Fun Facts About Iowa: Uncovering the Heartland’s Hidden Gems

Iowa has produced influential figures like Arabella Mansfield and innovations such as the electronic digital computer.

Famous People and Innovations from Iowa

Iowa's cornfields and factories surround iconic inventions like the first electronic digital computer and famous Iowans like John Wayne

Iowa has been home to a number of notable individuals and significant innovations that have shaped both the state and the nation’s history.

Engaging with the stories of these influential figures and groundbreaking contributions gives a deeper appreciation of Iowa’s impact.

Influential Iowans in History

  • Arabella Mansfield: In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first female lawyer in the United States after being admitted to the Iowa bar.
  • John Wayne: The iconic actor, born Marion Robert Morrison, hailed from Winterset, Iowa, and went on to become an American film legend.
  • Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States was born in West Branch, Iowa, and is remembered for his humanitarian efforts.
  • Amelia Earhart: Before her mysterious disappearance, the famed aviator spent time in Iowa, inspiring many at the state’s numerous airfields.
  • George Washington Carver: An agricultural scientist and inventor, Carver spent his formative years at Iowa State University, making lasting contributions to agricultural science.
  • Johnny Carson: The long-time host of The Tonight Show was born in Corning, Iowa, and began his entertainment career in the state.
  • Mildred Wirt Benson: Under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, Benson wrote many of the original Nancy Drew novels and was a long-time Iowa resident.
  • Bob Feller: This Van Meter native became one of Major League Baseball’s greatest pitchers, with a career that spanned 18 seasons.
  • Donna Reed: The Oscar-winning actress was born in Denison, Iowa, and starred in numerous films, including “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  • Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: Iowa became the international headquarters for the Transcendental Meditation movement when the Maharishi established his university in Fairfield.
  • Norman Borlaug: The father of the Green Revolution and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Borlaug was an Iowa native who developed high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.
  • Buffalo Bill: William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, began his legendary career in the plains of Iowa.

Iowa’s Contributions to Technology and Agriculture


  • Corn and Soybean: Iowa stands as the nation’s top corn producer, significantly contributing to both the ethanol industry and the global food supply.
  • Pigs: The state is also a leading producer of hogs, with Iowa farmers raising more pigs than any other state.
  • Ethanol: Leveraging its corn production, Iowa is a major contributor to renewable fuels through ethanol production.

Cultural and Natural Landmarks of Iowa

Iowa, often recognized for its strong agricultural standing and Midwestern charm, boasts a wealth of cultural and natural landmarks from the famous Iowa State Fair to the natural beauty of the Mississippi River.

These landmarks tell the stories of the Ioway Native Americans, the richness of the state’s wildlife, and Iowa’s place in American cultural history.

Unique Attractions and Traditions

Iowa is home to unique attractions that capture its local traditions and history.

The state is proud of its RAGBRAI, an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state which is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.

A ride from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River gives participants a cross-sectional view of this scenic state.

Iowa is also the setting for Grant Wood’s iconic “American Gothic” which has the American Gothic House Center dedicated to it.

Meanwhile, Le Mars – the Ice Cream Capital of the World, churns out more of this frozen treat than any other city on the globe.

Throughout its 99 counties, Iowa celebrates variety and community shown nowhere better than at the State Fair, a significant event teeming with attractions, which draws over a million visitors yearly.

Additionally, in West Bend, the Grotto of the Redemption, a monumental testament of religious devotion created with stones and gems, showcases the state’s cultural ingenuity.

Geography and Wildlife

Iowa’s geography is highlighted by the fact that it’s bordered by two great American rivers: eastward by the Mississippi River, and westward by the Missouri River.

Contrary to what many might think, Iowa is not entirely flat; the state features rolling hills, especially near the rivers, with a high point at Hawkeye Point.

The Loess Hills are a unique geographical feature formed by windblown silt, and in the town of Sabula, one would find Iowa’s only island city, offering picturesque views and natural charm.

Natural lakes like Spirit Lake serve as important ecological landmarks that house numerous species and offer recreational opportunities.

Iowa’s relationship with its wildlife is intricate and longstanding, with excavation sites such as the ones around Spirit Lake yielding fossils from creatures like giant sloths and woolly mammoths.

Moreover, Iowa’s network of state parks and wildlife refuges ensures that its natural heritage, including a great variety of bird species, is preserved and celebrated.