Iowa is located in the northern part of the
central United States. It lies in the heart of the North American
continent, in the region known as the Midwest. Iowa, with its
fertile prairie lands and heavily agricultural economy devoted to
raising grain and livestock, is often considered the typical
Midwestern state. Iowa entered the Union on December 28, 1846, as
the 29th state. Des Moines is the state’s capital and largest
Iowa is, in large part, an efficient, large-scale
production line for the nation’s food. From rich black earth to
waving corn to fattened hog and steer foodstuffs, the entire process
is carried out on a grand scale. Most of the corn and other grains
are fed to Iowa’s hogs and cattle. Then, factories take over to
pack the meat, process any grain that remains, and produce the
equipment to till the soil, harvest the corn, run the farms, and
process the farm products. Other factories produce goods that have
little or nothing to do with agriculture, such as ball-point pens,
washing machines, and office furniture. In value of annual economic
production, Iowa is primarily an industrial state, but much of its
industrial output remains based on farm production.
The state’s name was taken from the Iowa River,
which in turn was named for the Iowa people, the Native Americans
who lived in the region during early European exploration. Iowa is
called the Hawkeye State. The name is believed to be a tribute to
Chief Black Hawk, a leader of the Sac people who were relocated to
Iowa after unsuccessful resistance to white settlement.
Iowa is the 26th largest state in the Union. It
has a total area of 56,276 square miles, including 401 square miles
of inland water. The state has a maximum extent from east to west of
332 miles and a maximum distance from north to south of 214 miles.
The mean elevation is about 1,100 feet.
Iowa’s climate is characterized by warm,
generally moist summers and cold winters. Temperatures vary
considerably from season to season and, at times, from day to day.
However, monthly averages are relatively uniform throughout the
state and usually vary less than 10° from place to place. Although
total snowfall is rarely very great, the severity of the Iowa winter
is often increased by high winds that produce blizzard conditions
and by prolonged periods of very low temperatures.
Average monthly temperatures in July range from
less than 72° in northern Iowa to more than 76° in southern Iowa.
Daytime highs in summer are usually between 85° and 90° in most of
the state. Temperatures in the lower lower 110°s have been
recorded, but these occur infrequently.
Average January temperatures range from less than
14° in the north to more than 24° in the extreme southeast. In
winter nearly all places in the state may experience lows in the
Most of the state receives between 26 and 36
inches of precipitation (rainfall and snowfall) a year. In general,
precipitation decreases from east to west. Most precipitation falls
in the form of rain during the spring and summer, although prolonged
droughts sometimes occur in summer.