Welcome     Mission     History     Location     Contact Us     Iowa DNR    
Geology and Water
Data Resources

Living with the Land

Red ball iconLiving with the Land

by Jean Cutler Prior


Turkey River Mounds State Preserve   Landscapes are one of the most visible aspects of Iowa’s geology. A change in appearance of the terrain is usually the first tip-off that a change in geologic materials occurs beneath the ground. Within a bold northeastern Iowa rock bluff lies the essence of an aquifer that below ground supplies thousands of Iowans with drinking water. Within the flow of a spring lies the opportunity to measure how groundwater quality responds to changing agricultural practices. And in the uncontrolled rush of groundwater from a well in Belle Plaine is a reminder that we don’t always know what to expect. Beneath the landscapes we live on today are older materials from land- and seascapes that existed here in the geologic past -- sea floors, coral reefs, shore lines, coastal swamps, tropical river systems, and melting ice sheets. In a practical sense, we live with these buried landscapes as well, for we depend on their characteristics in many ways. We need to understand Iowa’s past and present landscapes, their shapes, depths, and compositions in order to bring reliable information to bear on the environmental and resource issues of today and tomorrow.

Turkey River Mounds State Preserve Clayton County.
Photo by Gary Hightshoe, Iowa State University.

Adapted from Iowa Geology 1995, Iowa Department of Natural Resources