How old is Iowa? What is Iowa best known for? What is the state animal of Iowa? Learn these and other interesting facts about Iowa in our Iowa history timeline, fast facts and geography facts section.

Your students will learn fun facts and information about Iowa in this series of unit study supplements about all the states in the USA. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of Iowa.  Let’s start with the Iowa state facts below:

Iowa Fast Facts

Became a State:

December 28, 1846

Order it Joined the Union:

29th state

State Capital:

Des Moines

State Abbreviation:

IA

Border States:

State Flag:

Flag of Iowa

State Song:

“Song of Iowa”

State Flower:

Wild Prairie Rose

State Nickname:

The Hawkeye State

Notable Iowans:

  • Ashton Kutcher, actor
  • “Caroline Keen” (Mildred Wirt Benson), author of the Nancy Drew series
  • Cloris Leachman, actress
  • George Nelson, astronaut
  • Grant Wood, painter
  • Herbert Hoover, president
  • Johnny Carson, talk show host

Historical Facts About Iowa

Iowa is named after the Iowa River, which likely got its name from the local Ioway Native American tribe. Iowa’s history began thousands of years ago (over 12,000 years ago), when the first Natives inhabited the area. Some of the Native American tribes that lived in what is present day Iowa were the Sauk, Mesquaki, Ioway, Sioux and Oto.

By the time European explorers arrived in the area, Native Americans already had complex social, economic and political systems in place. However, with the arrival of European trade, it also brought diseases that had a dramatic impact on the Native American population in Iowa.

In 1673 Marquette and Joliet explored the Mississippi region, including present day Iowa. By 1682, Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle claimed all of the land that was drained by the great river and its branches for France. However, in 1762 France gave the territory to Spain and the region was under Spanish rule until 1803, when Napoleon Bonaparte gets the Louisiana Territory (which Iowa was part of) back for France. Although Napoleon had big plans for the region, he ultimately sold the Louisiana Territory to the newly formed United States government that same year.

Once under United States rule other Native American tribes such as the Illini moved into Iowa when they were forced to move west of the Mississippi river. However, this did not last as the westward expansion continued and Native Americans were forced to relinquish their lands for white settlers to move in. In 1833, the official settlement began, most of whom were French. Today’s population in Iowa is mainly of German descent.

Read the Iowa history timeline below to learn some more important historical facts about Iowa through the events that occurred in this state.

1673

French explorers, Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette, arrived in Iowa

1682

French explorers claimed Iowa for France

1762

France gives control to Spain over the area

1803

Iowa was acquired by the US through the Louisiana Purchase

1813

Fort Madison was defeated in the War of 1812

1829

Native American tribes in western Illinois were forced to move across the Mississippi River into the Iowa region.

1833

Lands of Iowa open to settlers for the first time

1838

Territory of Iowa was established with Burlington as the capital

1841

State capital is moved to Iowa City

1846

Iowa became the 29th state under President James Polk

1851

Last purchase of Sioux lands was made in northern Iowa

1857

  • Des Moines became the capital of Iowa
  • Fox and Sauk tribes returned to Iowa to settle in the Mesquakie reservation
  • Spirit Lake Massacre, final act of violence between the Sioux Indians and the European settlers

1861-1865

Iowa’s frontier period, which included violence and lawlessness among the settlers

1884

Iowa Civil Rights Act outlawed racial discrimination

1948

Civil rights cases were won under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, essentially ending the practice of racial discrimination

Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.

Iowa Geography Facts

Let’s move on to some interesting facts about Iowa’s geography. Iowa is known for its cornfields and rolling hills, making the state a large farmland. Also, Iowa is sandwiched between the Mississippi River on its eastern border and the Missouri River and its tributary, the Big Sioux River, on the western border, making it the only state with two parallel rivers as borders.

Iowa’s wildlife has been harmed by the focus on farming, but efforts have been made to conserve wildlife, which now includes foxes, weasels, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and white-tailed deer, as well as a variety of birds (such as the bald eagle, wild turkey and ring-necked pheasant), reptiles, and amphibians.

Check out this map of Iowa to start getting familiar with the state. Then read through the following Iowa geography facts. Print out the map of Iowa provided below and add these items to the map.

  • Iowa is bordered by Minnesota in the north, Missouri in the south, South Dakota and Nebraska in the west, and Wisconsin and Illinois in the east.
  • The capital, Des Moines, lies in the center of the southern half of the state.
  • The Mississippi River forms the entire eastern border with Wisconsin and Illinois.
  • The Missouri River forms the western border with South Dakota and Nebraska.
  • The Des Moines River flows diagonally between northwestern and southeastern Iowa.
  • Farther east, the Ohio River flows almost parallel to the Des Moines River from north-central to southeastern Iowa.
  • Okoboji Lake is in northwestern Iowa, with the smaller Spirit Lake slightly northeast of it.
  • Storm Lake is also in the northwestern corner of Iowa, south of Okoboji Lake.
  • Saylorville Lake, Lake Red Rock, and Rathbun Lake are in south-central Iowa, with Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock on the Des Moines River, and Rathbun Lake on the Chariton River.
  • Coralville Lake is located in mid-eastern Iowa on the Iowa River.
  • Iowa’s highest point is Hawkeye Point, at 1,670 feet above sea level, in northwest Iowa.
  • The lowest point is on the Mississippi River, located in the southeastern corner of Iowa where the Des Moines River enters the Mississippi River, at 480 feet above sea level.

Iowa State Map

Download our FREE Iowa state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.

Download

Activities for Children in Iowa

How can you experience the fun facts about Iowa in a more hands-on way?  Visit the state to see some of its unique places.  Homeschoolers in Iowa can make a quick local stop or plan a day trip.  Out-of-towners can schedule a longer stay. Here are a few ideas to help you learn some more Iowa state facts:

  • Cedar Rapids’ Museum of Art (Cedar Rapids):  Discover the paintings of native Iowan, Grant Wood, creator of the famous “American Gothic” painting, and other artist-themed displays.  Enjoy the collections of contemporary and Roman art and the museum’s print collection in a self-guided or docent-guided tour.
  • Amana Colonies (Amana):  Step inside seven villages based on the German ethnic history of Iowa.  Sample the foods and drinks, enjoy the architecture, and browse through the handcrafted products. Young children can dig in a pebble pit for special rocks and fossils or try to catch a youth play performance.  Ride on the bike trail or walk the nature trail. Watch for festivals and other events throughout the year.
  • National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (Dubuque):  Come and visit this mixture of an aquarium, science center, and museum.  See animal exhibits and historic exhibits or experience the 4D theater. Enjoy hands-on historic and STEM activities scheduled throughout the year on Home School Days.
  • Grotto of the Redemption (West Bend):  Visit what has been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” a man-made religious monument built from more than $4 million worth of fossils, shells, and minerals.  Constructed by German-born, Father Paul Matthias Dobberstein, the shrine is a lifelong artistic piece showing religious dedication and devotion to the work.
  • Pikes Peak State Park (McGregor):  Enjoy the scenic view from a 500-foot bluff overlooking the point where the Upper Mississippi River joins the Wisconsin River.  Explore the park’s nearly 1,000 acres by hiking, biking, picnicking, and camping. Discover the 63 effigy mounds in the park and the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.

Looking for more things to do with your kids in Iowa? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in Iowa!

Iowa Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers

You can also learn about Iowa facts and information for little to no cost.  Below are just a few ideas:

  • John Deere Tractor & Engine Museum (Waterloo):  Explore the historical and current production of a major company in Iowa, and catch glimpses of the future.  See the machines and artifacts and experience hands-on displays and exhibits. Learn about the evolution of farm equipment from horse-drawn to horsepower.  You can also take a free guided tour. Admission is free.
  • Iowa State Capitol (Des Moines):  Visit the 19th-century gold-domed capitol building.  Walk the grounds and gardens. Take a tour and see a great view of the city.  Free self-guided and formal tours are available Monday through Saturday. If you cannot visit, enjoy a virtual and pictorial tour of the capitol building and its grounds.
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument (Harpers Ferry):  See over 200 prehistoric mounds of earth in the shapes of bison, deer, panthers, and other animals.  Learn the history of how these mounds have been considered sacred and may have been used to mark tribal territories and enjoy the scenery of the Upper Mississippi River Valley.  Take a guided tour, listen to a special talk, or see a demonstration of ancient spear throwing. Admission is free.
  • Iowa 80 Trucking Museum (Walcott):  Explore the history of the trucking industry at this fee-free museum.  See antique trucks and trucking memorabilia or watch one of the short films about the trucking industry.  See historic timelines and view antique toy trucks. Whether or not you are able to visit, take advantage of the free K-5 teacher tools available on the website.
  • Maquoketa Caves State Park (Maquoketa):  For those who love hiking and spelunking (caving), explore the 370 acres of hardwood trees and high bluffs as well as the thirteen limestone caves created after thousands of years of erosion.  See flowstone formations and stalactites and the occasional brown bat during the winter months or visit the interpretive center to learn about the geology and Native American relics. You can also camp there for an extended stay for a fee, but otherwise admission is free.

Iowa Learning Games for Children

Now that you have learned some interesting things about Iowa, test your knowledge of Iowa facts for students with these free games and activities:

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