State Parks and ISU Today
Iowa State's involvement with the state's park system did not end with the establishment and development of the parks in the 1920s and 1930s. In fact, Iowa State's faculty and students have long been proponents and users of the parks. Iowa State University faculty have long used state parks as outdoor classrooms, and as a training ground for the next generation of scientists. Scientists from Iowa State study the unusual geologic features visible at many parks in order to better understand the processes that shaped Iowa's landscape. Biologists use state parks and wildlife areas to explore the relationships between the local flora and fauna. Numerous publications exist by Iowa State faculty which include Iowa's state parks, including over 60 articles by geology professor Charles S. Gwynne in the Iowa Conservationist describing the geologic history of many of Iowa’s state parks.


State Preserves Act of 1965
Iowa's State Preserves Act of 1965 provides a strict form of protection to natural areas designated as preserves, keeping them as close to their natural state as possible. In addition to a higher form of protection, preserves offer the public an alternative to state parks, which by the middle of the 20thcentury were increasingly centered around providing recreational facilities.1 As defined by the legislation (Chapter 465C.1 of the Code of Iowa), preserves are "an area of land or water formally dedicated...for maintenance as nearly as possible in its natural condition though it need not be completely primeval in character at the time of dedication or an area which has unusual flora, fauna, geological, archeological, scenic, or historical features of scientific or educational value." 2

State Parks List

State Preserves Guide [PDF download] (also see Iowa DNR3


  • 1. Rebecca Conard, Places of Quiet Beauty: Parks, Preserves, and Environmentalism (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997), 237-238.
  • 2. "Iowa State Preserves," Iowa Department of Natural Resources, accessed October 3, 2017,
  • 3. Ruth Herzberg, John Pearson, and Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The Guide to Iowa's State Preserves. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources), 2001.