Des Moines

Des Moines

[duh moin]
Des Moines, city (1990 pop. 193,187), state capital and seat of Polk co., S central Iowa, at the junction of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers; inc. as Fort Des Moines in 1851, chartered as Des Moines in 1857. Iowa's largest city, it is an industrial, transportation, cultural, and governmental center in the heart of the Feed Grains and Livestock Belt. Printing and publishing, agricultural processing, and the manufacture of transportation equipment, machinery, metal and plastic products, textiles, and apparel are among its industries. The city is also home to many insurance and other financial services companies.

Settled by homesteaders, Des Moines became the capital of Iowa in 1857. It is the seat of Drake Univ., the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, and Grand View College, among other educational institutions. Places of interest include the capitol (1871-84); the Des Moines Art Center; the Center of Science and Industry; the Iowa Museum of Agriculture; the Des Moines Central Library; and the state fairgrounds. The city suffered several floods in the 1950s, and despite flood control measures constructed on the Des Moines River, was again inundated in 1993.

Des Moines, river, 535 mi (861 km) long, rising in SW Minn. and flowing SE across Iowa to the Mississippi River at Keokuk, SE Iowa. Flowing through fertile farmland, the river floods in the spring and is nearly dry in late September; dams were constructed to regulate its flow. It is the main source of water for Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines (allegedly "Des Moines", meaning "Monks", although the name might also be of Native American origin ) 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. A small portion of the city extends into Warren County. It was incorporated on September 22, 1851, as Fort Des Moines which was shortened to "Des Moines" in 1857. It is named after the Des Moines River, which may have been adapted from the French Rivière Des Moines, literally meaning "River of the Monks" (however, see "History" section below). The five-county metropolitan area is ranked 91st in terms of population in the United States according to 2007 estimates with 546,599 residents according to United States Census Bureau. The city proper 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. In fact, Des Moines was credited with the "number one spot for U.S. insurance companies" in a Business Wire article. The city is the headquarters for the Principal Financial Group, the Meredith Corporation, Ruan Transportation, EMC Insurance Companies, and Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. 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. Kiplinger's Personal Finance 2008 Best Cities List featured Des Moines as #9.

Des Moines is an important city in United States presidential politics as the capital of Iowa, which is home to the Iowa caucuses. The Iowa caucuses 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."


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 U.S. 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. However, the term could have referred to the river of the Moingonas, named after an Indian tribe that resided in the area and built burial mounds. A hypothesis says that the name, if it is from the French language, refers to French Trappist monks, some of whom lived in huts at the mouth of the river. A more recent hypothesis uses a study of Miami-Illinois tribal names to say the word Moingoana, one of the names given to region, comes from word mooyiinkweena, a derogatory name which translates roughly to "the excrement-faces." The name was seemingly given to Marquette and Jolliet by a tribal leader in order to dissuade them from doing business with a neighboring tribe.

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.

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 many 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 196,998 in 2007. However, the growth of the outlying suburbs has been a constant and the overall metro area population is over 534,230 today.

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. Des Moines suffered major flooding again in June 2008 when they had a major levee breach.


The skyline of Des Moines changed during the 1970s and 1980s as several new skyscrapers were built. Before then, the 19-story Equitable Building, from 1924 (at that time it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River), was the tallest building in the city and the tallest building in Iowa. That changed when the 25-story Financial Center was completed in 1973 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.

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. Multiple 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.


Des Moines is located at (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 2007 population of 546,599. 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 2007 population was 616,122. Des Moines's suburbs include Altoona, Ankeny, Bondurant, Carlisle, Clive, Grimes, Johnston, Norwalk, Pleasant Hill, Urbandale, Waukee, West Des Moines, and Windsor Heights.


Being located near the center of North America, far removed from a large body of water, the Des Moines area has a warm summer type Humid continental climate, with hot, humid summers and cold, snowy winters. Summer temperatures can often climb into the 90°F range, occasionally reaching into the triple digits. Humidity can be high in spring and summer, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Fall brings pleasant temperatures and colorful fall foliage. Winters vary from moderately cold to bitterly cold, with low temperatures venturing below zero F quite often. Annual snowfall averages 36.4 inches, and annual rainfall averages 34.72 inches.
Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F (°C) 67 (19.4) 73 (22.7) 91 (32.7) 93 (33.8) 98 (36.6) 103 (39.4) 105 (40.5) 108 (42.2) 101 (38.3) 95 (35) 81 (27.2) 69 (20.5)
Norm High °F (°C) 29.1 (-1.6) 35.4 (1.8) 48.2 (9) 61.3 (16.2) 72.3 (22.4) 81.8 (27.6) 86 (30) 83.9 (28.8) 75.9 (24.4) 63.5 (17.5) 46.7 (8.2) 33.1 (0.6)
Norm Low °F (°C) 11.7 (-11.3) 17.8 (-7.8) 28.7 (-1.8) 39.9 (4.4) 51.4 (10.7) 61 (16.1) 66.1 (18.9) 63.9 (17.7) 54.3 (12.4) 42.2 (5.6) 29 (-1.6) 16.7 (-8.5)
Rec Low °F (°C) -24 (-31.1) -26 (-32.2) -22 (-30) 9 (-12.7) 30 (-1.1) 38 (3.3) 47 (8.3) 40 (4.4) 26 (-3.3) 14 (-10) -4 (-20) -22 (-30)
Precip in (mm) 1.03 (26.162) 1.19 (30.226) 2.21 (56.134) 3.58 (90.932) 4.25 (107.95) 4.57 (116.078) 4.18 (106.172) 4.51 (114.554) 3.15 (80.01) 2.62 (66.548) 2.1 (53.34) 1.33 (33.782)


As of the census 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.


Many insurance companies are headquartered in Des Moines, including the Principal Financial Group, KVI (Now part of Marsh), EMC Insurance Group, Allied Insurance (now part of Nationwide), AmerUs Group (now part of Aviva), Holmes Murphy, and American Republic Insurance Company. Des Moines has been referred to as the "Hartford of the West" because of this. Principal is the only Fortune 500 company to have its headquarters in Iowa, ranking 261st on the magazine's list in 2006. As a center of financial and insurance services, other major corporations headquartered outside of Iowa have established a presence in the Des Moines Metro area, including, Wells Fargo, ING Group, and Electronic Data Systems. The Meredith Corporation, a leading publishing and marketing company, is also based in Des Moines. Meredith publishes Better Homes and Gardens, one of the most widely circulated publications in the United States.

Other major employers in the area (with more than 1,000 local employees) include Mercy Medical Center, Iowa Health System, MidAmerican Energy Company, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Firestone Agricultural Tire Company, UPS, FBL Financial Group, Citigroup's Citi Cards division, Qwest, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Hy-Vee supermarkets, John Deere Des Moines Works, John Deere Credit, and Communications Data Services.

In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked the Des Moines metropolitan area 4th on its list of "Best Places For Business And Careers," based on factors such as the cost of doing business, cost of living, educational attainment, and crime rate.


The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines routinely hosts Broadway shows and other live performing art events. The Temple for Performing Arts and Des Moines Playhouse are other venues for live theatre, comedy, and performance arts. The Des Moines Art Center, with a wing designed by architect I.M. Pei, presents art exhibitions and educational programs. The Funny Bone Comedy Club brings in stand-up comedians from across the nation. The Des Moines Metro Opera has been a respected cultural resource in Des Moines since 1973. Ballet Des Moines was established in 2002. The Des Moines Symphony performs frequently at different venues. Jazz in July offers free jazz shows daily, located at various venues throughout the city, during the entire month of July. Wells Fargo Arena holds 16,980 and books large, national, touring acts for arena concert performances, while smaller venues such as the Vaudeville Mews, People's, and House of Bricks for example book local, regional, and national bands. The Simon Estes Riverfront Amphitheater is an outdoor concernt venue located on the bank of the Des Moines River which hosts music events such as the Alive Concert Series. Blues on Grand is a venue for live blues music and was awarded with Blues Club of the Year from the Blues Foundation in 2002. Blank Park Zoo is a zoo located on the south side. The Great Ape Trust was established to advance the conservation and education of the great apes. Adventureland Park is an amusement park in the Des Moines area.

The Chicago Tribune wrote that Iowa's capital city has "walker-friendly downtown streets and enough outdoor sculpture, sleek buildings, storefronts and cafes to delight the most jaded stroller."



Des Moines currently operates under a council-manager form of government. The council consists of a mayor (who, as of 2007, is Frank Cownie), two at-large members, and four members representing each of the city's four wards. A plan to merge the governments of Des Moines and Polk County was rejected by voters during the November 2, 2004, election. The consolidated city-county government would have had a full-time mayor and a 15-member council that would have been divided among the city and its suburbs. Each suburb would have still retained its individual government but had the option to join the consolidated government at any time. Although a full merger was soundly rejected, many city and county departments and programs have been consolidated.


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. North of the Des Moines metropolitan area, Interstates 35 and 80 converge into a long concurrency. This stretch of freeway only 6 lanes wide carries thousands of cars each day and has interchanges where the Interstates separate and converge on one another, in particularly the West Mixmaster. The Iowa DOT has completed the Interstate 235 expansion project. The freeway is six lanes throughout the entire length and expands to eight and ten lanes near the downtown area. Interstate 35/80 has congestion during rush hour, especially towards the end of the west Mixmaster where Interstate 35, heading south, separates from Interstate 80, heading west. The northeast Mixmaster has also undergone a redesign with wider lanes and redesign of bridges allowing maximum traffic flow in all directions along Interstates 35, 80, and 235. U.S. Highway 65 and Iowa Highway 5 form a freeway loop to the east and south of the city, providing an alternative route around the metropolitan area. U.S. Highways 6 and 69 and Iowa Highways 28, 141, 163, and 415 are also important routes to and within the city.

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 also features a 3.5 mile-long (5.6 km) skywalk system, allowing people to move between buildings without going outdoors.

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, Valley High School, Lincoln, North, and Roosevelt), and ten special schools and programs. Private schools in the area include Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines and the Des Moines Christian School.

Further Education Institutions

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 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, and Des Moines University (an osteopathic medical school).


The Des Moines market, which consists of Polk, Dallas, Story, and Warren counties, was ranked 91st by Arbitron as of the fall of 2007 with a population of 512,000 aged 12 and older.


Most of Des Moines' commercial radio stations are owned by one of three companies. Clear Channel Communications owns five radio stations in the area, including WHO 1040 AM, a 50,000-watt AM news/talk station that has the highest ratings in the area and once employed future President Ronald Reagan as a sportscaster. In addition to WHO, Clear Channel owns KDRB 100.3 FM (adult hits), KKDM 107.5 FM (contemporary hits), KPTL 106.3 FM (adult album alternative), and KXNO 1460 AM (sports radio). (They also own news/talk station KASI 1430 AM and modern rock station KCCQ 105.1 FM, both of which broadcast from Ames.) Citadel Broadcasting owns five stations that broadcast from facilities in Urbandale: KBGG 1700 AM ([sports), KGGO 94.9 FM (classic rock), KHKI 97.3 FM (country music), KJJY 92.5 FM (country music), and KWQW 98.3 FM (talk radio). Saga Communications owns six stations in the area: KAZR 103.3 FM (active rock), KIOA 93.3 FM (oldies), KLTI 104.1 FM (soft adult contemporary), KPSZ 940 AM (contemporary Christian music), KRNT 1350 AM (adult standards), and KSTZ 102.5 FM (adult contemporary hits). Other stations in the Des Moines area include religious stations KNWI 107.1 FM, KWKY 1150 AM, and KPUL 99.5 FM.

Non-commercial stations

Non-commercial radio stations in the Des Moines area include KDPS 88.1 FM, a station operated by the Des Moines Public Schools; KWDM 88.7 FM, a station operated by Valley High School; KJMC 89.3 FM, an urban contemporary station; and KDFR 91.3 FM, operated by Family Radio. WOI 640 AM and WOI-FM 90.1 are both based out of Iowa State University in Ames and serve as the area's National Public Radio outlets. Low-power FM stations include Drake University's KDRA-LP and Grand View College's KGVC-LP, which share the 94.1 frequency, and KFMG-LP 99.1, a community radio station broadcasting from the Hotel Fort Des Moines.


The Des Moines-Ames media market consists of 35 central Iowa counties: Adair, Adams, Appanoose, Audubon, Boone, Calhoun, Carroll, Clarke, Dallas, Decatur, Franklin, Greene, Guthrie, Hamilton, Hardin, Humboldt, Jasper, Kossuth, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Pocahontas, Polk, Poweshiek, Ringgold, Story, Taylor, Union, Warren, Wayne, Webster, and Wright. It is ranked 71st by Nielsen Media Research for the 2007-2008 television season with 425,760 television households.

Commercial television stations serving Des Moines include KCCI channel 8, a CBS affiliate; WHO-TV channel 13, an NBC affiliate; KDSM channel 17, a Fox affiliate; and KDMI channel 56, a MyNetworkTV affiliate that only has a digital signal. ABC affiliate WOI-TV channel 5 is licensed to Ames and was owned by Iowa State University until 1994. It currently broadcasts from studios in West Des Moines. KCWI-TV channel 23, the local CW affiliate, is also licensed to Ames but broadcasts from studios in Ankeny. KFPX channel 39, the local ION affiliate, is licensed to Newton. KDIN channel 11 is the local PBS member station and flagship of the Iowa Public Television network. Mediacom is the Des Moines area's cable television provider.


The Des Moines Register is the city's primary daily newspaper. As of March 31, 2007, the Register ranked 71st in circulation among daily newspapers in the United States according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations with 146,050 daily and 233,229 Sunday subscribers. Weekly newspapers include Juice, a publication aimed at the 25-34 demographic published by the Register on Wednesdays; Cityview, an alternative weekly published on Thursdays; and the Des Moines Business Record, a business journal published on Sundays, along with The West Des Moines Register, The Johnston Register, and The Waukee Register on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays depending on the address of the subscriber.


Des Moines is home to the Iowa Cubs baseball team of the Pacific Coast League. The I-Cubs, which are the Class AAA team of the major league Chicago Cubs, play their home games at Principal Park near the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers. Principal Park is also home to the Iowa High School Athletic Association's state baseball tournaments every summer.

The Wells Fargo Arena of the Iowa Events Center has been home to the Iowa Chops (formerly the Iowa Stars) of the American Hockey League since 2005 and the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League since 2007. In 2008 the Iowa Barnstormers of the arenafootball2 league will resume play at the Wells Fargo Arena. The Barnstormers previously played at Veterans Memorial Auditorium as members of the Arena Football League from 1995 to 2000. While the original franchise became the New York Dragons after the 2000 season, the Barnstormers nickname, colors, and uniforms were used for an af2 franchise that folded after one season in 2001. Veterans Memorial Auditorium was also home to the Des Moines Dragons of the International Basketball Association from 1997-2001 and was also home to the state high school wrestling and basketball tournaments before they moved to the new Wells Fargo Arena in 2006.

Two other sports teams play in the Des Moines area: the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League play at Buccaneer Arena in Urbandale, while the Des Moines Menace play at Valley Stadium West Des Moines.

Des Moines is also home to the Drake Relays, which are held at Drake University each April. In addition to the Drake Relays, Drake Stadium will also host the NCAA's Track & Field Championship in 2008 and the USA Outdoor Track and Field championships in 2010. The Hy-Vee Triathlon, which is held every June, debuted in 2007 and will serve as a qualifier to the Olympic Games in 2008. The IMT Des Moines Marathon is held throughout the city each October.

Club League Venue Established Championships
Iowa Cubs PCL, Baseball Principal Park 1969 1
Iowa Chops AHL, Ice hockey Wells Fargo Arena 2005 0
Iowa Barnstormers af2, Arena football Wells Fargo Arena 1995(re-established 2008) 0
Iowa Energy D-League, Basketball Wells Fargo Arena 2007 0
Des Moines Menace PDL, Soccer Valley Stadium 1994 1
Des Moines Buccaneers USHL, Hockey Buccaneer Arena 1981 4

Sister cities

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