Cedar Falls was founded in 1845 by William Sturgis. It was originally named Sturgis Falls, for the first family who settled the site and who continued to live in the city for years. The city was called Sturgis Falls until it was merged with Cedar City (another city on the other side of the Cedar River), creating Cedar Falls. The city's founders are honored each year with a week long community-wide celebration named in their honor – the Sturgis Falls Celebration.
Because of the availability of water power, Cedar Falls developed as a milling and industrial center prior to the Civil War. The establishment of the Civil War Soldiers' Orphans Home in Cedar Falls changed the direction in which the city developed when, following the war, it became the first building on the campus of the Iowa State Normal School (now the University of Northern Iowa).
Cedar Falls is located at 42°31′24″N 92°26′45″W  (42.523520, −92.446402). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 29.61 square miles (76.69 km2), of which, 28.75 square miles (74.46 km2) is land and 0.86 square miles (2.23 km2) is water.
Natural forest, prairie and wetland areas are found within the city limits at the Hartman Reserve Nature Center.
Cedar Falls is part of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metropolitan area.
As of the census of 2010, there were 39,260 people, 14,608 households, and 8,091 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,365.6 inhabitants per square mile (527.3/km2). There were 15,477 housing units at an average density of 538.3 per square mile (207.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.4% White, 2.1% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.0% of the population.
There were 14,608 households of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 44.6% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.88.
The median age in the city was 26.8 years. 17.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 29.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.5% were from 25 to 44; 20.1% were from 45 to 64; and 12.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.1% male and 51.9% female.
As of the census of 2000, there were 36,145 people, 12,833 households, and 7,558 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,277.2 people per square mile (493.1/km²). There were 13,271 housing units at an average density of 468.9 per square mile (181.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.14% White, 1.57% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 1.61% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. 1.08% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 12,833 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.9% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.1% were non-families. 25.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.91.
Age spread: 18.0% under the age of 18, 30.6% from 18 to 24, 20.5% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $70,226, and the median income for a family was $85,158. Males had a median income of $60,235 versus $50,312 for females. The per capita income for the city was $27,140. About 5.6% of families and 4.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.5% of those under age 18, and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.
Arts and culture
In 1986, the City of Cedar Falls established the Cedar Falls Art and Culture Board, which oversees the operation of the City's Cultural Division and the James & Meryl Hearst Center for the Arts.
The Cedar Falls Public Library is housed in the Adele Whitenach Davis building located at 524 Main Street. The 47,000 square foot (4,400 m²) structure, designed by Struxture Architects, replaced the Carniege-Dayton building in early 2004. As of the 2016 fiscal year, the library's holdings included approximately 8,000 audio materials, 12,000 video materials, and 104,000 books and periodicals for a grand total of approximately 124,000 items. Patrons made 245,000 visits which took advantage of circulation services, adult, teen, and youth programming. Circulation of library materials for fiscal year 2016 was 543,134. The library also provides public access to more than 30 public computers which provide Internet access, office software suites, high resolution color printing, wi-fi, and various games.
The mission of the Cedar Falls Public Library is to promote literacy and provide open access to resources which facilitate lifelong learning. The library is a member of the Cedar Valley Library Consortium(CVLC). Cedar Falls Public Library shares an Integrated Library System (SirsiDynix Symphony) with the Waterloo Public Library. Library management is provided by Kelly Stern, Director of the Cedar Falls Public Library.
The Cedar Falls Historical Society has its offices in the Victorian Home and Carriage House Museum. It preserves Cedar Falls' history through its five museums, collection, archives, and public programs. Besides the Victorian House, the Society operates the Cedar Falls Ice House, Little Red Schoolhouse, and Behrens-Rapp Station.
Besides hosting one of the three Iowa public universities, University of Northern Iowa (UNI), Cedar Falls is home to two high schools: Valley Lutheran High School, a private Christian school, and Cedar Falls High School, which is part of the public school district. The public school district, Cedar Falls Community Schools, includes two junior high schools and seven elementary schools. There is also a private Catholic elementary school at St. Patrick Catholic Church. The Malcolm Price Lab School/Northern University High School, was a state-funded K-12 school run by the university. It closed in 2012 following cuts at UNI.
Utilities and Internet access
The city owns its power, gas and water, and cable TV service. Because of this, Cedar Falls Utilities provides gigabit speeds to residents, this became available on January 14, 2015. Cedar Falls has the power to do so because, unlike 19 other states, Iowa does not prohibit municipal broadband from competing with the private cable TV monopoly.
- 88.1 KBBG
- 88.9 KWVI
- 89.5 KHKE
- 90.9 KUNI (FM)
- 92.3 KKHQ – Licensed to Oelwein with main studios in Waterloo
- 93.5 KCVM
- 94.5 KULT-LP
- 97.7 KCRR – Licensed to Grundy Center with main studios in Waterloo
- 98.5 KOEL-FM
- 99.3 KWAY-FM – Located in Waverly
- 100.1 KBOL-LP
- 101.9 KNWS-FM
- 105.1 KCFI
- 105.7 KOKZ
- 107.9 KFMW
- 600 WMT – Located in Cedar Rapids
- 640 WOI – Located in Ames
- 950 KOEL – Located in Oelwein
- 1040 WHO – Located in Des Moines
- 1090 KNWS
- 1250 KCFI
- 1330 KPTY
- 1540 KXEL
- 1650 KCNZ
- 2 KGAN 2 (CBS) – Located in Cedar Rapids
- 7 KWWL 7 (NBC, This TV on DT2, Me-TV on DT3)
- 9 KCRG 9 (ABC) – Located in Cedar Rapids
- 12 KIIN 12 (PBS/IPTV) – Located in Iowa City
- 17 K17ET 17 / K44FK 44 (TBN)
- 20 KWKB 20 (The CW) – Located in Iowa City
- 28 KFXA 28 (Fox) – Located in Cedar Rapids
- 32 KRIN 32 (PBS/IPTV)
- 40 KFXB-TV 40 (CTN) – Located in Dubuque
- The Courier, daily newspaper
- The Cedar Falls Times, weekly newspaper
- The Cedar Valley What Not, weekly advertiser
The underground music scene in the Cedar Falls area from 1977 to present day is well documented. The Wartburg College Art Gallery in Waverly, Iowa hosted a collaborative history of the bands, record labels, and music venues involved in the Cedar Falls music scene which ran from March 17 to April 14, 2007. This effort has been continued as a wiki style website called The Secret History of the Cedar Valley.
- Annabeth Gish – actress
- Gary Kroeger – actor, Saturday Night Live 1982–1985
- Michael Mosley - actor, Scrubs
- Mark Steines – co-host, Entertainment Tonight, alumnus of University of Northern Iowa
- Joe Trotter -— actor/comedian, Andersonville
- Trev Alberts – football player, 1993 Butkus Award (for best linebacker in NCAA Division I), All-American at Nebraska; a No. 1 draft choice of Indianapolis Colts, broadcaster, Director of Athletics at University of Nebraska-Omaha
- Don Denkinger - Major League Baseball umpire, made controversial call in 1985 World Series
- Travis Fulton – UFC fighter
- David Johnson - running back for NFL's Arizona Cardinals, UNI alumnus
- Bryce Paup - NFL player, UNI alumnus
- Chad Rinehart - NFL player, Boone High School, UNI
- Nick Ring - UFC fighter
- Edgar Seymour - Olympic bobsledder
- Terry Stotts - NBA player and coach
- Dedric Ward - NFL wide receiver, UNI alumnus
- Kurt Warner - NFL quarterback for St. Louis Rams, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, Super Bowl champion, UNI alumnus
- Ross Pierschbacher - NFL player
- Isaac Boettger - NFL player
- Karen Holvik – classical soprano, currently on the faculty of the Eastman School of Music
- Nilo Hovey - acclaimed instrumental music pedagogue, author of numerous instrument method books
- House of Large Sizes – an alternative rock band
- Bonnie Koloc – folk singer, songwriter and musician, born in Waterloo, Iowa, attended UNI
- Spirit of the Stairway - Mathcore band
- Bill Stewart - jazz drummer and composer, attended UNI
- Tracie Spencer - Singer
- Marv Diemer – Iowa state legislator
- Charles Grassley – U.S. Senator, attended UNI
- Gil Gutknecht – former Minnesota congressman
- Roger Jepsen – former U.S. Senator
- Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881–1954) – novelist
- R.V. Cassill – novelist and short story writer
- James Hearst – poet, farmer, professor of creative writing at UNI between 1941 and 1975
- Helen Markley Miller (1896 – 1984), writer of historical and biographical fiction for children about the Western United States.
- Ruth Suckow Nuhn (1892–1960) – author of short stories and novels (including Country People, The Folks, New Hope)
- Ferner Nuhn (1903–1989) – literary critic, author of articles and essays, artist, Quaker activist
- Nancy Price - author of Sleeping with the Enemy
- Leland Sage - professor at UNI and historian
- Robert James Waller - author of The Bridges of Madison County, attended UNI
- Marc Andreessen – co-founder, Netscape Corporation
- Adelia M. Hoyt (1865-1966) – Braille librarian, Library of Congress
- John H. Livingston - aviator and air racer
- Randy & Vicki Weaver – parents, John Deere Employee, Ruby Ridge incident
- Ben Hagarty - editor and camera operator for Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige: The Making of Strength of a Woman - An Album Documentary, and Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life documentaries
- Tim Dodd - popular STEM communicator and YouTube Creator known as the "Everyday Astronaut"