Snow fence information
Iowa’s topography allows the state to be a leading producer of wind energy, but those same winds also create blowing and drifting problems on roadways during the winter season. Snow fences or windbreaks have been used in the farming community since the first settlers arrived in the state.
The windbreaks protected the farmstead and livestock from cold temperatures and blowing and drifting snow. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) also uses snow fences as a tool during the winter months to control blowing and drifting on the roadway. The Iowa DOT maintains approximately 120 miles of snow fence on Iowa highways. Snow fences can help keep snow from the roadway and are also very helpful for improving visibility in areas where blowing snow is a problem.
Snow fences commonly found along Iowa roadways to control blowing and drifting snow include:
- Temporary fences, which are typically 4-foot tall and made of wood lath or plastic material and placed on private land during the winter months.
- Permanent fences, which are usually 6-foot tall and made using a wood frame with plastic fence attached to the face of the fence.
- Living snow fences, which are made of trees, bushes or native grasses that are natural barriers to blowing snow.
- Standing corn snow fences, which are made by using 8-12 rows of standing corn leftover after the harvest. The landowner is paid for the corn, but is able to harvest the corn in the spring..
Iowa's Cooperative Snow Fence Program
Benefits to public
- Reduces blowing and drifting snow on roadways.
- Stores snow at low cost.
- Reduces the accident rate during snowy, windy conditions.
- Creates safer travel conditions.
- Decreases freezing and thawing effects on the roadway.
- Lowers snow-removal cost.
- Increases visibility.
Benefits to landowners
- Improves access to farmsteads and rural areas.
- Helps reduce soil erosion.
- Provides a service to your community.
- Conserves wildlife.
- Can increase yield by retaining moisture and reducing drying effects of the wind.
Iowa's Cooperative Snow Fence Program - printable PDF
Living snow fence activity page
The Iowa DOT plants shrubs and trees along highways to form living snow fences to help keep drifting snow from blowing onto the roads and provide needed habitat for wild animals in Iowa.
Visit the Living Snow Fence Activity page to see if you can find all of the animals that can be found living in this habitat and learn interesting facts about each animal.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
- Protect against prevailing winds to manage snow and decrease snow removal costs.
- Enhance public safety.
- Establish wildlife habitat.
- Control erosion.
- The north or west sides of lanes, roads, railroads, and public facilities.
- Land that was cropped four out of the six years from 1996 to 2001.
View the PDF for more information regarding the CRP.