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

  • Iowa DNR: Interior RiversBrief description of Iowa’s rivers and streams. Links to recreation atlas and water trails maps and brochures. Includes information about the safety of eating Iowa caught fish.
  • Iowa DNR: Trout StreamsIowa trout stream information. Includes detailed information by stream. Searchable. Includes directions, maps, fishing report, and popular fish species found in each.
  • The USGS Water Science School – Earth’s Water: Rivers and StreamsGeneral information about rivers and streams.
  • Iowa DNR: Mississippi RiverDetailed information about the Mississippi River. Links to detailed information about each pool of the Mississippi River.
  • Iowa DNR: Missouri RiverGeneral information about the Missouri River. Includes common fish species caught in the Missouri River.
  • Iowa Flood Information System – This is a one-stop web-platform to access community-based flood conditions, forecasts, visualizations, inundation maps and flood-related information, visualizations and applications.


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: water (is always present), wet soils, and wetland plants.

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.