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What Iowa is Known For & Famous For

Endless fields of crops and farms may be what first comes to mind when thinking of the Midwestern state of Iowa, but that’s not all its known or famous for.


Iowa is known for its agriculture industry of mainly corn and pork, its location on both the Mississippi River and the Missouri River, its beautiful state parks, American Gothic House, and Grotto the Redemption. The state is also famous for its covered bridges of Madison County.


Read on to learn more about what Iowa is known for.



Called The Hawkeye State

Iowa is known as the Hawkeye State in honor of Chief Black Hawk who was the leader of the native American Sauk tribe. However, another theory for the origin of the nickname the Hawkeye state is that it came from the book “The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper.


Regardless of its real origins, the name the Hawkeye State was made popular in 1838 by a judge and newspaper publisher from Burlington, when the name of the newspaper was changed from “The Iowa Patriot” to “The Hawkeye and Iowa Patriot.”



Political Caucuses

Iowa is known for the way its political caucuses operate as it is different from the rest of the United States. Iowa’s caucus is considered to be extra important as it is the first state to show its support to candidates. Candidates are able to test the waters with Iowa to see how they will fare in the rest of the country.



Unpredictable Weather

Iowa has many different kinds of weather. When people think about Iowa they probably only think about the full sun with no clouds, but that is not always true. You can have a clear blue sky one day and then cloudy skies the next day.


The temperatures are also very unpredictable especially in the spring because it can be 55 degrees Fahrenheit on one day and then snowing the next. Or some days it can be sunny and 85 degrees Fahrenheit while on other days it can be rainy and 48 degrees Fahrenheit.


Thunderstorms can pop out of nowhere and dump large amounts of rain in less than an hour.




Iowa is known for its agriculture industry with about 90% of its land dedicated to farming. Farmers harvest more corn than any other state and produce more pigs than anywhere in the world.  Iowa’s agricultural sector, which employs over a quarter of Iowans, generates nearly $101 billion in economic activity annually and has a total economic impact of $152.7 billion annually.




One-third of Iowa’s cropland is used to produce corn for hog, beef, dairy, poultry, and ethanol feedstocks.  Iowa is the largest producer of corn in the United States, growing almost 1/5 of the nation’s corn.  Because of this, corn is an important part of the Iowa economy, generating more than $10 billion in economic activity per year. Iowa corn provides more than half of all domestically grown feed for livestock and poultry at a value of more than $3 billion annually.


Corn production occurs over about 13 million acres statewide, with each acre producing approximately 175 bushels.




Pork is another huge industry in Iowa. Each year, more than 37 million hogs are slaughtered in the state. Iowa ranks 2nd in the number of hogs slaughtered. There are more than 6,000 farms that raise pigs in Iowa, and as of 2007, there were 4.8 million breeding swine.


Iowa ranks first in the nation for pork production and packing.


The state of Iowa produces $3.2 billion in annual revenue from its pork industry.




Iowa is also known for its soybean industry with 10 billion bushels harvested annually.


The soybean plants need nitrogen to grow. Farmers often apply nitrogen-rich manure or another fertilizer to their fields. This feeds the plants just enough to make them grow bigger and produce more seeds.



East and West Borders are Formed by Rivers

Iowa is known for its borders formed by rivers. East and West borders are formed by two rivers: the Mississippi River on the eastern side and the Missouri River on the western section of Iowa’s border. These unincorporated borders allow for easy access between neighbors as well as travel to neighboring states such as Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.



Grotto of the Redemption

The Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption is a tourist attraction in West Bend, Iowa. It was built in 1929. It is also known as “America’s Largest Grotto”.


This shrine houses the world’s largest collection of underground grottos and replicas of famous monuments, chapels, and shrines. Each year visitors from all over the world come to see this site.


It has won many awards including being named by Travel Channel as one of the top ten Christian shrines in the country.


The shrine is situated on land where Father Paul Dobberstein, a Benedictine priest and sculptor, lived and worked. He created many of the statues in the Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption throughout his lifetime.



High Trestle Trail

Iowa is well-known for its gorgeous ten-story high trestles. The High Trestle Trail spans 16 miles between Woodward and Madrid and follows along an abandoned railroad line that once transported coal from Southwestern to Northwestern Iowa.


Then it was converted into a 25 mile bicycle trail by Adventure Cycling Association which they started in 1973. The 25 mile trail starts in Woodward, passes through Madrid, and goes all the way down to Ankeny. The High Trestle Trail was built for both cyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the many amenities that it offers.



Iowa Speedway

The Iowa Speedway is a 7/8th mile tri-oval race track in Newton, Iowa. It is the home of NASCAR racing in the Midwestern United States, hosting the pole for the 2011 Daytona 500.


Founded in 2006, it was built by Rusty Wallace and is was owned by his brother Kenny Wallace. The speedway has an estimated permanent seating capacity of 50,000 with infield seating raising capacity to over 125,954.


The track has held Sprint Cup Series races since 2011 after previously hosting the Nationwide Series from 2009-2011 and USAC Silver Crown Series in previous years. The speedway currently hosts races in NASCAR’s top three divisions: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series. In addition to NASCAR, the track also hosted USAC Silver Crown and USAC Sprint Car races until 2008.



Ledges State Park

Ledges State Park is located in Boone County, Iowa. It stretches across 667 acres and 100 feet deep along the East fork of the Des Moines River. The park is bordered by Pammel Park on its west side and Fretz State Park to its east.


Ledges State Park has many rock formations that look like stone ledges protruding at various angles from the ground. It is an example of Karst topography, which are found in Eastern Iowa.


The scenic beauty of the park has made it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Camping, hiking trails, picnicking, fishing, and hunting are some of the common activities done at Ledges State Park. The park also has a museum and an arboretum that hosts many events throughout the year.


Ledges State Park is one of the state parks in Iowa that was included in the system during its construction to “provide for outdoor recreation and vacationing.”



Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves State Park is located in northeastern Iowa, one mile south of the city limits of Maquoketa. The park has 111 acres and features a system of 13 caves.


The area is closed during the winter months due to an abundance of water that can make walking through the caves or getting from one level to another dangerous. Four of the caves are open to the public year-round.



Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park is a state park located in southeastern Iowa near the town of McGregor, Iowa. In total it covers 960 acres of land and is home to many activities for visitors’ enjoyment including swimming, biking, hiking trails, and camping sites.


Pikes Peak State Park itself was purchased by the Izaak Walton League in 1941, though it didn’t become a state park until 1965 when then-Governor Harold Hughes signed a bill that turned Pikes Peak into a state park. [In more detail] The purchase of the surrounding land had been going on from 1935 to 1941 when the purchase was finally complete.


The Izaak Walton League had originally bought all 960 acres so they could preserve this stretch along the Mississippi River so that people would be able to enjoy its beauty.


The park is named after the famous explorer Zebulon Pike who explored the area of Iowa and left his mark on it in his name. He journeyed through the area and claimed it for the US when he was only 22 years old.


Reiman Gardens by Scott McLeod on Flickr


Reiman Gardens

The Reiman Gardens, located on the Iowa State University campus, is an attraction enjoyed by thousands every year. The Reiman Gardens are internationally known for their emphasis on plant artistry, horticultural techniques, and environmental responsibility.


The gardens provide every visitor with an imaginative, fast-paced tour through their unique exhibits like the Conservatory, Orchid Room, and Bonsai Gallery. The Reiman Gardens also offer visitors the opportunity to explore various outdoor gardens which feature panoramic views of Ames and beyond.



Amana Colonies

The Amana Colonies is a village of seven German-speaking communities in Iowa. The villages were founded by Inspirationalists who believed that individual land ownership was not compatible with the Christian faith. So, in 1855, they resolved to sell their belongings and establish a communal village where everything would be shared equally.


The colonies remained almost entirely independent and self-sufficient from the US for 80 years, until 1932 when they went through the Great Change. The Great Change was during the Great Depression when the villages split into two organizations, a non-profit Church and a for-profit joint-stock company.


By Original uploader was Jehjoyce at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain


American Gothic House

The American Gothic House is named after the painting “American Gothic” by Grant Wood. The house is the epitome of this term, being a white two-story, stone house with dark shutters and a matching door in front of which are two windows on each side of the door with wooden bars across them. All this gives it an especially ominous look.


By Billwhittaker at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

The Herbert Hoover National Historic Site preserves the birthplace, boyhood home, and burial site of Herbert Clark Hoover, America’s 31st president. He was born on August 10th, 1874 in West Branch, Iowa before moving to Oregon with his family at the age of nine. As a young man, he struggled financially but became one of America’s leading humanitarian heroes during World War I. Later he was elected president in a 1928 landslide, but the economic calamity of the Great Depression shattered his presidency and legacy. Hoover died in New York City on October 20th, 1964 and was buried in West Branch on October 25th.


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is a great place to visit if you are interested in history or the outdoors. There are over 450 acres of land with hiking trails, bike trails, museums, historic buildings, and more!


Dirk Hansen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

is an enormous educational and entertaining museum and aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa. The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium originally opened as the Fred W. Woodward Riverboat Museum in 1982. The name was later changed as the museum continued to expand.


The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium has 15 permanent exhibits that feature life in America’s rivers and some in the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can see the different regions of the Mississippi River and how they function. The museum is also home to a 70,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico tank that has sea life from the gulf.


The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium has interactive exhibits for children to play with while parents watch and learn at their own pace.



Iowa State Fair

is a must-attend event for Iowans and guests alike. People come from all over the world to visit the largest state fair in America, where they can experience much of what Iowa has to offer.


In addition to giving its visitors a chance to have fun every day of the week, the Iowa State Fair features livestock shows, concerts, art & crafts displays, games, and entertainment.


Iowa is known for its top-notch agricultural production, which makes the fair’s event of displaying – and often auctioning – livestock especially exciting.




Each year the state’s best bicycling roads are used by hundreds of bicyclers during RAGBRAI or The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This seven-day bicycle race begins in Sioux City on the Missouri River and ends in Davenport on the Mississippi River.


Many people come to Iowa specifically for this bike race, but many others just happen to be in the state during that time of year and choose to participate anyway.


At almost 400 miles long, RAGBRAI is not an easy ride. It takes a lot of training and energy to complete this journey. Some bicyclers ride the full length while others join up along different parts of the route.



Field of Dreams was Filmed Here

Field of Dreams is a 1989 drama film that was directed by Phil Alden Robinson. It stars Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster. The movie received very positive feedback from critics and it also had four Academy Award nominations at the 62nd Academy Awards including Best Picture.


The movie was filmed in different locations throughout the state of Iowa. The biggest filming took place in Dyersville, Iowa which is located about 15 miles north of Dubuque.



The Bridges of Madison County

Iowa is famous for its covered bridges in Madison County. There are 6 historic bridges in the county with picturesque coverings. National Geographic named the bridges in Madison County to be among the most beautiful places in the world.


There is a famous book and, later, a film adaptation by the name of Bridges of Madison County. It is about a lonely housewife who falls in love with a stranger whom she meets while he is passing through her town in Iowa and the romantic moments they shared under an old covered bridge in Madison County.


The epic love story of the two strangers is just one reason why many people are visiting the bridges in Madison County.


20150817 04 Buddy Holly Plane Crash site near Clear Lake, Iowa by David Wilson on Flickr


The Day the Music Died Plane Crash

The Day the Music Died Plane Crash, also known as the ‘Music Plane Crash’ is the official name of the plane crash that saw four musicians die. The event took place on February 3rd, 1959. The place where the event took place was Clear Lake, Iowa.


The musicians that died included:

  • Buddy Holly – A prominent American musician.
  • Ritchie Valens – A prominent American Latino musician.
  • The Big Bopper,  Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. – Another prominent American musician.
  • “The Little” (Carl) Bunch – Was the youngest of the musicians that was on board at 19 years old (and not 18 as his mother had reported to numerous news outlets).


Only the pilot and one of the roadies survived.



Final Thoughts

It may not be the first state to come to find when thinking about where to take your next adventure, but Iowa is a beautiful destination that should not be overlooked.


It has a rich history and unique culture, as well as breathtaking views.


When you add that to the fact that it’s a fairly quick flight from most major US cities, there is no reason for you not to take some time out of your next vacation and explore this incredible state.