Most rural counties in Iowa

Written by:
July 25, 2022
Jason McLaren // Wikimedia Commons

Most rural counties in Iowa

A surprising number of U.S. counties have 100% rural land-702, in fact. Stacker compiled a list of the most rural counties in Iowa using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Counties are ranked by the percent of land area that is rural, as of the 2010 Census, with ties broken by residents per square mile, according to 2020 5-year population estimates.

According to the Census Bureau, rural land encompasses any land that isn't an urban area. To be considered an urban area, a place has to have a densely settled core of census tracts or blocks and count at least 2,500 people, at least 1,500 of whom must be residents of non-institutional buildings. Areas with 50,000 people or more are considered urbanized areas, while areas with between 2,500 and 50,000 people are considered urban clusters.

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Chuckmor // Wikimedia Commons

#50. Winnebago County

- Rural area: 99.5% (398 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 400 square miles
--- #95 largest county in state, #2,524 nationwide

- Population density: 26.2 people / square mile (10,474 residents)
--- #49 lowest density county in state, #1,103 nationwide

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Smallbones // Wikimedia Commons

#49. Cass County

- Rural area: 99.5% (561 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 564 square miles
--- #58 largest county in state, #1,824 nationwide

- Population density: 23.0 people / square mile (12,990 residents)
--- #38 lowest density county in state, #1,007 nationwide

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en:User:Cburnett // Wikimedia Commons

#48. Monroe County

- Rural area: 99.5% (432 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 434 square miles
--- #85 largest county in state, #2,341 nationwide

- Population density: 17.9 people / square mile (7,761 residents)
--- #22 lowest density county in state, #826 nationwide

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Ann Sullivan-Larson // Wikimedia Commons

#47. Wright County

- Rural area: 99.5% (578 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 580 square miles
--- #29 largest county in state, #1,698 nationwide

- Population density: 21.8 people / square mile (12,644 residents)
--- #34 lowest density county in state, #955 nationwide

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Farragutful // Wikimedia Commons

#46. Washington County

- Rural area: 99.5% (566 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 569 square miles
--- #54 largest county in state, #1,793 nationwide

- Population density: 38.9 people / square mile (22,100 residents)
--- #71 lowest density county in state, #1,449 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#45. Plymouth County

- Rural area: 99.5% (859 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (4 square miles)
- Total land area: 863 square miles
--- #4 largest county in state, #957 nationwide

- Population density: 29.1 people / square mile (25,141 residents)
--- #58 lowest density county in state, #1,188 nationwide

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Kevin Schuchmann // Wikimedia Commons

#44. Delaware County

- Rural area: 99.5% (575 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.5% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 578 square miles
--- #33 largest county in state, #1,709 nationwide

- Population density: 29.6 people / square mile (17,107 residents)
--- #59 lowest density county in state, #1,200 nationwide

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Woodard // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Fayette County

- Rural area: 99.6% (728 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 731 square miles
--- #7 largest county in state, #1,211 nationwide

- Population density: 26.8 people / square mile (19,604 residents)
--- #50 lowest density county in state, #1,121 nationwide

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Jason McLaren // Wikimedia Commons

#42. Greene County

- Rural area: 99.6% (567 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 570 square miles
--- #50 largest county in state, #1,785 nationwide

- Population density: 15.7 people / square mile (8,923 residents)
--- #14 lowest density county in state, #760 nationwide

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Jon Roanhaus // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Mitchell County

- Rural area: 99.6% (467 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 469 square miles
--- #76 largest county in state, #2,197 nationwide

- Population density: 22.6 people / square mile (10,588 residents)
--- #37 lowest density county in state, #984 nationwide

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Ann Sullivan-Larson // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Hancock County

- Rural area: 99.6% (569 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 571 square miles
--- #46 largest county in state, #1,766 nationwide

- Population density: 18.8 people / square mile (10,709 residents)
--- #25 lowest density county in state, #851 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#39. O'Brien County

- Rural area: 99.6% (571 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 573 square miles
--- #41 largest county in state, #1,748 nationwide

- Population density: 24.1 people / square mile (13,796 residents)
--- #44 lowest density county in state, #1,042 nationwide

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Jim Roberts // Wikimedia Commons

#38. Shelby County

- Rural area: 99.6% (589 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 591 square miles
--- #22 largest county in state, #1,656 nationwide

- Population density: 19.5 people / square mile (11,544 residents)
--- #27 lowest density county in state, #874 nationwide

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Jatakuck // Wikimedia Commons

#37. Howard County

- Rural area: 99.7% (472 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.4% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 473 square miles
--- #75 largest county in state, #2,181 nationwide

- Population density: 19.4 people / square mile (9,201 residents)
--- #26 lowest density county in state, #868 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#36. Benton County

- Rural area: 99.7% (714 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 716 square miles
--- #11 largest county in state, #1,264 nationwide

- Population density: 35.7 people / square mile (25,558 residents)
--- #68 lowest density county in state, #1,358 nationwide

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en:User:Cburnett // Wikimedia Commons

#35. Madison County

- Rural area: 99.7% (559 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 561 square miles
--- #60 largest county in state, #1,849 nationwide

- Population density: 28.8 people / square mile (16,148 residents)
--- #55 lowest density county in state, #1,177 nationwide

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cwwycoff1 // Wikimedia Commons

#34. Iowa County

- Rural area: 99.7% (584 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 586 square miles
--- #26 largest county in state, #1,675 nationwide

- Population density: 27.5 people / square mile (16,155 residents)
--- #51 lowest density county in state, #1,137 nationwide

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Jon Roanhaus // Wikimedia Commons

#33. Franklin County

- Rural area: 99.7% (580 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 582 square miles
--- #28 largest county in state, #1,691 nationwide

- Population density: 17.3 people / square mile (10,091 residents)
--- #19 lowest density county in state, #809 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#32. Palo Alto County

- Rural area: 99.7% (562 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 564 square miles
--- #59 largest county in state, #1,828 nationwide

- Population density: 15.9 people / square mile (8,941 residents)
--- #15 lowest density county in state, #764 nationwide

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Skye Marthaler // Wikimedia Commons

#31. Cherokee County

- Rural area: 99.7% (575 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 577 square miles
--- #35 largest county in state, #1,715 nationwide

- Population density: 19.6 people / square mile (11,281 residents)
--- #28 lowest density county in state, #875 nationwide

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Bill Whittaker // Wikimedia Commons

#30. Tama County

- Rural area: 99.7% (719 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 721 square miles
--- #9 largest county in state, #1,241 nationwide

- Population density: 23.5 people / square mile (16,962 residents)
--- #39 lowest density county in state, #1,021 nationwide

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Bobak Ha'Eri // Wikimedia Commons

#29. Chickasaw County

- Rural area: 99.7% (503 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 504 square miles
--- #69 largest county in state, #2,060 nationwide

- Population density: 23.7 people / square mile (11,970 residents)
--- #42 lowest density county in state, #1,031 nationwide

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Idawriter // Wikimedia Commons

#28. Allamakee County

- Rural area: 99.7% (637 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 639 square miles
--- #18 largest county in state, #1,489 nationwide

- Population density: 21.5 people / square mile (13,761 residents)
--- #32 lowest density county in state, #941 nationwide

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Alejandro Pulido // Wikimedia Commons

#27. Kossuth County

- Rural area: 99.7% (970 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (3 square miles)
- Total land area: 973 square miles
--- #1 largest county in state, #716 nationwide

- Population density: 15.3 people / square mile (14,864 residents)
--- #13 lowest density county in state, #747 nationwide

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Coasterlover1994 // Wikimedia Commons

#26. Osceola County

- Rural area: 99.7% (398 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.3% (1 square miles)
- Total land area: 399 square miles
--- #97 largest county in state, #2,533 nationwide

- Population density: 15.1 people / square mile (6,016 residents)
--- #12 lowest density county in state, #743 nationwide

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Kevin Schuchmann // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Cedar County

- Rural area: 99.8% (578 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.2% (1 square miles)
- Total land area: 579 square miles
--- #31 largest county in state, #1,704 nationwide

- Population density: 31.9 people / square mile (18,475 residents)
--- #64 lowest density county in state, #1,270 nationwide

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JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Monona County

- Rural area: 99.8% (693 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.2% (2 square miles)
- Total land area: 694 square miles
--- #16 largest county in state, #1,348 nationwide

- Population density: 12.5 people / square mile (8,675 residents)
--- #8 lowest density county in state, #656 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#23. Harrison County

- Rural area: 99.8% (696 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.2% (1 square miles)
- Total land area: 697 square miles
--- #14 largest county in state, #1,334 nationwide

- Population density: 20.2 people / square mile (14,043 residents)
--- #31 lowest density county in state, #900 nationwide

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Jsayre64 // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Clayton County

- Rural area: 99.9% (778 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.1% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 779 square miles
--- #5 largest county in state, #1,110 nationwide

- Population density: 22.5 people / square mile (17,527 residents)
--- #36 lowest density county in state, #980 nationwide

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Ammodramus // Wikimedia Commons

#21. Fremont County

- Rural area: 100.0% (511 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 511 square miles
--- #68 largest county in state, #2,037 nationwide

- Population density: 13.5 people / square mile (6,895 residents)
--- #9 lowest density county in state, #691 nationwide

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USFWSmidwest // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Louisa County

- Rural area: 100.0% (402 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 402 square miles
--- #94 largest county in state, #2,514 nationwide

- Population density: 27.7 people / square mile (11,125 residents)
--- #52 lowest density county in state, #1,144 nationwide

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Billwhittaker // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Butler County

- Rural area: 100.0% (580 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 580 square miles
--- #30 largest county in state, #1,700 nationwide

- Population density: 25.0 people / square mile (14,508 residents)
--- #46 lowest density county in state, #1,066 nationwide

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Lolwhynot3498 // Wikimedia Commons

#18. Grundy County

- Rural area: 100.0% (502 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 502 square miles
--- #71 largest county in state, #2,070 nationwide

- Population density: 24.4 people / square mile (12,262 residents)
--- #45 lowest density county in state, #1,051 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#17. Lyon County

- Rural area: 100.0% (588 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 588 square miles
--- #25 largest county in state, #1,668 nationwide

- Population density: 20.1 people / square mile (11,800 residents)
--- #30 lowest density county in state, #898 nationwide

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Jonathunder // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Worth County

- Rural area: 100.0% (400 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 400 square miles
--- #96 largest county in state, #2,529 nationwide

- Population density: 18.5 people / square mile (7,422 residents)
--- #24 lowest density county in state, #839 nationwide

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Nst101 // Wikimedia Commons

#15. Guthrie County

- Rural area: 100.0% (591 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 591 square miles
--- #23 largest county in state, #1,657 nationwide

- Population density: 18.1 people / square mile (10,702 residents)
--- #23 lowest density county in state, #830 nationwide

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Jim Roberts // Wikimedia Commons

#14. Davis County

- Rural area: 100.0% (502 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 502 square miles
--- #70 largest county in state, #2,069 nationwide

- Population density: 17.9 people / square mile (8,977 residents)
--- #21 lowest density county in state, #825 nationwide

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en:User:Cburnett // Wikimedia Commons

#13. Keokuk County

- Rural area: 100.0% (579 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 579 square miles
--- #32 largest county in state, #1,706 nationwide

- Population density: 17.5 people / square mile (10,163 residents)
--- #20 lowest density county in state, #813 nationwide

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Nst101 // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Calhoun County

- Rural area: 100.0% (570 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 570 square miles
--- #48 largest county in state, #1,781 nationwide

- Population density: 16.9 people / square mile (9,656 residents)
--- #18 lowest density county in state, #799 nationwide

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User:Magicpiano // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Sac County

- Rural area: 100.0% (575 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 575 square miles
--- #38 largest county in state, #1,731 nationwide

- Population density: 16.9 people / square mile (9,711 residents)
--- #17 lowest density county in state, #796 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Ida County

- Rural area: 100.0% (432 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 432 square miles
--- #87 largest county in state, #2,353 nationwide

- Population density: 15.9 people / square mile (6,862 residents)
--- #16 lowest density county in state, #766 nationwide

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Jim Roberts // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Decatur County

- Rural area: 100.0% (532 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 532 square miles
--- #65 largest county in state, #1,968 nationwide

- Population density: 14.9 people / square mile (7,908 residents)
--- #11 lowest density county in state, #733 nationwide

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Sector001 // Wikimedia Commons

#8. Van Buren County

- Rural area: 100.0% (485 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 485 square miles
--- #74 largest county in state, #2,140 nationwide

- Population density: 14.7 people / square mile (7,104 residents)
--- #10 lowest density county in state, #727 nationwide

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Nst101 // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Audubon County

- Rural area: 100.0% (443 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 443 square miles
--- #78 largest county in state, #2,295 nationwide

- Population density: 12.5 people / square mile (5,528 residents)
--- #7 lowest density county in state, #655 nationwide

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C. A. Tucker // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Adair County

- Rural area: 100.0% (569 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 569 square miles
--- #53 largest county in state, #1,790 nationwide

- Population density: 12.4 people / square mile (7,048 residents)
--- #6 lowest density county in state, #648 nationwide

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Scott Romine // Wikimedia Commons

#5. Wayne County

- Rural area: 100.0% (525 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 525 square miles
--- #66 largest county in state, #1,992 nationwide

- Population density: 12.2 people / square mile (6,426 residents)
--- #5 lowest density county in state, #642 nationwide

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Pettingills // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Pocahontas County

- Rural area: 100.0% (577 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 577 square miles
--- #34 largest county in state, #1,714 nationwide

- Population density: 11.7 people / square mile (6,725 residents)
--- #4 lowest density county in state, #623 nationwide

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Jared Winkler // Wikimedia Commons

#3. Taylor County

- Rural area: 100.0% (532 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 532 square miles
--- #64 largest county in state, #1,966 nationwide

- Population density: 11.6 people / square mile (6,160 residents)
--- #3 lowest density county in state, #622 nationwide

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Mclarenj // Wikimedia Commons

#2. Ringgold County

- Rural area: 100.0% (535 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 535 square miles
--- #62 largest county in state, #1,951 nationwide

- Population density: 9.2 people / square mile (4,922 residents)
--- #2 lowest density county in state, #544 nationwide

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Jason McLaren // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Adams County

- Rural area: 100.0% (423 square miles)
- Urban area: 0.0% (0 square miles)
- Total land area: 423 square miles
--- #92 largest county in state, #2,393 nationwide

- Population density: 8.6 people / square mile (3,633 residents)
--- #1 lowest density county in state, #518 nationwide

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