You may have seen the world-famous movie “The Bridges of Madison County” starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Those bridges and that county are in Iowa, and Iowa really does look that way. It’s a bucolic primarily rural place where farming is still king. The name of the state comes from the Ioway tribes who lived along the Des Moines River, where they had been resident for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. In fact, the tribes here were largely settled farmers with fully developed economic, social, and political systems. Like so many other states in the northern and Midwestern tiers of the United States, French fur traders were the first into the new territory. When the land opened for settlement, immigrant families poured in from as far away as New York, Virginia and the Carolinas, looking for more suitable farmland, which was abundantly available on in the tall grass prairie. In areas where there was limited timber, settlers constructed sod houses, warm in winter and cool in summer. Even though the pastoral lifestyle is fairly cohesive, today, the state is populated by the Dutch, Norwegians and Swedes, Czechs, African Americans and Latinos. Liquor by the drink finally became legal in the 1960s and the state’s economy began changing to include business and manufacturing, producing products that are shipped around the world. The one thing that has not changed is the warm, authentic hospitality of these Midwesterners, who have been welcoming visitors to the Iowa State Fair for decades, and throughout the state to experience their culture. 

Iowa Scenic Byways