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Satellite Images of Iowa Landscapes

Red ball iconSatellite Images of Iowa Landscapes

by James D. Giglierano


Satellite images taken from over 400 miles in space provide a unique perspective on Iowa's landscape. Broad geologic features can be seen underlying farm fields, forests, roads and towns. Geological forces have modified these landscapes for thousands of years, while human activity is a recent, but also significant agent of change.

These views were taken by the Landsat 5 spacecraft and are shown in "false color." Blue and green represent bare soils with varying degrees of moisture. Pink and red indicate healthy pastures and forests. Open water is black, while roads and towns are white and magenta.


Satellite photo

The Mississippi River flows through a narrow valley between Davenport and Rock Island-Moline. Streaked deposits of wind-blown sand and silt cross the landscape between the Mississippi and its tributary, the Wapsipinicon River.


Satellite photo

The wide Missouri River valley in Fremont County was excavated by glacial meltwaters. Since then, the river has meandered from side to side, leaving the scour marks evident here. Today the river is confined to a narrow portion of its floodplain by engineered levees, but the Flood of ‘93 again covered much of the area between the bluffs.


Satellite photo

This June 1991 image reveals the broad arc of the Algona glacial moraine across Kossuth County. Remnants of countless lakes and wetlands are seen as darker areas beneath the bare soils of drained and plowed cropland.


Reprinted from Iowa Geology 1995, Iowa Department of Natural Resources