Fun With Geography


Iowa can be a state of confusion. Sorry about the bad pun.

Why is the city of Osceola in Clarke County when the county of Osceola is about 250 miles away? Not only should Osceola be in Osceola County, it should be the county seat. After all, Dubuque is in Dubuque County, Clinton is in Clinton County, and Audubon is in Audubon County, and they are all county seats. This is only one example of an Iowa oddity. There are numerous others, such as: Marion County is more than a two-hour drive from the city of Marion.

Des Moines County was one of the first counties in Iowa. But it’s not on the Des Moines River. Go figure! However, as expected, the City of Des Moines is located on the Des Moines River. The river also runs through Wapello County, but the town of Wapello is located on the Iowa River in Louisa County.

Also sited on the Iowa River is Iowa City, but Iowa City is not the county seat of Iowa County. It is the county seat of Johnson County. Iowa County lies west of Johnson County. You expect that there would be a Johnson, Iowa. You would be wrong, unless it’s one of those vanished communities like Buxton. Evidently, Vice President Richard M. Johnson was not popular enough to have a town named after him.

Imagine someone leaving Des Moines to visit someone in Monona, and winding up in Onawa asking directions. That’s because Monona is a city in a county (Clayton) that borders the Mississippi River. The County of Monona borders the Missouri River in Western Iowa. That person was not ‘exactly’ wrong, but they certainly weren’t right.

It’s only natural that Webster City would be in Webster County, or that the Little Sioux River flow through Sioux County. After all, Humboldt is in Humboldt County, and Boone is in Boone County (although the Boone River is not), and the Cedar River flows through Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids. But you would be wrong. Webster City is in Hamilton County, and the Little Sioux River barely comes close to Sioux County. However, Sioux Center is located in Sioux County, but not Sioux City, which is not on the Sioux River.

Black Hawk Lake is located in Sac County, not Black Hawk County. Crawfordsville is on the opposite side of the state from Crawford County. The Floyd River flows into the Missouri River, but rain falling in Floyd County reaches the Mississippi. Greene County is just less than 40 miles west of Interstate 35, and the community of Greene is approximately 30 miles east of Interstate 35. Speaking of Greene County, its county seat is Jefferson, but – you guessed it – Jefferson County is in Southeast Iowa.

Keokuk is in Lee County, not Keokuk County; Monroe is in Jasper County, not Monroe County; but Polk City is in Polk County, and Story City is in Story County.

There is no Lincoln County in Iowa. All counties were named before Lincoln became President. There is, however, The Lincoln Highway, which runs from Clinton to beyond Missouri Valley, river to river; and the town of Lincoln was once called Berlin. Berlin’s name changed to Lincoln after World War I.

And finally, the Iowa city of Washington is actually the county seat of Washington County. Hey! What’s up with that?

No wonder people get confused crisscrossing Iowa. They’re probably in a state of confusion! Sorry.


This entry was posted in General and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Fun With Geography

  1. IRV says:


  2. Kathleen Kinneally says:

    When I lived on Cape Cod Route 28 supposedly ran north and south – you guessed it, it also ran east and west. Maybe our early settlers imbibed a bit! Love these stories.

  3. Jorgen Rasmussen says:

    It’s not just Iowa. I’m from Indiana. There South Bend is in the northern part of the state and North Vernon is in the southern part. Michigan City is in northern Indiana (OK, it’s at the tip of Lake Michigan.) And French Lick is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *