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Paleozoic Plateau of Northeast Iowa

Many people believe Iowa’s landscape is nothing more than flat plains. However, the landscape in northeast Iowa is much different than the rest of the state. This area has almost no glacial deposits. As a result, it consists of deep narrow valleys, rock outcroppings, abundant fast flowing streams and rivers with high bluffs hanging over them. It also has more woodlands than the rest of Iowa. Sometimes referred to as “Little Switzerland,” this is the Paleozoic Plateau landform region.

Northeast Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • What are common land features in Iowa? (Use a state map to point out the locations of areas and write them on the board.) Why are there differences in Iowa’s land features?
  • What factors influenced the glacial movement over Iowa?
  • Did glaciers cover all of Iowa?
  • What is a topographic map?
  • How can a topographic map show the impact of glaciers in Iowa?

Classroom Suggestions

  • Introduction to units of geological processes that change the Earth’s surface.
  • Investigate the effects of glaciers on Iowa with simulations and labs.
  • Ask students to create a topographical map of where they live and the places they have visited in Iowa. Ask students to compare their topographical map with the photos. Do the photos represent the geological features in their topographical maps?
  • View the Ice Age Earth in the Earth Viewer App. Did the glaciers cover all of Iowa? 
  • Discuss the flow of glaciers over Iowa (The Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation website has good graphics for this). How did the paths of various glaciers impact Iowa’s landforms and soil?

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment

Earth and Space Science
Disciplinary Core Idea
ESS2: Earth’s Systems

Credit Info

Submitted by Jill Kelly


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