Search our Website
Advanced Search

Welcome To Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines

Des Moines is the capital of and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Iowa. It is also the county seat of Polk County. It was incorporated on September 22, 1851, as Fort Des Moines which was shortened to "Des Moines" in 1857.[3] It is named after the Des Moines River, adapted from the French Rivière Des Moines, literally meaning "River of the Monks", but in the 18th century designating "River of the Moingwena", an Illinois Indian subtribe; the French voyagers often abbreviated tribal names, and in this case "River of the Moingwena" became "River of the Moines". The five-county metropolitan area is ranked 92nd in terms of population in the United States according to 2006 estimates with 534,230 residents according to United States Census Bureau.[4] The population was 198,682 at the 2000 census.
Des Moines is a major center for the insurance industry and also has a sizeable financial services and publishing business base. The city is the headquarters for the Principal Financial Group, the Meredith Corporation, and Ruan Transportation. Other major corporations such as Wells Fargo, ING Group, Marsh, and Pioneer Hi-Bred have large operations in or near the metro area. Forbes Magazine ranked Des Moines as the fourth "Best Place for Business" in 2007.

Recently, Des Moines has been experiencing rapid growth in the western and northern suburbs. Downtown Des Moines has been undergoing many new developments as well.

Des Moines is an important city in presidential politics as the capital of Iowa, which is home to the Iowa Caucus. The Iowa Caucus has been the first major electoral event in nominating the President of the United States since 1972; therefore many presidential candidates set up headquarters in Des Moines. A 2007 article in the New York Times stated "if you have any desire to witness presidential candidates in the most close-up and intimate of settings, there is arguably no better place to go than Des Moines." The article also added "I'm not sure I would go so far as to say that Des Moines has become a vacation destination. But it most certainly has become cool."

Interstate 235 cuts through the city, and Interstate 35 and Interstate 80 both pass through the Des Moines metropolitan area.


Des Moines was founded in May 1843 when Captain James Allen built a fort on the site where the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers merge. Allen wanted to use the name Fort Raccoon, however the American War Department told him to name it Fort Des Moines. The origin of the name Des Moines is uncertain. The French "Des Moines" translates literally to "Of The Monks." "Rivière Des Moines" translates to "river of the monks," known today under the anglicized name of Des Moines River. It could have referred to the river of the Moingonas, named after an Indian tribe that resided in the area and built burial mounds. Others see it as referring to French Trappist monks, some of whom lived in huts at the mouth of the river, or connected to the phrase de moyen in French, meaning middle, because of its location between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

Settlers came and lived near the fort, and on May 25, 1846, Fort Des Moines became the seat of Polk County. On September 22, 1851, it was incorporated as a city with its own charter approved in a vote on October 18. In 1857, the name Fort Des Moines was shortened to Des Moines alone and the state capital was moved from Iowa City. By 1900, Des Moines was Iowa's largest city with a population of 62,139.

Fort Des Moines memorial is north of Principal Park
Fort Des Moines memorial is north of Principal Park

In 1907, the city adopted a city commission government known as the Des Moines Plan, comprising an elected mayor and four commissioners who were responsible for public works, public property, public safety, and finance. This form of government was scrapped in 1950 in favor of a council-manager government, and tweaked in 1967 so that four of the six city council members were elected by ward rather than at-large.

As with other major urban areas, the city core began losing population to the suburbs in the 1960s (the peak population of 208,982 was recorded in 1960).The population was 198,682 in 2000 but dropped to 193,886 in 2006. However, the growth of the outlying suburbs has been a constant and the overall metro area population is over 534,230 today.


The skyline of downtown Des Moines changed during the 1970s and 1980s as several new skyscrapers were built. Until then, the 19-story Equitable Building, dating from 1924, was the tallest building in the city and, at that time, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. That changed as the 25-story Financial Center was completed in 1972 and the 36-story Ruan Center was completed in 1974. They were later joined by the 33-story Marriott hotel (1981), the 25-story Hub Tower and 25-story Plaza Building (1985), Iowa's tallest building, Principal Financial Group's 45-story tower at 801 Grand (1991), and the 19-story EMC Insurance Building (1997). This time period also saw the opening of the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines (1979) which hosts Broadway shows and special events, the Des Moines Botanical Center (1979) which is a large city botanical garden/greenhouse on the east side of the river, the Polk County Convention Complex (1985), and the State of Iowa Historical Building (1987). The Des Moines skywalk system also began to take shape during the 1980s. By the beginning of 2006, the skywalk system was more than three miles (5 km) long and connected most main downtown buildings.

Des Moines made national headlines during the Great Flood of 1993. Heavy rains throughout June and early July caused the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers to rise above flood stage levels. The Des Moines Water Works was submerged by floodwaters during the early morning hours of July 11, 1993, leaving an estimated 250,000 people without running water for 12 days and without drinking water for 20 days.

The city is in the midst of major construction in the downtown area. The new Science Center of Iowa and the Iowa Events Center opened in 2005, while the new central branch of the Des Moines Public Library, designed by renowned architect David Chipperfield of London, opened on April 8, 2006. The World Food Prize Foundation, which is based in Des Moines, announced in 2001 that it will restore the former Des Moines Public Library building as the Dr Norman Borlaug/World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. In 2002 the Principal Financial Group and the city announced plans for the Principal Riverwalk, which will feature trails, pedestrian bridges across the river, a fountain and skating plaza, and a "civic garden" in front of the City Hall. Several existing downtown buildings are being converted to loft apartments and condominiums. This trend is highlighted by the success of the East Village district of shops, studios, and housing between the capitol district and the Des Moines River.
The Des Moines metro area is also experiencing a boom, in particular the western suburbs. West Des Moines, in particular, now has over 52,000 people and is home to the Jordan Creek Town Center, the largest shopping center in Iowa, as well as several Wells Fargo office complexes, including a new operations campus that was completed by early 2007. Nearby Dallas County was the 33rd fastest-growing county in the United States between 2000 and 2006 with a growth rate of 33 percent, according to the United States Census Bureau.[8]

 Geography and Climate

The State Capitol of Iowa, featuring its golden dome.
The State Capitol of Iowa, featuring its golden dome.

Des Moines is located at 41°35′27″N, 93°37′15″W (41.590939, -93.620866).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 77.2 square miles (200.1 km²), of which, 75.8 square miles (196.3 km²) of it is land and 1.5 square miles (3.8 km²) of it (1.88%) is water.

In November 2005, Des Moines voters approved a measure that allowed the city to annex certain parcels of land in the northeast, southeast, and southern corners of Des Moines, particularly areas bordering the Iowa Highway 5/U.S. 65 bypass.

Metropolitan area

The Des Moines-West Des Moines Metropolitan Statistical Area consists of five central Iowa counties: Polk, Dallas, Warren, Madison, and Guthrie. The area had a 2000 census population of 481,394 and an estimated 2006 population of 534,230.[2] The Des Moines-Newton-Pella Combined Statistical Area consists of those five counties plus Jasper and Marion counties; the 2000 census population of this area was 550,659, and the estimated 2006 population was 604,626.[9]


Des Moines's suburbs include Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Grimes, Johnston, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Polk City, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines, and Windsor Heights.


Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 67 73 91 93 98 103 105 108 101 95 81 69
Norm High °F 29.1 35.4 48.2 61.3 72.3 81.8 86 83.9 75.9 63.5 46.7 33.1
Norm Low °F 11.7 17.8 28.7 39.9 51.4 61 66.1 63.9 54.3 42.2 29 16.7
Rec Low °F -24 -26 -22 9 30 38 47 40 26 14 -4 -22
Precip (in) 1.03 1.19 2.21 3.58 4.25 4.57 4.18 4.51 3.15 2.62 2.1 1.33


As of the of 2000, there were 198,682 people, 80,504 households, and 48,704 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,621.3 people per square mile (1,012.0/km²). There were 85,067 housing units at an average density of 1,122.3/sq mi (433.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 82.29% White, 8.07% Black or African American, 0.35% Native American, 3.50% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.52% from other races, and 2.23% from two or more races. 6.61% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 80,504 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 12.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 31.8% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 93.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $38,408, and the median income for a family was $46,590. Males had a median income of $31,712 versus $25,832 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,467. About 7.9% of families and 11.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.9% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those ages 65 or over.


The Des Moines skyline as seen through the Edna M. Griffin Memorial Pedestrian Bridge over Interstate 235.
The Des Moines skyline as seen through the Edna M. Griffin Memorial Pedestrian Bridge over Interstate 235.

Most residents of Des Moines get around the region by car. Interstate 235 cuts through the city, and Interstate 35 and Interstate 80 both pass through the Des Moines metropolitan area. Interstate 235 has completed its expansion project. The freeway is six lanes throughout the entire length and expands to eight and ten lanes near the downtown area. Traffic continues to be a concern in Des Moines as the recent and completed expansion of Interstate 235 has close to gridlock conditions heading westbound out of downtown during rush hour even though there are as much as five lanes to accomodate traffic. Interstate 35/80, long believed to be one of the busiest stretches of interstates year-round, has major concerns as well as congestion occurs during rush hour, especially towards the end of the west mixmaster where Interstate 35 separates from Interstate 80. The northeast mixmaster has also undergone a redesign with wider lanes.U.S. Route 65 and Iowa Highway 5 form a freeway loop to the east and south of the city. U.S. Routes 6 and 69 and Iowa Highway 28, 141, Iowa Highway 163, and 415 are also important routes to and within the city. A new northern beltway is being planned to help with northside congestion in growing suburbs such as Grimes and Ankeny.

Des Moines's public transit system, operated by DART (Des Moines Area Regional Transit), which was the Des Moines Metropolitan Transit Authority until October 2006, consists entirely of buses, including regular in-city routes and express and commuter buses to outlying suburban areas.

Downtown Des Moines features a 3.5 mile-long (5.6 km) skywalk system, allowing people to move between buildings without going out of doors.

Greyhound Bus Lines and Jefferson Lines run long-distance, inter-city bus routes to Des Moines. The nearest Amtrak train station is in Osceola, about 40 miles (64 km) south of Des Moines. Trains on the route that passes through Osceola, the California Zephyr, go east to Chicago, Illinois and as far west as Oakland, California.

The Des Moines International Airport (DSM), located in the southern part of Des Moines, on Fleur Drive, offers non-stop service to destinations within the United States.


The Des Moines Public Schools district is the largest community school district in Iowa with 30,683 enrolled students as of the 2007-2008 school year. The district consists of 63 schools: 38 elementary schools, ten middle schools, five high schools (East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, and Roosevelt), and ten special schools and programs.[13] Private schools in the area include Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines and the Des Moines Christian School.

Des Moines is home to the main campuses of two four-year colleges: Drake University and Grand View College. Simpson College, Upper Iowa University, and William Penn University also have classroom facilities in the area. For-profit colleges with classrooms in the area include Kaplan University (formerly Hamilton College) and the University of Phoenix. Des Moines Area Community College is the area's community college with campuses in Ankeny, downtown Des Moines, and West Des Moines. Other institutions of higher learning in Des Moines include AIB College of Business, Des Moines University (an osteopathic medical school), and the Mercy College of Health Sciences.

Points of interest

The East Village
The East Village

Kruidenier Trail bridge across Gray's Lake
Kruidenier Trail Bridge across Gray's Lake

Information provided from the Wikipedia article found at © 2008 Move In And Out, Inc.

Thank you for Visiting
World's #1 Relocation Web Portal

Advantages of MIAO

  • Mortgage Calculators
  • Compare Quotes from moving Companies
  • Easily book your home move
  • Easy & Fun to use
  • Safe & Secure


Quotes & Testimonials

Judy Price:
""We are very pleased with the quality of service we received from our home service provider; the updates we requested ... were made without flaw!""

Mary Simpson:
"Moveinandout was wonderful from start to finish. Getting the quote was easy, my questions before the move were always responded quickly in a friendly manner, and the movers on the day of were extremely professional and courteous. Everything I could ask for in a moving company! Thanks MoveInandout for giving me quotes by reliable, dependable companies. Mary Simpson Los Angles, Ca"