The name was given by F. A. Blasher when he founded the town in 1887. He persuaded friends in his former home city, Des Moines, Iowa, to finance the some of the developments and operated under the name of Des Moines Improvement Company.
The city faces a long sweep of crescent beach, its shores lined with summer homes, and suburban residences. By the 1940s, poultry raising, dairying, and berry cultivation were the leading industries.
Today Des Moines offers six miles of shoreline that includes public beaches, waterfront parks, a 900-slip marina, fine dining and a popular boardwalk. The city is also home to Highline Community College and a future satellite campus for Central Washington University.