Hunting and fishing are among the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in Iowa. There are many state-owned hunting areas open to the public, and well-stocked lakes, ponds, and streams throughout the state are popular. Camping, hiking, riding, water sports activities, and other active kinds of recreation attract large numbers of people to the state's numerous parks.
Iowa has sites of considerable historic or archaeological interest. One of the best-known sites is preserved in Effigy Mounds National Monument, in northeastern Iowa. Prehistoric mounds are common from the plains of the Midwest to the Atlantic seaboard, but only in this general area were they constructed in an effigy outline of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The monument contains 200 mounds, 29 in the shape of effigies, which were built by the Eastern Woodland Native American culture from 500 BC to AD 1300.
The birthplace and boyhood neighborhood of Herbert Hoover, the 31st United States president, are preserved within Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. Also at the site is the Hoover Presidential Library-Museum.
There are four major and six small state forests in Iowa. Shimek Forest is in the southeastern corner of the state. Yellow River Forest includes scattered areas in Allamakee County in the northeast. Holst Forest is in Boone County in central Iowa. Stephens Forest is in the south. All of the forests have facilities for hiking and hunting. There is also a state nursery in Iowa. It is located near Ames, in the central part of the state.
Iowa's many state parks and recreation areas provide Iowans with a variety of opportunities, such as boating, picnicking, camping, swimming, riding, and the study of nature. In addition, some parks, such as Ledges State Park and Pilot Knob State Park, are popular winter sports areas.
Backbone State Park, established in 1919, is the oldest state park in Iowa. It is enclosed by a loop of the winding Maquoketa River, in eastern Iowa. The park is named for a weathered limestone hump that rises above the surrounding prairie. It forms an outlying part of the Driftless section.
In Pilot Knob State Park, northwest of Mason City, a hill 300 feet high affords the visitor a panoramic view of surrounding farmlands. Dolliver Memorial State Park, south of Fort Dodge, encompasses a region of sandstone cliffs, deep ravines, and woodlands. Palisades-Kepler State Park, which is on the Cedar River near Mount Vernon, includes an area of sheer limestone cliffs, or palisades. In Maquoketa Caves State Park, 27 miles south of Dubuque, are extensive underground caverns and a natural bridge that arches between two high bluffs. Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, which is on the Des Moines River in southeastern Iowa, is noted as a wildlife sanctuary. Wildcat Den State Park overlooks the Mississippi River between Davenport and Muscatine. In the park are a rustic gristmill and a dam that dates from 1838.
Among the state recreation areas that are also historic sites is Fort Atkinson, on the Turkey River in northeastern Iowa. Within the area are several original buildings and the restored blockhouse of a fort built in 1840.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers also oversees several recreation areas along the state's rivers.
Outdoor recreation has long played an important part in Iowa life, and the state's numerous recreational facilities are heavily used by both visitors and residents. Many of these facilities are found in the national parks, national forests, state parks, municipal parks, and other areas set aside for public use by the federal, state, and local governments. Lumbering, hunting, and fishing are regulated in these areas, many of which serve as preserves for the state's forests, wildlife, and other natural resources.