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Facts About Idaho Back to the top

  • Name—Originally suggested for Colorado, the name 'Idaho' was used for a steamship which traveled the Columbia River. With the discovery of gold on the Clearwater River in 1860, the diggings began to be called the Idaho mines. 'Idaho' is a coined or invented word, and is not a derivation of an Indian phrase 'E Dah Hoe (How)' supposedly meaning 'gem of the mountains.'
  • Nickname—The Gem State
  • Motto—'Esto Perpetua' (Let it be perpetual)
  • Discovered—In 1805
  • Organized as Territory—March 4, 1863, act signed by President Lincoln
  • Entered Union—July 3, 1890, 43rd state to join the Union

Geography Back to the top

  • Land Area—83,557 square miles, 14th in area size
  • Water Area—880 square miles
  • Highest Point—The summit of Mount Borah is12,662 feet above sea level. It's located in Custer County in the Lost River Range
  • Lowest Point—The Snake River at Lewiston is 770 feet above sea level
  • Length—479 Miles
  • Width—305 miles at widest point
  • Geographic Center—Settlement of Custer on the Yankee Fork River, Custer County
  • Number of Lakes—More than 2,000
  • Navigable Rivers—Snake, Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, St. Maries and Kootenai
  • Largest Lake—Lake Pend Oreille, 180 square miles
  • Temperature Extremes—Highest, 118 degrees at Orofino July 28, 1934; Lowest, -60 degrees at Island Park Dam, January 18, 1943
  • Population (in 2010)—1,567,582

State Bird Back to the top

mountain bluebirdThe Mountain Bluebird (sialia arctcia) was adopted as the state bird for Idaho by the state legislature in 1931. The Bluebird is about seven inches long, has an azure blue coat and a blue breast with white underfeathers. The mother bird wears a quiet blue grey dress and usually lays six or seven blue-white eggs. The Bluebird's nest is usually built in a hollow tree or crevice. The Bluebird is very neat about it's home and carries all refuse some distance from the nest.

State Fish Back to the top

cutthroat troutThe Cutthroat Trout was designated the state fish by the 1990 legislature. The Cutthroat, along with the Rainbow and Bull Trout, is native to Idaho. The body color varies with the back ranging from steel grey to olive green. The sides may be yellow brown with red or pink along the belly. The Cutthroat's name comes from the distinctive red to orange slash on the underside of its lower jaw.

State Flower Back to the top

syringaThe Syringa (Philadelphus Lewisii) was designated the state flower of Idaho by the legislature in 1931. It is a branching shrub with clusters of white, fragrant flowers. The blossoms are similar to the mock orange, have four petals, and the flowers grow at the ends of short, leafy branches.

State Gemstone Back to the top

star garnetAdopted by the 1967 Legislature, the Idaho Star Garnet is treasured throughout the world by collectors. This stone is considered more precious than either Star Rubies or Star Sapphires. Normally the star in the Idaho Garnet has four rays, but occasionally one has six rays as in a sapphire. The color is usually dark purple or plum, and the star seems to glide or float across the dark surface.

State Horse Back to the top

apaloosa horseThe Appaloosa is an intelligent, fast, and hard working breed. An easygoing disposition and exceptional abilities give this horse a great deal of versatility that no doubt contributes to its rapidly rising popularity. Once the warhorses of the Nez Perce, today the Appaloosa serves as a race horse, in parades, ranch work, and youth programs. The coloring of the Appaloosa's coat is distinct in every individual horse and ranges from white blanketed hips to a full leopard.

State Insect Back to the top

monarch butterflyThe Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was adopted as the state insect by the state legislature in 1992. The Monarch Butterfly is a unique insect. It is a great migrator, traveling many miles during its lifetime, which can be from a few weeks up to a year. Monarchs go through a complete metamorphosis in three to six weeks.

Idaho's Ten Largest Cities
 Back to the top
  • Boise: 205,707 (2009)
  • Nampa: 81,241 (2009)
  • Meridian: 68,516 (2009)
  • Idaho Falls: 55,312 (2009)
  • Pocatello: 55,076 (2009)
  • Coeur d'Alene: 43,805 (2009) 
  • Caldwell: 43,281 (2009)
  • Twin Falls: 42,741 (2009) 
  • Lewiston: 31,887(2009)
  • Rexburg: 28856 (2009)
  • Link to Idaho's Cities and Counties

Idaho's Major Industries Back to the top

  • #1 Manufacturing
  • #2 Health Care
  • #3 Tourism
  • #4 Agriculture
  • #5 Food Processing
  • #6 Timber
  • #7 Mining

 Idaho is Number One in the Nation in the Production of: Back to the top

  • Potatoes
  • Trout
  • Austrian Winter Peas
  • Lentils

City Designations Back to the top

  • Arco - First City Lit by Atomic Energy, July, 1955
  • Ashton - First Dog Sled Race in the Lower 48
  • Boise - Idaho's City of Trees
  • Blackfoot - Potato Capital of the World
  • Buhl - Trout Capital of the World
  • Bruneau - Tallest Free-Standing Sand Dunes in America
  • Coeur d'Alene - Idaho's All-American City
  • Craters of the Moon - Lava Rock Capital
  • Elk River - Western White Pine Capital
  • Franklin - Oldest Settlement in Idaho
  • Hagerman - World's Oldest Horse Fossil
  • Hells Canyon - America's Deepest Gorge
  • Kooskia - Elk Capital of the World
  • Last Chance - Fly Fishing Capital
  • Lewiston - First City incorporated in Idaho
  • Moscow - Pea & Lentil Capital of the World
  • Riggins & Salmon - Whitewater Capitals of the World
  • Salmon River - River of No Return
  • Sun Valley - America's First Ski Resort
  • Twin Falls - Evel Kneivel Jump Site of 1974
  • Wallace & Kellogg- Largest Silver Mines in the U.S.

Movies Made In Idaho Back to the top

  • "Told in the Hills" (Priest Lake), 1919
  • "Northwest Passage" (McCall), 1939
  • "Bus Stop" (near Ketchum), 1956
  • "Breakheart Pass" (Lewiston), 1976
  • "Bronco Billy" (Boise), 1979
  • "Heaven's Gate" (Wallace), 1979
  • "Pale Rider" (Sawtooth Mountains), 1984
  • "Talent for the Game" (Genessee), 1991
  • "Dark Horse" (Wood River Valley), 1992
  • "Dante's Peak" (Wallace),1996
  • "Napoleon Dynamite" (Preston), 2004

Idaho Words of Wisdom Back to the top

" Is there contentment beyond the confines of urban living? You bet. In Idaho, God has carved out a special preview of the hereafter for those who prefer life in a natural state."

Andrew Harper, editor of "The Hideaway Report".

" ...If you pushed me up against a wall as to my favorite spot, I would probably answer the Rocky Mountains of the West, around Idaho. There's something about coming around a corner and seeing a meadow full of wildflowers."

Charles Kurault, CBS journalist and host of "Sunday Morning."

" ...a lot of state this Idaho, that I didn't know about..."

Ernest Hemingway, author of "For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea".

" ...I like Idaho. The crystal streams. The rushing rivers. The forests. The mountains. The lakes as blue as paint. The splash of mountain ash or maple. The foam of the syringa, the state's official flower. The awesome wastes. The fruitful fields. The warm friendliness of crossroads and town. The high sky over all."

A.B. Guthrie, author of "The Big Sky".

Famous Faces Back to the top

ERNEST HEMINGWAY arrived in Sun Valley in 1939 to work on his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Idaho offered wide open spaces for Hemingway to indulge in his passions for hunting, skiing, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Author of such classics as The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway is buried in Ketchum, where he died on July 2, 1961.

THE POET EZRA POUND was born in Hailey, Idaho, in 1885, just 11 miles south of where Ernest Hemingway is buried. Pound left Idaho at 18 months to grow up and become one of the controversial movers and shakers of modern literature.

SKI CHAMPS Gretchen Fraser, an Olympic gold medalist in 1948, and Christin Cooper, a silver medalist in 1984, came from Idaho. Olympic champion (1984) Bill Johnson learned to ski at Bogus Basin just outside of Boise. Picabo Street yet another Olympic silver medalist in 1994 and World Champion Downhill Racer in 1995 and 1996, originally hailed from Ketchum.

MORE OLYMPIADS Decathalete Dan O' Brien, 1996 Olympic gold medal winner and World Record Holder, lives and trains in Moscow, Idaho.

TELEVISION INVENTOR PHILO T. FARNSWORTH (1906-1971) of Rigby produced the first all-electronic television image when he was still just 20 years old. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1984, Farnsworth's first patent, entitled "Television System," was filed January 7, 1927. He also held patents for the cathode ray tube and more than 300 other U.S. and foreign inventions.

GUESS WHO? What would you do if you were born Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner in Wallace, Idaho? Change your name to Lana Turner and become a movie star! Actress Marjorie Reynolds also was born in Buhl, Idaho.

TARZAN! One of the most famous part-time residents of Pocatello, Idaho,, not Cheetah...Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan stories. It is rumored that while running a stationery store in Pocatello, he wrote the first drafts of "Tarzan of the Apes."

BASEBALL HALL OF FAMER, Harmon Killebrew from Payette, was one of baseball's power hitters.

THE FOSBURY FLOP, a high jumping technique, was invented by Ketchum resident Dick Fosbury.

OTHER IDAHO BASEBALL STARS include Larry Jackson (Garden Valley), who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs, and Vernon Law (Meridian), who pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

GUTZON BORGLUM (1871-1941), the sculptor who carved Mt. Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota, was born near Bear Lake, Idaho. Borglum spent 14 years (1927-1941) on the massive sculpture, removing more than 400,000 tons of granite from the 6,200-foot cliff.

TEACHER OF THE NEXT FRONTIER Barbara Morgan, an elementary school teacher from McCall, will be the teachernaut to go into space when the Teacher in Space program resumes. She and David Marquart, another Idaho teacher, were the first and second runners-up in the Teacher in Space Program.

FOOTBALLS AND COWBOYS: Jerry Kramer is Idaho's most famous professional football star, while football and horses were Dee Pickett's passion. Though Pickett made a name for himself locally as quarterback of the Boise State Broncos, he is best known as a premier rodeo cowboy. In 1984 he rode and roped to the top of his profession, earning the Pro Rodeo Championship All Around Cowboy title.

SACAJAWEA, guide, interpreter, cook, horse trader, and general all around lifesaver of the 1805 Lewis and Clark Expedition, is one of the great heroines of the American West. Due largely to her skills as a horse trader, she was recently named Idaho's first-ever business woman by the Idaho Federation of Business and Professional Women.

VARDIS FISHER (1894-1968), author of many novels, including Children of God, Tale of Valor, and Mountain Man (later made into the Hollywood film "Jeremiah Johnson"), is one of Idaho's respected writers.

THE BEAR LAKE MONSTER causes us to question whether we are in Idaho or Scotland. Around 1900, there were several sightings of strange creatures in Bear Lake (on the Idaho/Utah border). The serpent-like monsters were up to 90 feet in length, could move faster than running horses, and were witnessed by several different people. To this day, there are still those who refuse to night fish on the lake. For more information, contact Craig Thomas at 208-945-2072.

Little Known Idaho Facts Back to the top

Furby, the insanely popular interactive furball from Tiger Electronics, has Idaho roots. Tiger bought the the company in the late 1990s.

63% of Idaho is public land managed by the federal government. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in the 48 contiguous states - 2.3 million acres of rugged, unspoiled back country.

The world's first alpine skiing chairlift was (and still is) located in Sun Valley. Built by Union Pacific Railroad engineers, it was designed after a banana-boat loading device. The 1936 fee: 25 cents per ride.

The world's first nuclear power plant is located at the Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory (INEEL), near Arco, Idaho. The Atomic Energy Commission offered the town of Arco electricity generated by atomic energy in 1953.

The deepest river gorge in the North American Continent is Idaho's Hells Canyon - 7,900 feet deep. Yes, it's deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Sacajawea, a Lemhi Shoshoni from an area now on the Montana/Idaho border, escorted Meriwether Lewis and William Clark through northern Idaho to the mouth of the Columbia River drainage. Today, Highway 12 follows the old Lewis and Clark Trail along the Lochsa (pronounced lock-saw) and Clearwater Rivers until they merge with the Snake and continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean.

Five of history's pioneer trails, including the Oregon Trail and the California Trail, cross Southern Idaho. Wagon ruts are still visible all along the rugged terrain.

The Scott Ski Pole, an invention which helped revolutionize skiing, was invented by Ketchum's Edward Scott in 1958.
Nearly 85 percent of all the commercial trout sold in the United States is produced in the Hagerman Valley near Twin Falls.

Butch Cassidy , a.k.a - George Leroy Parker, robbed the bank in Montpelier, Idaho, on August 13, 1896. He got away with $7,165, allegedly to hire a lawyer for his partner Matt Warner, who was awaiting trial for murder in Ogden, Utah.
Shoshone Falls (212 feet), near Twin Falls, Idaho, drops 52 feet further than Niagara Falls.

The Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area, near Kuna, is the location of the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America. Thousands of visitors travel to the site each year, from March through August, to observe the birds.

Wilson Butte Cave, near Twin Falls, was excavated in 1959 and found to contain bones of bison and antelope, as well as some arrowheads and other artifacts that were carbon-dated to be 14,500 years old. This makes them "among the oldest definitely dated artifacts in the New World."

Craters of the Moon National Monument in southeast Idaho contains nearly 40 separate lava flows, some formed as recently as 250 years ago. The other-worldly area was used as a training ground for early astronauts. The lavish June display of wild flowers adds to the surreal quality of the landscape.

"Coeur d'Alene" means "heart of an awl" in French.

Between 1863 (when Abraham Lincoln signed the bill making Idaho a Territory) and statehood (27 years later), the Idaho Territory had 16 governors, four who never set foot in Idaho.

Appropriately named the "Gem State," Idaho produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones, some of which can be found nowhere else in the world.

The Silver Valley in northern Idaho has produced more than $4 billion in precious metals since 1884, making the area one of the top 10 mining districts in the world.

One of the largest diamonds ever found in the United States, nearly 20 carats, was discovered near McCall, Idaho.
In 1953, the engineering prototype of the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was built and tested in the Idaho desert on the Snake River Plain near Arco.

Idaho's Salmon River, known as the "River of No Return" because of its difficult passage, is the nation's longest free-flowing river that heads and flows within a single state.

Did you know that Idaho has a seaport? The Port of Lewiston allows the exportation of millions of bushels of grain down the Snake and Columbia Rivers for overseas shipment.

After the great Wallace fire of 1910, the Pulaski, a mattock-axe tool used in fire fighting, was invented in Idaho.
When Bernard DeVoto, author of the 1948 Pulitzer Prize winning history Across the Wide Missouri, died in 1955, the U.S. Forest Service saw to DeVoto's wish that his ashes be scattered over Idaho's Bitterroot Wilderness.

The Statehouse in Boise and dozens of other buildings in the city are geothermally heated from underground hot springs. In fact, Idaho is well sprinkled with public and private hot springs.