelby County, southwest Iowa.

39. Register for the RAGBRAI

The longest, largest and oldest recreational bicycle touring event in the world is held here annually since 1973. Riders ride across Iowa or RAGBRAI hence the name RAGBRAI. Participants come from all the 50 states and other continents.

Golf-Course
Golf Course

40. Iowa’s people are the best golf players

The people of Iowa love to play golf. Iowa has more golf courses per capita than any other state.

41. One of the the highest motorcycle ownerships 

Iowa is in the top three US states with the highest motorcycle ownership. That means there is a motorcycle for every 18 people in Iowa.

The Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque
The Fenelon Place Elevator in Dubuque (1893), a funicular railway. A wealthy resident disliked the fact that he couldn’t make it up the main bluff in Dubuque on his lunch break to take a nap, so he built this railway to speed things up.

42. World’s Steepest and Shortest Elevator

The 4th street of Dubuque is the Fenelon Place Elevator, dubbed the shortest, steepest scenic railway. With an inclination of 296 feet up, it takes passengers to Fenelon Place from Fourth Street through 189 feet. It offers spectacular views of three states, Mississippi River, and the entire Dubuque central business district.

43. Scranton is the oldest water tower

It’s the oldest water tower in Iowa and one of the top ten oldest water towers in the United States. It was constructed in 1897, and it’s still functional to date!

Sand sculpture of agriculture in Iowa
Sand sculpture of agriculture in Iowa at the state fair.

44. One Of The Biggest State Fair is held in Iowa

Since 1854 October, the states of the USA have the annual fair in various cities. It was permanently scheduled to happen in Des Moines, Iowa’s capital. The fair is held over 11 days every year in August and it attracts more than a million visitors. It is the largest event in the entire state and celebrates Iowa’s agriculture, industry, entertainment, and achievement.

With live entertainment, livestock shows, food, rides, and many more, there is so much fun to enjoy during Iowa State Fair. The event started in 1854 way before America’s great westward movement. Thrill Zone is hard to miss with favorite parks and classics like Ye Old Mill and Giant Slide. The fairgrounds are open from April through October with major events happening in August.

45. Home to Britt Hobo Convention

The City of Britt, Iowa, has been home to the Britt Hobo Convention since the 1900s. It’s a weekend convention that includes food, entertainment, arts, and much fun.

The Biggest Frying Pan in Iowa.
The Biggest Frying Pan in Iowa. Interesting facts about Iowa.

46. The Biggest Frying Pan in Iowa

A huge frying pan was built for the Brandon’s Cowboy Breakfast Festival in 2004 to fry 44 dozen eggs. This is equivalent to 88 pounds of bacon. It measures nine feet in width and 14 feet in length with the handle included. The Cowboy Breakfast Festival occurs on the 3rd Sunday of every September.

47. Tulip Festival

The annual tulip festival is held in Orange City, Iowa. The festival started for the first time in 1933 and has been held here ever since.

Aquarium.
Aquarium.

48. Iowa is a place of museums and aquariums

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, National Czech & Slovak Museum & library and African American Museum are some of the prehistoric sites in Iowa. They contain all the history and present facts of Iowa.

49. Waterloo’s Grout Museum District

It was founded in 1932 and is considered a cornerstone of Northeast Iowa culture. There is something to see for everyone from pioneers to pythons, science to stars, veterans to Victorian. The museum covers the Civil War, Iowa’s military history, artifacts, and interviews with veterans.

Matchstick Marvels Museum.
Matchstick Marvels version of the International Space Station previously on display at NASA’s Houston Space Center, courtesy of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, 2015.

50. Matchstick Marvels Museum

For almost four decades, Patrick Acton from Gladbrook has been creating complex scale models using wooden matchsticks. Every model is made up of two-inch matchsticks in hundreds of thousands. These matchsticks have been glued and shaped together. So far, there are about 70 excellent designs stretching from Wright Brothers’ Flyer to Notre Dame Cathedral. The innovative creations are displayed at Matchstick Marvels Museum. They are open for public viewing- about 20 large-scale models.

51. Fort Dodge, Little Chicago

Locally, Fort Dodge is known as Little Chicago. The nickname came about when the construction was going on. It was built to mimic Chicago. Many buildings are still standing today. Visitors have the opportunity to wander through history and art at Blanden Art Museum and Fort Museum.

52. A Living History Farm

Outside De Moines, Iowa, is the Living History Farm. Its main feature is to provide living demonstrations of the 1700s to 1900s farm life.

53. The Only Museum for Sprint Car Racing

The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville opens every day. Located next to one of the ancient dirt tracks in the US, it is the place to learn the history of sprint car racing and big cars. The champions in this sport have been honored in the Hall of Fame. These non-winged sprint cars were used in the 30s and 40s. They were the predecessors of the current Indycar.

Ice House Museum, Iowa. Interesting facts about Iowa.
Ice House Museum, Iowa. Image credit – Paul Huber.

54. Ice House Museum

This is a perfect place to learn how life was before refrigeration technology came into existence. A broad selection of ice-harvesting artifacts and archives are found here. The museum was once the Ice and Fuel Company in 1921. Most of the exhibits are the tools that were utilized to carve out ice from the Cedar River.

Iowa City's Bronze Panels. Iowa fact file.
Iowa City’s Literary Walk features bronze relief panels that celebrate some of the best writers with Iowa ties. Image via

55. Iowa City’s Bronze Panels

Iowa Avenue is characterized by a series of bronze panels. They make up Iowa Avenue Literary Walk which pays tribute to authors from the state with their quotes engraved on every panel. Literary Walk quotes plus the biographies of the writers are featured in the Authors section. There are also children’s books and interesting short stories.

56. The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library (NCSML)

The NCSML is a unique institution in Cedar Rapids that acquaints visitors of all backgrounds with the history and culture of Slovak and Czech. With peculiar exhibitions, the museum takes guests through tales of freedom, human rights, family and community that link today and future. Apart from cultural attractions, there are numerous dining experiences.

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