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.
- Iowa’s Nature Series – Aquatic Environments – From the ephemeral pool of a prairie pothole to the giant pools of the mighty Mississippi, Iowa’s lands are defined by their diverse, and critically important aquatic ecosystems.
Lakes and Ponds
- Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Iowa’s Lakes, Ponds, and Reservoirs – Lake details for Iowa lakes. Searchable. Includes fishing reports, maps, and popular fish species found at each lake.
- The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Water Science School: Lakes and Reservoirs – General information about lakes and reservoirs.
- USGS: Surface Water Information – Main page for surface water information. Includes links to USGS sites that contain data and information to learn more about surface water movement and condition.
- Lake Scientist: Lake Facts – Differences between bodies of water. For example, the difference between lakes and ponds.
- Iowa Lakes, Rivers, and Water Resources – Maps of Iowa streams and rivers – includes locations and water levels. Iowa drought maps. Iowa water publications.
Rivers and Streams
- Iowa DNR: Interior Rivers – Brief 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 Streams – Iowa 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 Streams – General information about rivers and streams.
- Iowa DNR: Mississippi River – Detailed information about the Mississippi River. Links to detailed information about each pool of the Mississippi River.
- Iowa DNR: Missouri River – General 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.
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Wetlands – General information about wetlands.
- USGS: Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center – Wetlands information with data and research for professionals and the public.
- EPA: Prairie Potholes – General information about prairie potholes.
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – Wetlands – General information about wetlands.
- Iowa DNR: Wetlands – Information about wetlands in Iowa and wetland monitoring.
- Profiles in the Wonder of Iowa’s Wetlands – This webinar, which aired May 25, 2021, created by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach review types of wetlands found in Iowa, their functions and ecology, and the beneficial goods and services they can provide.
From creeks and streams to major rivers, all flowing waters have a riparian zone.
- NRCS: Riparian Areas Environmental Uniqueness, Functions, and Values – An introduction to riparian zones.
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.
- Iowa DNR: Watershed Basics – Basic information about watersheds. Includes links to more specific information.
- Water Quality Portal – The Water Quality Portal (WQP) is a cooperative service sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NWQMC). It serves data collected by over 400 state, federal, tribal, and local agencies.
- Iowa Water Quality Information System – Access to real-time water-quality data and information such as nitrate, pH, and dissolved oxygen concentrations, discharge rates, and temperature.
- NRCS: Watersheds – An introduction to watersheds and links to watershed boundary dataset and publications.
- EPA: Water Data and Tools – Discover data and tools that EPA uses to protect and restore waters.
- Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS): Iowa Watershed Projects – featured projects throughout Iowa.
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.
- Alice in Waterland (3-5, 6-8)
- Blue Ribbon Niche (3-5, 6-8)
- Dragonfly Pond (3-5, 6-8)
- How Wet Is Our Planet (6-8)
- Marsh Munchers (3-5)
- Puddle Wonders (6-8)
- Riparian Retreat (3-5)
- The Glass Menagerie (9-12)
- To Dam or Not to Dam (6-8)
- Water Wings (3-5, 6-8)
- Watershed (6-8, 9-12)
- Wetland Metaphors (3-5)
- Where Does Water Run? (6-8, 9-12)