15 Fascinating Facts About Idaho

Idaho is home to the deepest river gorge in the US, which is 7,993 feet deep, surpassing the depth of the Grand Canyon.

Idaho, also known as “The Gem State,” became the 43rd state to join the United States on July 3, 1890. It has a population of 1,787,065 people, making it the 39th most populous state.

Idaho is bordered by six states: Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It covers a total of 83,569 square miles (216,443 square kilometers) of land and water, making it the 14th largest state in the US. The capital of Idaho is Boise, located in the western part of the state.

But let’s move on to some of the more interesting facts about this state.

The Origins of Idaho’s Name Are Complex

When the US Congress was looking for a name for Colorado, George M. Willing suggested “Idaho,” claiming it originated from the Native American Shoshoni language, meaning “gem of the mountains” or “the sun comes from the mountains.” When it was discovered that the name was made up, Congress chose Colorado instead. However, a steamship transporting miners in the Pacific Northwest was named Idaho, and Idaho County was named after the steamship a year later. The name became increasingly popular, leading to the establishment of the Idaho Territory, which later became a state.

Idaho Has a Rich History of Human Inhabitation

Excavations at Wilson Butte Cave, an archaeological site near Twin Falls, Idaho, revealed evidence of human activity dating back at least 15,000 years. In 2019, an excavation in Western Idaho suggested that humans have lived there for as long as 16,600 years.

Fur Trading Was Idaho’s Main Attraction in the Early Days

The first trading post for furs west of the Rocky Mountains was established in 1810 by the Missouri Fur Company along the Snake River near St. Anthony, Idaho. Although the post, Fort Henry, was abandoned shortly after its construction, it paved the way for European settlers to move into the area. By 1820, the British Hudson’s Bay Company had established control over trade along the Snake River, with more fur trappers following suit.

Idaho Was Once Disputed Territory

In the 1800s, Idaho was part of the Oregon Country, which was claimed by both the British and the United States. The British maintained that the land was part of the Columbia District, which included parts of modern-day Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, and British Columbia.

In 1818, an agreement was reached between the United States and Britain, which permitted both countries to claim and develop parcels of land and travel freely in the Oregon region. With the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the United States gained complete control of the area, except for what currently makes up British Columbia. As Oregon Country became more popular, people from different parts of the Western world migrated there, including a significant number of Basque migrants from Spain. These hardworking miners and shepherds are highly respected and have created one of the largest Basque communities in the US, located in Boise, Idaho, where a Basque museum and the Jaialdi festival are held every five years. Idaho was a hotbed for gold during the California Gold Rush in 1849, and its first gold rush occurred in 1860, leading to further settlement in the area. Idaho produced 19% of all gold mined in the US between 1860 and 1866. The state is also known as “The Gem State” due to its abundance of 72 different semi-precious and precious gemstones, including the Star Garnet, the state gem, which can only be found in Idaho and India. Idaho boasts of its unspoiled natural areas, including the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area that covers 2.3 million acres (930,000 hectares), making it one of the largest regions of protected wilderness in the US. Finally, Ernest Hemingway, the author of “The Old Man and the Sea,” moved to Ketchum, Idaho, in 1959, where he spent his final years.

He purchased a house with a view of the Big Wood River, but his life was far from peaceful. Hemochromatosis plagued him in his final years, and he struggled with depression. On July 2, 1961, Hemingway took his own life with a double-barrelled shotgun at his home in Ketchum.

The deepest river gorge in the US is in Idaho.

Hell’s Canyon, located in the Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area, has been formed over time by the Snake River. The canyon spans 10 miles (16 km) along Idaho’s western border, and it is 7,993 feet (2,436 m) deep, surpassing even the Grand Canyon in depth.

Idaho’s state seal is the only one designed by a woman.

In 1891, the First Legislature for the State of Idaho held a competition to design the state seal. Emma Edwards Green, an artist from New York City, won the competition with her design featuring a miner, a woman, and local flora and fauna. She was awarded $100, equivalent to approximately $2,850 today.

Evel Knievel attempted to cross a canyon in Idaho on a rocket-powered motorbike.

Evel Knievel was a renowned daredevil, known for his motorcycle jumps in the 1960s. In Idaho, he attempted to cross the Snake River Canyon on a motorbike with rockets attached, but the stunt was unsuccessful, and he almost lost his life when his safety parachute failed.

The world’s first chairlift was constructed in Idaho’s Sun Valley Ski Resort.

The Sun Valley Ski Resort was the first ski resort in the US, built in 1936 by the Union Pacific Railroad company. During that time, the Union Pacific Engineering team developed the world’s first chairlift, which revolutionized the snow sports industry.

The cult classic movie Napoleon Dynamite is set in Idaho.

If you haven’t watched the movie “Napoleon Dynamite” yet, it’s recommended that you do before continuing to read this. The film takes place in Preston, Idaho and follows the life of an awkward teenager trying to navigate high school in a small town. The director, Jared Hess, actually graduated from Preston high school and filmed some scenes there.

Idaho is known for being the biggest producer of potatoes in the United States. This may not come as a surprise to many, but it’s still a fact worth noting. Although New Hampshire was the first state to grow potatoes, it was Henry Spalding, a missionary, who introduced them to Idaho in 1836. Little did he know that Idaho potatoes would become so popular that they would eventually make up a third of all potatoes grown in the country. Idaho loves potatoes so much that they have a giant potato dropped from a crane at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Whether you’re a fan of nature, skiing, or just love crispy hot potato fries, Idaho has something to offer everyone. It’s a state with a lot to explore and not enough space to list it all.


1. What is the state nickname of Idaho?

The state nickname of Idaho is the “Gem State.” This is because Idaho is known for its abundance of gemstones, including opals, garnets, and star garnets. In fact, Idaho is the only state in the country where star garnets can be found.

2. What is the highest peak in Idaho?

The highest peak in Idaho is Borah Peak, which stands at 12,662 feet tall. Borah Peak is located in the central part of the state, in the Lost River Range. Climbing Borah Peak is a popular activity for experienced hikers and mountaineers.

3. What is the capital city of Idaho?

The capital city of Idaho is Boise. Boise is the largest city in the state and is located in the southwestern part of Idaho. It is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, skiing, and whitewater rafting.

4. What is the state bird of Idaho?

The state bird of Idaho is the mountain bluebird. This small bird is known for its bright blue feathers and is often spotted in the mountains and open fields of Idaho. It is a symbol of happiness and good luck in many cultures.

5. What is the largest city in Idaho?

The largest city in Idaho is Boise, with a population of over 230,000 people. Boise is the capital city of Idaho and is the economic and cultural center of the state. It is known for its vibrant downtown area and outdoor recreation opportunities.

6. What is the state flower of Idaho?

The state flower of Idaho is the syringa. This fragrant flower is a type of lilac and is found throughout the state. It is named after the Greek word for “pipe” because its stems were once used to make reed pipes.

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