Raccoon River Park autumn scene in West Des Moines, Iowa.

West Des Moines, Iowa

West Des Moines is a big city spread across the Polk, Dallas, Warren, and Madison counties of the US State of Iowa. The City of West Des Moines provides a unique experience: a one-stop shop for opportunities to flourish and enjoy life in the educational, professional, and recreational spheres. There are many other things this city has to offer, from malls like Jordan Creek and Valley West to shopping centers like Historic Valley Junction and West Glen.

Geography And Climate Of West Des Moines

West Des Moines, Iowa, welcome sign on George Mills Civic Parkway
West Des Moines, Iowa, welcome sign on George Mills Civic Parkway. Image Credit: Iowahwyman via Wikimedia Commons

The second-largest city in the Des Moines metro region and the sixth-largest city in Iowa is West Des Moines. It is located approximately 117 miles east of Omaha, Nebraska, and 5 miles west of Des Moines, Iowa (center to center). Parts of West Des Moines, especially the Valley Junction neighborhood, are vulnerable to flooding because of the city's location in the Raccoon River valley. West Des Moines covers a total area of 124.88 sq. km, of which 122.34 sq. km is occupied by land, and 2.54 sq. km is covered by water. 

The climate in West Des Moines is humid continental. It is partly cloudy all year round, with warm, humid, and rainy summers and chilly, snowy, and windy winters. The average daily yearly temperature ranges from 16°F to 86°F, and it is infrequently either below -3°F or over 95°F. In West Des Moines, July is the year's hottest month of the year, with an average daily high temperature of more than 75°F. Having an average daily high temperature below 43°F, January is the year's coldest month. On average, West Des Moines receives 36 inches of rainfall and 34 inches of snowfall each year.

Brief History Of West Des Moines

I.O.O.F. Valley Junction Lodge Hall No. 604 in West Des Moines, Iowa
I.O.O.F. Valley Junction Lodge Hall No. 604 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Image Credit: Jim Roberts via Wikimedia Commons

After being inhabited in the 1840s, West Des Moines developed in the 1850s into Valley Junction, a significant rail hub. The Sac and Fox Indians used to live in West Des Moines. On October 11, 1845, at exactly midnight, everything changed. James Cunningham Jordan, a cattle farmer, fired a bullet that frightened the tribes away. James lived from 1813 until his death in 1893. The Jordan House, which has subsequently been rebuilt and is now home to the West Des Moines Historical Society, was where he formerly resided. The city was a commerce and shipping hub in its early years. The City of West Des Moines became a legal entity in October 1893. After the city's renaming in 1938, its economy started to diversify.

The Population And Economy Of West Des Moines

As per the latest US Census, West Des Moines has a population of  68,723 residents, making it the state's 6th most populous city. The city's population is currently growing at a rate of 1.73% yearly. White (non-Hispanic) (80.3%), Asian (non-Hispanic) (6.52%), White (Hispanic) (4.54%), Black or African American (non-Hispanic) (3.94%), and Two+ (non-Hispanic) (2.97%) are the five largest ethnic groups in West Des Moines. West Des Moines has a poverty rate of 6.77% and a $103,983 average household income. The median cost of rent during the past few years has been $1,058 per month, and the median value of a home is $228,300. In West Des Moines, the median age is 36.7 years, 36.2 years for men, and 37 years for women.

Finance and insurance, professional, scientific, and technological services, as well as management of businesses and enterprises, are the three main sectors of West Des Moines' economy. Tire and agricultural tool manufacturing is a part of the industry. The Walnut Woods State Park and other recreational areas surround the Raccoon River, which flows northeast through the city's southern portion and contributes to the local economy.

Attractions In And Around West Des Moines

Raccoon River Park

Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, Iowa
Raccoon River Park in West Des Moines, Iowa. 

The "crown jewel" of West Des Moines' Park system is Raccoon River Park, which can be found in the city's southeast. The parkland's 631.61 acres offer both active and quiet recreational opportunities, in addition to a few hundred acres of wildlife-friendly natural regions. With its endless selection of leisure options, it is also, without a doubt, the most popular park in West Des Moines. 

Historic Valley Junction

Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, Iowa
Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, Iowa. Image Credit: Iowahwyman via Wikimedia Commons

Everything you could desire from a trendy downtown commercial area is here in this West Des Moines railroad section, which has been recently renovated. Valley Junction, which dates back to the 1890s, was built around a depot for the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad. Valley Junction offers a wide selection of independent boutiques, art galleries, antique stores, and restaurants to everyone who visits.

Jordan House

Jordan House in West Des Moines, Iowa
Jordan House in West Des Moines, Iowa. Image Credit: Goddesshanna via Wikimedia Commons

Jordan House is a grand Victorian house with Italianate Gothic architecture. It is the oldest building in West Des Moines and one of the oldest in Polk County. James C. Jordan built the home, which now houses the West Des Moines Historical Society's office as well as a museum. The sixteen-period rooms provide a beautiful setting for showcasing the numerous antique artifacts gathered from West Des Moines' rich history. The Underground Train Exhibit and the numerous items from the regular railroad, which were significant in the early years of West Des Moines, will also be of interest to visitors.

Walnut Woods State Park

A 260-acre park just upstream from Raccoon River Park protects a significant area of bottomland hardwood forest, which is prized in the spring and summer as a destination for birdwatching. At Walnut Woods State Park, you can find the largest single stand of black walnut trees in North America. As the Raccoon River meanders through the park, it offers boating, paddling, and fishing opportunities. On land, two miles of trails are available for hiking and cross-country skiing. There is also a lovely old lodge constructed from limestone by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, along with a small campground.

Terra Park

Terra Park is a magnificent 200-acre park with something for everyone! It is Johnston's biggest park and features a fishing lake with an area of 8 acres, an amphitheater, inclusive playgrounds, and more. Walking the route and exploring the lakeshores are enjoyable. A waterfall feature and stepping stones for crossing the water are located on the northeast corner of the lake.

West Des Moines, one of many attractive vacation spots in Iowa, blends big-city culture with sensibilities from the Midwest. A mile's worth of wonderful restaurants, shops, and sights make the downtown area particularly enticing. Consider seeing some of the breathtaking sights listed if you're thinking about visiting the West Des Moines area.

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