Iowa’s Waters

The major types of waters in Iowa include lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, and wetlands. Iowa waters tend to be very productive – they are very rich in plant and animal life. This is due largely to the richness of Iowa soils; however, run-off from agricultural and urban areas also contains nutrients which can increase plant growth, sometimes to the extent it is undesirable.

Lakes and Ponds

Rivers and Streams


Wetlands are areas where soil is saturated for various lengths of time during the growing season. They are transitions between terrestrial and aquatic systems.  All wetlands have three things in common: hydric soils, a hydrology, and the presence of hydrophytes.

Riparian Zones

From creeks and streams to major rivers, all flowing waters have a riparian zone.


Activities in the watershed (land that drains into a lake, marsh, or stream) determine water quality. A study of waters in Iowa must include a look at their watersheds.


Activities listed below are from the Aquatic WILD guide and relevant to Iowa. Activities with supplemental information are linked below. Use the supplemental information in conjunction with the Aquatic WILD activity.