Iowa offers some beautiful midwest scenery that is great for photographing from the road or from various parks. Here we’ll take a look at several of the best places to photograph within Iowa. Hopefully it can help you with your own scouting and planning.
This page will continue to be a work in progress, so please feel free to leave a comment with your own suggestions of great places to photograph.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument is in northeastern Iowa along the west side of the Mississippi River. This national monument preserves more than 200 mounds built by Native Americans in the shapes of animals. There are 14 miles of hiking trails but no paved roads within the monument.
Pikes Peak State Park
Just a few miles south of Effigy Mounds National Monument is Pikes Peak State Park. This beautiful park includes a 500-foot bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River. Hiking the trails of this park will bring plenty of photo-worthy views.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park is located about 80 miles southeast of Pikes Peak State Park. This park includes a number of different caves that are linked by trails. You can also find scenic overlooks long the trails. It is a great place to explore and photograph natural beauty.
Indianola is a town in south central Iowa, about 20 miles south of Des Moines. This town is noteworthy because every summer it is home to the National Balloon Classic, which features more than 100 hot air balloons. You can photograph the balloons and the surrounding landscape to get some unique and interesting photos.
Beulah Spring Falls
Beulah Spring Falls is a small (about 20 feet), but picturesque, waterfall on Bloody Run Creek just west of the town of McGregor. The waterfall is near the entrance to Spook Cave and Campground.
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park is in central Iowa, about 45 miles northwest of Des Moines. The park surrounds a gorge along Pea’s Creek. The gorge is up to 100-feet deep in some places. There are 4 miles of hiking trails (steep at some places) that provide excellent views of the creek and gorge, and Canyon Drive is also good for finding some views.
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
The Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in south central Iowa is about 20 miles southeast of Des Moines. The purpose of this refuge is to restore the tallgrass prairie, oak savannah, and sedge meadow ecosystems. It is home to a herd of buffalo and elk. The 5-mile auto tour provides excellent, and convenient, views of the bison and elk.
Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge covers more the 260 miles of the Upper Mississippi River in four different states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois). The refuge is an important flyway for birds. It’s a great place for photographing wildlife, and the great scenery also makes it ideal for photographing landscapes as well. In some places wooded bluffs rise as high as 600 feet above the river. The Iowa section of the refuge is the McGregor District.
Bridges of Madison County
Madison County was once home to 19 covered bridges. The number is now down to 6, but the bridges present great photo opportunities if you are in the area. You can take a self-guided tour of the bridges with the help of the map on this page. Madison County is in south central Iowa, just south west of Des Moines.
U.S. Highway 52
There is plenty of beautiful countryside to be photographed along U.S. Highway 52 in Clayton, Dubuque, Jackson, and Clinton Counties. This highway travels on the west side of the Mississippi River is a great route for a scenic drive.
Random Rural Roads
Although we’ve already looked at several of the specific points of interest within the state there is still plenty of beauty throughout Iowa that is waiting for you. Rural roads and surrounding farms throughout the state make excellent photographs.