Boundaries defined by the two great Western rivers Iowa looks more like a piece from a jigsaw puzzle than most states. If the states were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, Iowa's squiggly left and right sides would squeeze between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, fitting snugly on top of Missouri, and capped by Minnesota. Did you notice that Iowa is bordered by four "m" words?
|90 percent of Iowa's landscape is devoted to agriculture. Contour farming magnifies the visual impact of a rolling landscape, as this aerial photo from the archives of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service shows.|
- Settlement: In the early 1830s, the territory was opened by Congress for settlement. The surveyors' straight chain was imposed on the rolling landscape. Land rushes resulted in pioneers churning up the tall-grass prairie, transforming the rolling hills into angular croplands. There were few conservation measures, and much rich, black topsoil ended up washing downstream into the Gulf of Mexico, where it found its graveyard in the Mississippi River Delta.
- The New Deal: One hundred years later, the New Deal brought widespread conservation measures to the Hawkeye State. Contour farming became the practice. Rows of trees were planted to act as windbreaks. It's surprising to see how many old trees still grow at the edges of fields. Farmers needed shade from the scorching summers and windbreaks from the freezing winters, as Kent Baker notes [p. 73]. The lack of prairie fires that once swept through the region also allowed the trees to persist.
- Turning silos into smokestacks: The family farm has been disappearing, replaced in recent decades by agribusiness and factories. In Waterloo, for example, you can see John Deere tractors being assembled. John Deere, the world’s leading manufacturer of agricultural tractors, is the sole tractor manufacturing plant left in the world that retains its founder’s name.
|Native Iowan Henry A. Wallace|
|At the edge of a rural neighborhood.|
I-80 It is fashionable to blast travel by interstate as kitschy, soul-sucking monotony. But the Interstate-80 corridor, connecting New York and San Francisco via Chicagoland, is one of the great conduits through which our nation's history has pulsed. America's second-longest interstate highway, I-80 most closely approximates the route of the historic Lincoln Highway, the first road across America; and it roughly traces other historically significant travel routes into the West: the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail, Pony Express, and first Transcontinental Railroad.
Cities According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 the United States had 275 cities with a population of more than 100,000 people. Iowa has only two cities that make the list: Des Moines is ranked 106th with 203,000 people; and Cedar Rapids is 196th with 126,000 people.
|Iconic Iowa: Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930|
|Splendor in the Grassland|
Iowa in August County fairs, butter cows, bikers on their way to Sturgis (South Dakota), and the quadrennial straw poll mark the waning days of summer in the Hawkeye state.