Geography of West Des Moines, Iowa

By | January 1, 2024

West Des Moines, Iowa, situated in Polk County, is a thriving city with a diverse geography that combines urban development with natural features. The city is part of the Des Moines metropolitan area and has experienced significant growth in recent years. This description will cover various aspects of West Des Moines’ geography, including its topography, water features, climate, and urban development.


West Des Moines is characterized by a relatively flat topography, typical of the broader Midwestern region. The city lies within the Raccoon River Valley, contributing to its relatively gentle and rolling terrain. While the topography is generally flat, there may be subtle changes in elevation, particularly along the riverbanks and surrounding areas.

The Raccoon River, a significant waterway in the region, flows through West Des Moines, impacting the city’s topography and providing opportunities for recreational activities along its banks. The river valley adds to the overall greenery of the city and influences its land use patterns.

Water Features:

The Raccoon River is a prominent water feature in West Des Moines, contributing to the city’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities. The river plays a role in the city’s geography, influencing land use and providing a corridor for outdoor activities.

Raccoon River Park is a notable area along the river, offering residents and visitors opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and enjoying the scenic river views. Additionally, the park features a large lake, enhancing the city’s water features and providing a focal point for outdoor recreation.

While the Raccoon River is a significant water feature, West Des Moines has other smaller creeks and bodies of water contributing to its overall hydrology. These water features, combined with parks and green spaces, create a balanced urban-nature interface within the city.


According to cellphoneexplorer, West Des Moines experiences a humid continental climate, characterized by four distinct seasons with variations in temperature and precipitation. The city’s climate is influenced by its location in the central United States, away from significant coastal influences.

  • Summer (June to August): Summers in West Des Moines are warm and humid, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-80s to the low 90s Fahrenheit (about 29-35°C). The season is marked by occasional thunderstorms, contributing to the city’s lush greenery.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall brings cooler temperatures, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the low 70s Fahrenheit (about 18-24°C). The deciduous trees in the region showcase vibrant autumn colors, creating a picturesque landscape.
  • Winter (December to February): Winters in West Des Moines are cold, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid-20s to the low 30s Fahrenheit (about -4 to 2°C). Snowfall is common during the winter months, and the city experiences the full range of winter weather conditions.
  • Spring (March to May): Spring is a period of renewal, with temperatures gradually warming. Average high temperatures in the spring range from the mid-40s to the low 60s Fahrenheit (about 7-16°C). Blooming flowers and budding trees signal the arrival of spring.

West Des Moines, like much of Iowa, can experience severe weather events such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, and occasional winter storms. The city’s climate, with its distinct seasons, provides a variety of outdoor activities and contributes to the overall character of the region.

Urban Development:

West Des Moines has experienced significant urban development, evolving from a primarily agricultural community to a dynamic suburban city with a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial areas. The city’s development is influenced by its proximity to the larger Des Moines metropolitan area and its role as a major economic hub in the region.

Jordan Creek Town Center, a large shopping and entertainment complex, is a notable example of West Des Moines’ urban development. This retail center features a mix of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options, contributing to the city’s commercial vibrancy.

The area along Mills Civic Parkway is a key corridor for development, with a mix of businesses, residential neighborhoods, and recreational amenities. The city’s comprehensive planning efforts aim to balance growth with the preservation of green spaces and the enhancement of community amenities.

The addition of corporate headquarters, office parks, and residential developments reflects West Des Moines’ status as a growing and economically vibrant community. The city’s urban development is marked by a commitment to sustainability, with efforts to incorporate green spaces, walking trails, and bike paths into the urban fabric.

Natural Areas and Parks:

Despite its urban development, West Des Moines places a strong emphasis on preserving natural areas and providing residents with access to parks and green spaces. Raccoon River Park, mentioned earlier, is a significant recreational area that combines natural features with amenities such as walking trails, sports fields, and a lake.

Other parks and natural areas in West Des Moines contribute to the city’s overall green infrastructure. Walnut Woods State Park, located to the southeast, offers wooded areas and hiking trails, providing a natural retreat for residents.

The city’s commitment to parks and recreation is evident in the variety of neighborhood parks, community centers, and outdoor facilities. These spaces not only provide opportunities for outdoor activities but also contribute to the overall quality of life in the community.


West Des Moines’ transportation infrastructure is designed to accommodate the needs of a growing and dynamic community. Major roadways, including Interstates 35 and 80, provide connectivity within the city and facilitate regional travel. The development of thoroughfares such as Jordan Creek Parkway and Mills Civic Parkway supports both residential and commercial areas.

The city’s transportation planning also considers alternative modes of transportation. West Des Moines has made efforts to enhance pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, including the development of trails and pathways. These initiatives contribute to a more walkable and bike-friendly urban environment.


West Des Moines, Iowa, is a city that seamlessly blends urban development with natural features. The Raccoon River, parks, and green spaces contribute to the city’s overall aesthetics and provide residents with opportunities for outdoor recreation. The city’s climate, marked by distinct seasons, adds to the charm of the region and influences its outdoor activities. West Des Moines’ commitment to sustainable urban development, accessibility, and community amenities underscores its status as a vibrant and growing community within the Des Moines metropolitan area. As the city continues to evolve, its geography will play a central role in shaping its future development and maintaining its appeal as a welcoming place to live, work, and play.

Geography of West Des Moines, Iowa