Why Is Des Moines The Capital Of Iowa?

Why Is Des Moines The Capital Of Iowa?
Why Is Des Moines The Capital Of Iowa?







It is always interesting to learn more about the capitals of the various states of the US, and Iowa’s capital is no exception. If you’ve ever wondered about this, you’re in the right place to learn the answers.

Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, and a city with a large population. It has around 700,000 people, and it is a major center for finances and publishing. Many corporations are headquartered there, and a lot of presidential candidates set up their campaign HQs there too. It tends toward hot summers and cold but dry winters.

In this article, we’re going to examine Des Moines in more detail to give you a good idea about why this city is so important, what it has to offer, and how it became the capital of Iowa.

Where Is The Capital Of Iowa Located? 

Where Is The Capital Of Iowa Located
Where Is The Capital Of Iowa Located

The capital of Iowa is located in lower central Iowa, on the Des Moines River. It is a huge city of global significance, and it is the county seat of Polk County. Originally known as Fort Des Moines, it was shortened to Des Moines in 1857.

Des Moines is significant for many different reasons, not least for its political relevance. With many presidential candidates starting their campaigns there, it enjoys significant prestige, and it is also home to logistical facilities and data-processing buildings for companies like HP, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Brief History Of Des Moines

Des Moines Iowa skyline and public park in USA (United States)
Des Moines Iowa skyline and public park in USA (United States)

Established as Fort Des Moines in 1843, this city was initially built to protect the rights and interests of the Fox and Sauk people, who inhabited the land at this time. It was sited on the convergent point of two rivers, and started to grow rapidly. 

In 1845, the area was opened up to settlers, because the Settlement-Native American expired, allowing others to move in. In 1851, there was a huge flood that destroyed significant parts of the city, and it had to be rebuilt. In 1857, it was reclassified as a city and the word “fort” was dropped.

In 1866, a railroad to the town was completed, which helped to improve its growth. The area also became known for its coal mining around this time, and between 1864 and 1876, over 20 mines were established. These provided employment and wealth for years, but by 1908, their resources had mostly been exhausted.

The city had to turn to more cultural efforts to keep itself relevant, and built the Beaux Arts public buildings and various other projects to attract attention and money. This was known as the “City Beautiful” project, but it had limited effect until the 1980s, when the city’s relevance increased. It is now considered a white-collar professional city, rather than being focused on blue-collar trades. 

When Did Des Moines Become The Capital Of Iowa?

Aerial View of the Des Moines, Iowa Skyline facing West
Aerial View of the Des Moines, Iowa Skyline facing West

Although it had been in existence for much longer, Des Moines only became the capital of Iowa in 1857. It replaced Iowa City at this stage. Construction of the Capitol building began in 1856, a year before the Constitution declared Des Moines the new capital.

Why Is Des Moines The Capital Of Iowa?

It is thought that officials wished to change the capital because they believed that the capital city should be more central to the state. If you take a map and locate Iowa City, you will see that it is far to the east of the state, and not well positioned. Moving it made communication easier at a time when transport was considerably slower and more difficult.

By making sure that the capital was located as near to the center of the state as it could be, officials ensured that they could get to any part of the state in the shortest amount of time possible. Iowa City is too far to the east, and before that, the capital was Burlington, which is even further to the east.

Because the boundaries of Iowa were redrawn when it became recognized as a state, it made sense to select a more central capital than either of the previous two. Des Moines was also more populous at the time of the move, making it a more logical choice. Being on the Des Moines River ensured that it had fast routes connecting it to other states, too.

Best Places To Visit In Des Moines

There are lots of great things to do in Des Moines, which isn’t surprising when you consider its importance. Many visitors enjoy the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, which has more than 20 pieces of sculpture art. The Des Moines Art Festival is held here every June, and there are vendors and many artists that visit annually.

You might also enjoy the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens, which has an extraordinary display of plants of all sorts. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll see some incredible greenery and beautiful blooms, and you can even take a gardening class here if you choose to.

The State Historical Museum is also well worth a visit, offering fantastic displays that explore Iowa’s role in the Civil War, and everything about the state’s history. It is a very big place, so make sure you allot plenty of time for your visit.

If you’d like to spend some time outdoors, Gray Lake’s Park is another excellent place to see, and perfect for walkers, runners, cyclers, hikers, and more. 

You can also swim in the lake, canoe, fish, or rent a boat – so you can get your full quota of enjoyment from the lake itself too. If you’re taking a vacation with your family, this is a fantastic place for kids as well as adults. 


Des Moines is the capital of Iowa, and has been since 1857. Prior to that point, the capital was Iowa City, and before that, it was Burlington. When the state’s borders were redrawn, it became important to look for a new capital that was more centrally located. Des Moines is now huge, and an important player on the national and global stage.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!