Hoover Creek

A small creek winds through the channel it cut through a park landscape.
Hoover Creek winds through the historic site.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts
West Branch, Iowa
Part of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Audio Description, Wheelchair Accessible

A bridge on Downey Street, just south of President Hoover's birthplace, crosses a tributary of the West Branch of Wapsinonoc Creek. When Herbert Hoover was a boy, it was just an unnamed small stream of water trickling through marshy wetlands. Young Herbert and the neighborhood kids took their willow fishing poles about a quarter mile downstream to catch sunfish and catfish in the main creek.

Bridge on Downey Street

In March 1875, the citizens of West Branch petitioned Cedar County to build "a bridge on Downey Street, near Jesse Hoover's blacksmith shop" so wagons could get across. Twice constructed out of wood, it was finally rebuilt in 1917 as a steel beam and concrete span.


Over time, farmers plowed the rain-absorbing prairie into cultivated fields, and as urban pavement increased rainfall runoff, the creek suffered from too little water in dry seasons and too much water in wet seasons. In 1993, floodwaters nearly reached the foundation of the nearby Friends Meetinghouse where the Hoovers once worshipped.


Studies by the National Park Service revealed that floods have cut a channel in the streambed. That means when floodwaters come, soil is carved from the stream banks. This erosion is threatening the park's historic structures, artifacts, and documents. The National Park Service is looking for ways to control the force of the stream and reduce this erosion. These efforts will help prevent the loss of vegetation that supports native wildlife and anchors this protective green space.

Hoover's Legacy of Water Conservation

As Commerce Secretary for President Warren Harding and later as President, Herbert Hoover supported several environmental conservation measures, especially in regard to water resources development and fisheries management. Perhaps these viewpoints got their start in a young boy's memories of sun-dappled streams and the joy of exploring with his childhood friends the waters of Wapsinonoc Creek.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

Last updated: April 14, 2021