This heartland state entered the Union in 1846. Prior to European exploration and expansion, Iowa was home to many indigenous tribes for nearly 13,000 years. The territory was acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Explorers Lewis and Clark’s historic trek cut through Iowa shortly after the historic land acquisition and visitors can still follow their trail today as it winds across the state; an interpretive centre devoted to their travels can be found in Sioux City.
The state is bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and sits tucked between the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. While the majority of the state is farmland, earning it the nickname of “America’s breadbasket,” the urban centres of capital city Des Moines and Cedar Rapids give the area a cosmopolitan feel.
Although Iowa is landlocked, there is a strong beach culture to be found on the shores of the Iowa Great Lakes region in its north-eastern corner, with West Okoboji, East Okoboji and Spirit lakes offering visitors a variety of traditional water sports such as boating, water skiing and swimming.
Iowa’s fascinating prehistoric past is nowhere better exemplified than in the Effigy Mounds National Monument, where a visitor centre at the park entrance educates guests about the over 200 mounds created by Native American cultures millennia ago. Some mounds bear a resemblance to birds or mammals and are hundreds of feet long. There are extensive hiking trails throughout the 2,500-acre park and rangers give demonstrations on ancient tool-making techniques and Native American lore.
A celebration of Iowa’s immigrant past can be found in the Dutch-styled city of Pella, where descendants of the original settlers hold an annual Tulip Time Festival and maintain many Dutch-themed restaurants and bakeries on its charming Main Street.