Ottumwa, city (1990 pop. 24,488), seat of Wapello co., SE Iowa, on both banks of the Des Moines River, in a farm and coal area; inc. 1851. A commercial and industrial center, Ottumwa's economy is based on its meatpacking plant and a farm machinery industry. In the center of the city is a park developed from a reclaimed river bottom.
Ottumwa (pronounced "Uh-tuhm-wa") is a city in Wapello County, Iowa, United States. The population was 24,998 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Wapello County. It is located in the southeastern part of Iowa, and the city is split into northern and southern halves by the Des Moines River.


Ottumwa is located at (41.012917, -92.414817).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.5 square miles (42.7 km²), of which, 15.8 square miles (40.9 km²) of it is land and 0.7 square miles (1.7 km²) of it (4.07%) is water.

Northeastern Wapello County contains large deposits of coal, and there are also large deposits of clay in the region. These were very important in the industrial development of Ottumwa.


As of the census of 2000, there were 24,998 people, 10,383 households, and 6,530 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,582.2 people per square mile (610.9/km²). There were 11,038 housing units at an average density of 698.6/sq mi (269.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.33% White, 1.27% African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.78% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.38% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.76% of the population.

There were 10,383 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.8% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.1% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.9% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,174, and the median income for a family was $37,302. Males had a median income of $31,222 versus $20,934 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,040. About 10.9% of families and 15.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.


Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Ottumwa, operating its California Zephyr daily in both directions between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, across the San Francisco Bay from San Francisco.

Currently, U.S. Route 34 and Iowa Highway 149 serve the town, replacing a former segment of U.S. Highway 63. Route 63 now bypasses the town as part of the Burlington to Des Moines expressway.


Burlington Northern Santa Fe

The BNSF Railway has tracks through Ottumwa. This is a major segment in the Chicago-Omaha line that is double track. The tracks travel under U.S. Highway 34, pass through the business district, under the U.S. Highway 63 bridge, cross over the Iowa, Chicago and Eastern Railroad tracks, exit Ottumwa, and later cross over the Des Moines River on their way to Albia, Iowa, and later Omaha, Nebraska.

The Norfolk Southern Railway has trackage rights over the BNSF through Ottumwa.

(See the Amtrak entry under Transportation (below).)


Radio stations



Television stations

  • KTVO 3 Local ABC affiliate
  • KYOU-TV 15 Local FOX affiliate (also on translator channel 25, K25DE)
  • K18GU 18 Translator of KIIN Iowa City, a PBS and IPTV affiliate
  • K23CI 23 Translator of KCCI Des Moines, a CBS affiliate
  • K27CV 27 Translator of WHO-TV Des Moines, an NBC affiliate
  • K42AM 42 Low power TBN affiliate


Higher education

Ottumwa is the home of Indian Hills Community College, a two year community college. Between 1928 and 1980, it was also home to Ottumwa Heights College, a women's college that merged with Indian Hills in 1979 to create one institution. Indian Hills is located at the former Ottumwa Heights campus.

Notable natives

Canteen Lunch in the Alley

Ottumwa is known for having many different historical locations around its downtown area. In central downtown the Canteen in the Alley has been a stopping point for Ottumwans since the 1920s. Located south of Richard Nixon's residence during his stay in the 1940s many other famous patrons since Nixon have also been seen eating a "Canteen" (a loose meat sandwich similar to a Maid-Rite). On the sitcom Roseanne starring Roseanne Barr and briefly Tom Arnold, Roseanne's restaurant was based on the Canteen Lunch in the Alley.

Video Game Capital of the World

As the home of Twin Galaxies, Ottumwa was officially proclaimed the "Video Game Capital of the World" by a mayoral decree issued on November 30, 1982 by Ottumwa Mayor Jerry Parker. As a result of this "most unusual distinction", the city was officially recognized and congratulated by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley. In connection with this proclamation, the city hosted the first North American Video Olympics in the fall of 1982.


External links

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