The desire to establish a park system within Iowa existed even before statehood in 1846, and gained momentum until the 1917 state park legislation turned the idea into a reality. Iowa became a leader within the state park movement, hosting the first National Conference on State Parks in 1921.1 The advocacy for a state park system involved many people from throughout Iowa, including conservation and scientific minded organizations such as the Iowa Academy of Science, Iowa Conservation Association, and the Iowa Federation of Women's clubs. For a period of time, there was even the chance that a national park would be established within Iowa's borders. The topography, geology, and water of Iowa's landscapes have all played a part in the history of Iowa's state parks. Much of Iowa's terrain has changed significantly from what it was when Iowa became a state. In the early part of the 20th century, it was extremely difficult for Iowa's citizens to enjoy a picnic at a public lakeside, prairie, or wood. Due to the people who helped establish Iowa's state parks, and the people who have continued to maintain and preserve Iowa's natural areas, Iowa's state parks and natural environments are still with us today.


The history section of this website contains information on the establishment of state parks in Iowa, the movement for a national park within Iowa's borders, the Civilian Conservation Corp's work during the Great Depression, and background on the landscapes of Iowa's state parks.

  • 1. Conard, Rebecca, "The National Conference on State Parks: Reflections on Organizational Genealogy," The George Wright Forum 14, no. 4 (1997): 28-43. Available at http://www.georgewright.org/144conard.pdf