Iowa Southern Tier Counties



Iowa's Southern Tier Counties Relocation Information


Central Iowa's Southern Tier counties are Union, Clarke, Lucas, Ringgold, Decatur and Wayne.
1

These six counties have proximity to Interstate 35 and Des Moines which makes them accessible to Des Moines & Central Iowa residents for recreation, hunting and farming. For those communities close enough to I-35, commuting to Des Moines for employment is also a viable option.

South Central Iowa is one of the most scenic parts of the state. The land south of Des Moines did not see the scraping effects of the glaciers from the last ice age; thus, it has had more time for erosion to provide deeper valleys and more scenic vistas. While more erosion may limit the agricultural value of some of the hillsides (less topsoil), the valley floors and the less eroded uplands are quite productive for row crops. The hillsides also provide scenic pasture and hay ground and considerable hardwood timber cover.

In addition to affording local residents proximity to Des Moines combined with quiet country living, South Central Iowa and the Southern Tier counties offer scenic weekend and holiday getaways from the Des Moines metro and other urban areas around the Midwest.

Recreation is the primary attraction for many residents of Southern Iowa. In addition to the scenery, the combination of agriculture and woodlands provides for an abundance of wild game particularly white tail deer and wild turkey. The world record
Albia Buck was taken in Lucas County. Bob White quail are also making a comeback due to conservation efforts of many groups and individuals. The Southern Tier also has many conservation lakes and hundreds of private ponds to provide for excellent fishing. The headwaters of Lake Rathbun, Southern Iowa's major reservoir extend into Lucas County from Appanoose and Monroe counties to the east.

The last few years have seen the beginnings of a viable wine industry in South Central Iowa and around the state. Decatur County was home to one of the first modern wineries in the state (now growing for harvest only, no wine production). More recently, vineyards have been started at several locations and a new winery is opening at Osceola (see Clarke County below).


Southern Tier Iowa History

Settlement began in much of Southern Iowa immediately after treaties with the Sac and Fox Indians in the mid 19th century. While northern and central Iowa had the quality of farm land that attracted those most interested in farming, Sourthern Iowa attracted a wide variety of settlers due to its more varied landscape. The bottomlands and flattest of the uplands attracted row crop farmers while the hillsides attracted cattlemen and other livestock and forage operations. The rich oak and hickory forests attracted a number of lumbermen and at one time there were many sawmills operating in Southern Iowa. Today, while timber is still harvested, most of Southern Iowa timberland is utilized for recreation, hunting and conservation.

The late 1800's saw a blossoming of branch railroad lines tying together the many small towns all over Iowa and the Midwest. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad was particularly active with branch lines in Southern Iowa in order to feed its east/west mainline running through the second tier of counties north of the Missouri State line. As the economy evolved and automobile/truck transportation grew, these branch lines began to be truncated with some in Southern Iowa being the first to be dropped. This trend accelerated after WWII and by the late 1970's nearly all of the branch lines were gone. Unfortunately, most were dropped before the rails-to-trails movement had sufficient momentum to salvage their right-of-ways, thus little remains in most area to remind us of that part of the area's past. On a brighter note, the BNSF Railroad still uses the "Burlington's" east/west right of way offering first class freight service and hosting Amtrak's California Zephyr service.

Fortunately, the state of Iowa has provided at least one paved highway into nearly all small communities and had upgraded the US & Iowa highway system in Southern Iowa to ensure that all communities can access services that they can no longer afford to provide. Interstate 35 was built north/south through the heart of South Central Iowa and provides access to Des Moines and Kansas City as well as offering a thoroughfare for tourists from which to explore the Sourthern Tier. Many Southern Iowa communities have adapted well to the new realities and offer a warm midwestern small town experience to both their residents and visitors alike.


Southern Tier Iowa Real Estate

Iowa's Southern Tier counties offer a wide variety of real estate - from grand estates to modest small town homes. Small town living at its best is available as well as some of Iowa's most scenic acreages. The growth of rural water districts has made it possible to have dependable, safe drinking water in all but the most remote areas. Three trends are evident in Southern Iowa Real Estate (1) the growth of countryside acreages and even some country subdivisions, (2) people commuting to the Des Moines metro from homes in both the towns and countryside; and (3) many people now want to own recreational land for either hunting, conservation or a getaway spot. These trends have resulted in higher than average appreciation for Southern Iowa land in the last few years.


Southern Tier Links

Southern Iowa Bed & Breakfasts

Iowa DNR Fishing Information


1) Technically, the southern tier is only the southern most row of counties; however, most Iowans include the next tier to the north because of their smaller size and similarity in topography and land use to the true southern tier. Those counties in the western portion of these two tiers are considered part of southwest Iowa and those counties in the eastern portion of these two tiers are considered part of southeast Iowa. Monroe and Appanoose counties are generally considered part of south central Iowa, but are excluded from this discussion because they do not have the same proximity to Des Moines as the other six counties being discussed.



Union County

Union County, Iowa was formed in 1853 from Clarke County and was named for the United States "Union." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Union County has a total area of 426 mi² (1,033 km²) including 2 mi² (4 km²) (0.37%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 11,972, a decline of 2.7% since 2000.

Union County is somewhat less rolling that the other five South Central Iowa counties but is still quite scenic. Primary land use is agricultural with considerable row crop production on the predominant uplands and in the valleys. Green Valley State Park is located in Union County.

The historic Mormon Pioneer Trail crosses through northern Union County.


There are seven incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Union County:

  • Kent***

        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat

        *** -- Kent is a designated USPS post office but not incorporated nor a DPC

        **** -- Shannon City also has territory in Ringgold County


There are two community school districts in Union County:

Union County Links

Creston Chamber of Commerce




Clarke County


Clarke County, Iowa is named in honor of James Clarke, who was appointed Governor of Iowa Territory in November 1845 and was the last Territorial Governor, since Iowa was admitted to the Union on Dec. 28, 1846. Clarke County was originally part of Des Moines County and was established as a separate county on January 13, 1846. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Clarke County has a total area of 432 mi² (1,118 km²) including 1 mi² (2 km²) (0.14%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 9,161, an increase of 0.3% since 2000.

Clarke County, with its proximity to Des Moines and its location on Interstate 35 and the BNSF Railroad east/west mainline, has become the economic center of South Central Iowa. Osceola has retained a significant manufacturing and industrial base and has diversified by attracting a gambling casino - the only one in Southern Iowa.

The newest trend in Clarke County and elsewhere in South Central Iowa is the advent of wine grape growing and wine making. Osceola is host to one of Iowa's newest wineries, the Southern Hills Winery at the Clay St. exit across I-35 from the casino.

The historic Mormon Pioneer Trail crosses through southern Clarke County.

Elsewhere in Clarke County, land use remains primarily agricultural with significant row crop production, livestock operations and outstanding scenic properties.

There are three incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Clarke County:

  • Murrry
  • Woodburn
  • Hopeville***
  •  Weldon
     

        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat

        *** -- Hopeville is a former townsite still inhabited but is not a DPC and has no USPS post office

        **** -- Weldonalso has some territory in Clarke County


There are two community school districts in Clarke County:


Clarke County Links

Clarke County Development Corporation

Osceola Chamber of Commerce

Clarke County Fair

Terrible's Lakeside Casino & Resort 2


2 -- This website does not advertise nor exchange links with gambling establishments or gambling websites. This link is provided for the convenience and education of our visitors who are researching South Central Iowa and the Southern Tier.




Lucas County

Lucas County, Iowa was established in January 1846.  It was named in honor of Governor Robert Lucas, first territorial governor of Iowa. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Lucas County has a total area of 434 mi² (1,124 km²) including 4 mi² (9 km²) (0.84%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 9,672, an increase of 2.6% since 2000.

Lucas County has the rolling hills and verdant valleys typical of Southern Iowa. It also has the distinction of being part of Iowa's past coal industry. The northeast half of the county lies within the Des Moines River basin coal fields and saw considerable exploitation for coal mining prior to WWII. All coal operations have ceased as of this writing. As with the rest of the Southern Tier, Lucas County land use is now primarily agricultural with considerable recreational use also.

Lucas city is the home of
John L. Lewis Museum.

The "Trace" portion of the historic Mormon Pioneer Trail crosses through central Lucas County.

There are five incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Lucas County:

  • Derby
  • Lucas
  • Russell
    (russell historical society)
  • Williamson
     
        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat


There are three community school districts in Lucas County:

        * Mormon Trail School District also includes territory in Decatur and Wayne Counties.



Lucas County Links

Chariton Chamber of Commerce




Ringgold County

Ringgold County, Iowa was named after Major Samuel Rigggold who was fatally wounded in the Mexican War. The county was established in 1847 and originated in 1855. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Lucas County has a total area of 539 mi² (1,396 km²) including 1+ mi² (3 km²) (0.23%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 5,273, a decrease of 3.6% since 2000.

Ringgold County is the farthest of the Southern Tier counties from Des Moines; thus, its residents do less communting to the Des Moines metro for employment than do the residents of the other five South Central Iowa counties.

Ringgold County is home to
Sun Valley Lake, at Ellston, one of southern Iowa's most beautiful private lakes.

Ringgold County land use is agricultural with row crops primarily in the valleys and pasture and hay operations on the hillsides. Many large cattle feeding operations call Ringgold County home.

There are 12 incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Lucas County:

  • Beaconsfield
  • Benton
  • Clearfield
  • Delphos
  • Diagonal
  •  Ellston
  •  Kellerton
  • Maloy 
  • Mt. Ayr**
  • Redding
  • Shannon City***
  • Tingley
        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat

        *** -- Shannon City also has territory in Union County


There are two community school districts in Ringgold County:





Decatur County


Click on Map to see pdf enlargement


Decatur County Iowa
was established in 1846 and organized in 1850.  It is named after Stephen Decatur, an American naval hero of the War of 1812. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Decatur County has a total area of 533 mi² (1,381 km²) including 2 mi² (4 km²) (0.29%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 8,605, a decrease of 1.0% since 2000.

Decatur County is noted for its scenic beauty - rolling hills and valleys with considerable timberland. Nine Eagles State Park and Slip Bluff County Park are two very scenic public access parks located in Decatur County. Primary land use is agricultural with row crops primarily in the valleys and pasture and hay operations on the hillsides. Decatur County also hosts a number of private game ranches.

The historic Mormon Pioneer Trail
crosses through northeastern Decatur County at Garden Grove.

Graceland University is located at Lamoni near the Missouri state line.

Much of Decatur County is within a one-hour commute of Des Moines; thus, there are many acreages on and near hard surfaced roads occupied by those making at least part of their living in the Des Moines metro.

There are nine incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Decatur County:

  • Davis City
  • Decatur City
  • Garden Grove
  • Grand River
  • LeRoy***
  • Pleasanton
  • Van Wert
  • Weldon****
        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat

        *** -- LeRoy is a former townsite still inhabited but neither incorporated nor a DPC and with no post office

        **** -- Weldon also has territory in Clarke County 


There are three community school districts in Decatur County:

 
        * Mormon Trail School District also includes territory in Lucas and Wayne Counties.


Decatur County Links

Decatur County Development Corporation





Wayne County

Wayne County, Iowa was established on January 13, 1846 and was formally organized on February 13, 1851. The county is named after General "Mad Anthony" Wayne, of the Revolutionary War. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Clarke County has a total area of 527 mi² (1,365 km²) including 2 mi² (4 km²) (0.28%) water with an estimated population in 2005 of 6,601, a decrease of 1.9% since 2000.

Wayne County is noted for its scenic beauty - rolling hills and valleys with considerable timberland. Primary land use is agricultural with row crops primarily in the valleys and pasture and hay operations on the hillsides. As with most of South Central Iowa, there is increasingly more recreational use of the timberland and pastures.

The historic
Mormon Pioneer Trail crosses through Wayne County on its way to Garden Grove although not through any other existing cities.

There are nine incorporated cities and no designated population centers (DPC) in Wayne County:

  • Allerton
  • Cambria***
  • Clio
  • Humeston
  • Lineville
  • Millerton
  • Promise City
  • Sewal***
  • Seymour
        * -- Designated Population Center (DPC) - not incorporated (county services)

        ** -- County Seat

        *** -- Cambria & Sewal are former townsites still inhabited but not incorporated nor a DPC. They do not have
                USPS post offices


There are four community school districts in Wayne County:

        * Mormon Trail School District also includes territory in Decatur and Lucas Counties.


Wayne County Links

Prarie Trails Museum - Humeston