As the 26th state in the Union, Iowa is often overshadowed by its larger, more populous neighbors. However, this midwestern state has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty. From majestic rivers and rolling hills to picturesque prairies and forests, Iowa is a feast for the eyes. Here are 10 of the most stunning sights to see in Iowa.
1. The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River forms the eastern border of Iowa and is one of the state’s most iconic landmarks. This mighty river is the second longest in the United States and is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life. Visitors can take part in a variety of activities on the river, such as fishing, boating, and swimming. There are also several scenic trails that wind along the river’s banks, providing stunning views of the waterway.
2. The Loess Hills
The Loess Hills are a band of wind-blown deposits that stretch across the western part of Iowa. These hills are composed of fine-grained sediment that gives them a unique, smooth appearance. The hills are a popular destination for hiking, camping, and picnicking. They also offer some of the best views in the state, with sweeping vistas of the surrounding countryside.
3. The Great River Road
The Great River Road is a network of highways that follow the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota to its mouth in Louisiana. This scenic byway offers stunning views of the river and its levees, as well as a glimpse into the history and culture of the region. The Great River Road runs through a number of Iowa’s cities and towns, making it easy to stop and explore along the way.
4. The Iowa State Capitol
The Iowa State Capitol is the seat of government for the state of Iowa. This grand building, constructed in 1886, is topped with a gold-leafed dome and features a beautiful marble interior. Visitors can take a guided tour of the Capitol, which includes a stop at the Iowa Supreme Court Chambers. From the Capitol grounds, there are also great views of the Des Moines skyline.
5. The Amana Colonies
The Amana Colonies are a group of seven villages that were founded by German immigrants in the mid-19th century. These villages, located in central Iowa, are known for their quaint architecture and old-world charm. Visitors can explore the villages on foot or by bicycle, and can also visit a number of museums and shops. The Amana Colonies are also home to a number of traditional German festivals, which are held throughout the year.
6. The Painted Desert
The Painted Desert is a stretch of badlands located in southwestern Iowa. This otherworldly landscape is characterized by colorful cliffs and eroded canyons. The Painted Desert is popular for hiking, camping, and photography destinations. It is also home to a number of unique plant and animal species, including the endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail.
7. The Field of Corn
The Field of Corn is a 10-acre plot in eastern Iowa. This unique attraction features over 8,000 ears of corn, which are planted in the shape of the state of Iowa. The Field of Corn is open to the public from May to October, and visitors can take a self-guided tour or attend one of the many events that are held here throughout the year.
8. The Iowa Great Lakes
The Iowa Great Lakes are a group of five natural lakes located in northwestern Iowa. These lakes, which are fed by the Des Moines River, are a popular destination for swimming, boating, and fishing. The Iowa Great Lakes is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, osprey, and pelicans.
9. The Effigy Mounds
The Effigy Mounds are a group of more than 200 ancient earthworks located in northeastern Iowa. These mounds, which Native Americans built, take the form of animals, birds, and humans. The Effigy Mounds are a National Monument, and visitors can take a self-guided tour or participate in ranger-led programs.
10. The Iowa State Fair
The Iowa State Fair is held annually in Des Moines and is one of the largest and most popular events in the state. The fair features a Midway, where visitors can enjoy rides and games, as well as a variety of food, music, and entertainment. The Iowa State Fair is also home to the iconic Butter Cow, a life-size sculpture made entirely of butter.