Lost Lake

Lost Lake: A Deep Map of a Farm Field

This work was published as my Master’s thesis in 2020.

Farm fields are an integral part of the Iowa landscape. Seemingly simple-looking from the surface, an unknowing observer might consider a farm field a plain patch of dirt. Much less known is that these fields, with their built systems, make up the majority of space within the rural built environment. Today, these spaces are highly designed systems of infrastructure that includes miles of subterranean tile drainage. Through the process of deep mapping, which allows for the combination of multiple quantitative, qualitative, and multimedia data about a place with the purpose of building a spatial narrative, this project tells the story of Lake Cairo, a former lake located just northwest of Jewell in Hamilton County, Iowa. Lake Cairo is one example of many in a massive de-centralized and uncoordinated undertaking to drain the northern Iowa landscape of its lakes during the first part of the twentieth-century. This process of change shifted the ecology and land use putting into motion changes that would affect the communities, economy, and the environment of Iowa for decades to come.

Click here to access the PDF for this thesis.

*Winner of the 2021 Annual Award for the Outstanding Master’s Thesis in Iowa History through the Iowa History Center

*Awarded a 2022-2023 Brown Graduate Fellowship at Iowa State University to support this research. Read more here.