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The overall economic impact from river recreation along 73 Iowa river and stream segments supports more than 6,350 jobs with $824 million in sales and $130 million of personal income. .

arrow See more on the Iowa Rivers and River Corridors Valuation Project


Economic impacts of Iowa's river and nature-based recreation

Outdoor nature-based recreation is one of the largest industries in Iowa. The following information is gleaned from recent studies, representing different ways to look at the industry. Any way you slice it, Iowa’s natural areas are vital to the state’s economy.

IOWA HAS AN EXTENSIVE NETWORK of rivers and streams running through all geographic regions of the state, but relatively little has been understood about the overall pattern of river usage by Iowa’s citizens, including which aspects of rivers and streams are most used and what activities citizens most participate in while on site.

To provide this information, researchers from the Iowa State University Department of Economics and Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, with funding from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducted a large, random population survey of Iowans called the “Iowa Rivers and River Corridors Survey—2009.” The survey collected information about recreational use of rivers and streams with implications for protection and restoration, economic and health benefits, land use, and water quality regulations at the local, watershed, and state levels.

The related "Economic Impacts of River Trail Recreation in Iowa" by ISU's Daniel Otto shows that Iowa’s rivers and streams also generate and economic impact to local economies through spending on materials and supplies by users and visitors. The 2010 river visitor survey aids economic analysis by providing information on the number of trips to various segments of major rivers in Iowa.

The most visited river segment in the study, the Mississippi River from Clinton to Muscatine, had 1.1 million total trips for fishing, trails, boating, relaxation and wildlife viewing, resulting in more than $35.9 million in total spending in 2009.

Some key findings from the survey:

1. About 48% of respondents reported taking a trip to at least one of the 73 identified river/stream segments, and only 8% of the trips reported were longer than one day.

2. The average number of trips reported was about six per person.

3. The most visited include segments of the Mississippi, Des Moines, and Cedar Rivers. Other popular segments include portions of the Missouri, Iowa, and Wapsipinicon.

4. Usage varies notably by demographic groups. The heaviest usage was reported by younger, more educated, and higher-income individuals, and men reported more visits than did women.

5. The most popular activities reported were relaxation, fishing, trail-related activities, and wildlife viewing, although there was variation across river segments and demographic groups.

6. Proximity to home was the single most important consideration in selecting a river to visit, with water quality and habitat being the second most important factor.

7. The most negative factors influencing river/stream choice were related to water quality issues, with the top three being abundant algae, possible sediment and nutrient contamination, and possible bacterial contamination.

8. The most positive factors influencing river/stream choice were: water quality safe for human contact, natural setting dominating river banks, such as forest, prairie, etc., and abundant game fish.



• $1.54 Billion per Year: Hunters, anglers and wildlife viewers represent a total economic benefit to the state of Iowa of $1.54 billion* per year. This includes $974 million in local retail sales in Iowa, creating and supporting more than 17,800 jobs. ($4.2M per day spread over a year)

• $2.63 Billion per Year: Visits to Iowa state parks, county parks, lakes and trails are estimated at 50 million visits per year, representing $2.63 billion** in spending levels. ($7.2M per day spread over a year)

• $35.9 Million per Year: The most visited river segment in the study, the Mississippi River from Clinton to Muscatine, had 1.1 million total trips for fishing, trails, relaxation and wildlife viewing, resulting in more than $35.9 million *** in total spending in 2009. ($98K per day spread over a year)

• $3.9 Billion per Year: Iowa’s wood products industries generate over 3.9 billion dollars annually ($10.7M per day spread over a year), employ almost 18,000 people and have an annual payroll of $916,000,000. Iowa’s woodlands support a significant portion of Iowa’s recreation, tourism and hunting which is tied to activities such as camping, fall foliage tours, hiking, woodland bird watching and hunting of woodland wildlife species. Rural and community forests in Iowa significantly contribute to water quality, air quality, carbon sequestration and quality of life.

• Keep Young People in Iowa: Improvements to quality of life generated by recreation opportunities and natural resources are important to retaining and attracting skilled workers in the state.


See more on the Iowa Rivers and River Corridors Valuation Project

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