State of northwestern USA, bordered to the east by Montana and Wyoming, to the south by Utah and Nevada, to the west by Oregon and Washington, and to the north by British Columbia, Canada; area 214,314 sq km/82,747 sq mi; population (2010) 1,567,582; capital Boise. It is largely mountainous, and its many ranges include the Rocky Mountains and the Bitterroot Range. The Columbia Plateau in the south has fertile agricultural regions, and crops include wheat and peas. There are large forests, and the state is famous for its waterfalls, such as the 65 m-/212 ft-high Shoshone Falls on the Snake River. The chief industries are tourism, mining, beef, and agriculture: Idaho is the leading producer of potatoes in the USA. Cities include Nampa, Meridian, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Coeur d'Alene, Twin Falls, Caldwell, and Moscow. In 1951, Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (1949) was the first nuclear installation to produce a usable supply of electricity. Idaho was admitted to the Union in 1890 as the 43rd US state.
Physical Idaho has three main land regions: the Rocky Mountains region, the Columbia Plateau, and the Basin and Range region. The Rocky Mountains are the largest region, extending along the panhandle and include Sawtooth Mountains and Borah Peak, which at 3,862 m/12,662 ft, is Idaho's highest point. It is a region of steep canyons and deep gorges and has several wilderness areas. The Columbia Plateau stretches across southern Idaho to the western border and panhandle and has fertile plateau areas, of which the lava-layered Snake River Plain surrounding the Snake River is the most dominant feature. The Basin and Range region lies to the southeast of the Columbia Plateau and is an area of grazing lands and deep valleys. Idaho is almost entirely made up of mountains and these include the Bitterroot Range, on the border with Montana, rising to a height of around 2,100 m/7,000 ft; the Seven Devils Mountains on the Oregon border; the Coeur d'Alene Mountains, part of the Bitterroot Range and averaging a height of 1,800 m/6,000 ft; and the Clearwater Mountains to the south. Further south are the Salmon River Mountains, which include the sharp granite peaks of Bighorn Crags; the Sawtooth Mountains with picturesque lakes and meadows; the Lost River Range, a vast wilderness featuring some of Idaho's highest peaks; the Lemhi Range east of the Lost River Range; the Snake River Range on the Snake River; the Caribou Range northeast of Grays Lake; and the Blackfoot Mountains rising northeast of Blackfoot.
Snake River has its source in Yellowstone National Park and runs through Hell's Canyon (2,330 m/7,647 ft deep), the deepest gorge in North America, to form about one-third of the state's border with Oregon and Washington. There are dams on the Snake River and a port was constructed at the town of Lewiston in 1975. The Snake River has many branches: the Salmon River, known as the ‘River of No Return’ because it is so hard to navigate; and the Clearwater, Big Wood, Blackfoot, Boise, Payette, and Weiser rivers. The Kootenai River and the Pend Oreille River empty into the Columbia River. The Spokane River begins in Coeur d'Alene Lake, into which the Coeur d'Alene River empties. The St Joe River drains the Bitterroot Range. Major waterfalls include Twin Falls; Mesa Falls; Moyie Falls, and Auger Falls. Idaho also has many mineral springs, particularly in the south, including Big Creek Springs; Bald Mountain Springs; Warm Springs; Lava Hot Springs, and Magic Springs. The largest lake in Idaho is Pend Oreille Lake, near the Canadian border, covering 383 sq km/148 sq mi. Coeur d'Alene Lake, is extremely picturesque and has a large population of ospreys. Other lakes include lakes Alturas, Bear, Grays, Henrys, Payette, Pettit, Priest, Redfish, and Stanley. Idaho's mountain greenery includes the Douglas fir, many kinds of pine and spruce, hemlock, larch, and white fir. The state is about 40% forested, with some of the largest white pine forests in the world. Elderberry, huckleberry, purple heather, snowberry, and thimbleberry are common shrubs, and mountain valley meadow flowers include buttercup, columbine, larkspur, lily, and violet. Mountain wildlife includes bears, cougars, deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, pronghorns, and Rocky Mountain sheep. Beavers, bobcats, coyotes, mink, muskrats, otters, and raccoons frequent the forested areas. Game birds and fish – especially salmon and trout – are common throughout the state.
Features Idaho's mountains are its chief distinguishing feature and it has few historical sites. Old Fort Hall, in Pocatello, marks the site of the original fort built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1834. Cataldo Mission, west of Kellogg, dates from the 1850s and is the state's oldest building. There are many ghost towns dating from the gold rush and these include Silver City in Owyhee County and Idaho City in Boise County. Wallace District Mining Museum charts the history of mining. The Fort Hall Indian Reservation surrounds the historic junction of the Snake River and features part of the Oregon Trail. The Nez Percé National Historical Park near Lewiston reflects the history of the Nez Percé Indian region and honours the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804–06. The town of Chesterfield was founded in 1880 by Mormons from Utah. The Ernest Hemingway Memorial is situated in the town cemetery at Ketchum, where the US writer is buried. Idaho's natural features are its most dominating, and Hell's Canyon on the Snake River south of Lewiston is the most popular natural attraction. A National Reactor Testing Station is situated on the plains of Hell's Canyon's upper reaches. Idaho has hundreds of underground caverns of which Crystal Ice Cave, near American Falls, is probably the most spectacular, with a frozen river, frozen waterfall, and other formations of ice and stone. Shoshone Ice Caves also have ice-covered walls and ceilings. The sandstone Minnetonka Cave, in St Charles Canyon near Paris, contains many prehistoric marine fossils. The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument features cliffs rich in fossils, displayed at the Hagerman Valley Historical Society Museum nearby. Idaho has 10 national forests: Boise, Caribou-Targhee (which includes the Curlew National Grassland), Clearwater, Coeur d'Alene, Kaniksu, Nez Percé, Payette, St Joe, Salmon-Challis, and Sawtooth. Coeur d'Alene, Kaniksu, and St Joe are administered as Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Parts of Montana national forests Bitterroot and Kootenai lie in Idaho, as does part of Yellowstone National Park. The unusual land feature, Craters of the Moon National Monument, is situated south of Arco. There are about 25 state parks in Idaho of which the best-known are Farragut State Park and Heyburn State Park.
Features that reflect more modern events are EBR-1, the first nuclear reactor in the USA to generate usable amounts of electricity, now a National Historic Landmark; Soda Springs, with its artificial carbon-dioxide geyser; and Sun Valley (1935), the first ski resort in the USA and site of the world's first chairlifts.
Culture Idaho is an exceptionally rugged state that evolved from the activities of miners, farmers, ranchers, and Mormon missionaries. Hunting, fishing, and skiing are strong components of state culture. Farming is also an important way of life. Lacking great manufacturing industry, Idaho does not attract many newcomers. Winter carnivals, held during the skiing season, include the Sun Valley and McCall Carnivals. Music is particularly focused on traditional folk and country with the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest and Festival taking place annually in Weiser in June. Idaho has a large number of American Indian inhabitants and the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Festival at Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Blackfoot is held every year in early August. Traditional rural festivals and rodeos include Lumberjack Days in Orofino; Eastern Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot; Lewiston Roundup; Idaho Spud Day in Shelley; Border Days in Grangeville, and Snake River Stampede in Nampa. Boise hosts a River Festival in June, the Western Idaho Fair, and Art in the Park, both in the late summer.
Idaho's museums include the Idaho State Historical Museum (1907) in Boise; the Boise Art Museum (1931), focused on American landscape painting; the Idaho Museum of Natural History (1934) in Pocatello; and the Herrett Center for Arts and Sciences in Twin Falls. The Idaho Black History Museum (1995) is located in Boise's Julia Davis Park.
Idaho's best-known ski resort is Sun Valley, but others include Bogus Basin, Brundage, Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, Pebble Creek, Grand Targhee, and Tamarack. Camping, mountain climbing, and white water rafting are among Idaho's many recreational activities.
GovernmentIdaho's state constitution The state constitution was approved on 3 July 1890.
Structure of state government The legislature of Idaho comprises a 35-member Senate and a 70-member House of Representatives. There are 35 legislative districts with two representatives and one senator per district, serving two-year terms with no more than four terms. Idaho is represented in the US Congress by two senators and two representatives and has four electoral votes in presidential elections.
Idaho's governor, elected to a four-year term, does not have the power to appoint the top state officials. Republican Butch Otter took the governorship in January 2007. The highest court is the Idaho Supreme Court with a chief justice and four associate justices, each serving renewable six-year terms. The court of appeals has four judges who serve renewable six-year terms. Idaho has 44 counties, and each is governed by three commissioners, two serving two-year terms and one a four-year term. Most cities have a mayor-council form of government.
State politics are dominated by Republicans, who have controlled the legislature since the late 1950s.
Economy Idaho depends heavily on the tourist industry that forms the foundation of its service industry economy, and the ski resorts are a major contributor to the state's income. The chief agricultural product of the state is beef, but Idaho is also an important producer of lamb and wool. Idaho has many rich alluvial and lava-based soils and is suited to potato production, barley, and sugar beet. Other key crops include wheat and hay, alfalfa seed, bluegrass seed, hops, and mint. Mining is focused on silver, phosphate rock, and gold, but clays, copper, crushed stone, garnet, lead, molybdenum, sand, gravel, and vanadium are also important. Manufacturing is concentrated in the science and technology sector, as well as food processing and canneries. Other products include chemicals, wood, lumber and paper products, sheet metals, and printed materials.
HistoryExploration and early settlement Idaho was originally home to the Shoshone, Nez Percé, and Coeur D'Alene peoples. Other American Indian peoples included the Pend d'Oreille, Kutenai, Paiute, and Bannock. It was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was explored by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1805–06. Initially trapping was the key white activity in the area. There were several Canadian fur-trading posts built in the region during the 1800s. Other visitors to the area were Presbyterian missionaries.
The Idaho territory The first non-indigenous people to settle permanently were the Mormons in 1860, the same year gold was discovered in Orofino Creek. Two years later more gold was discovered in the Boise Basin. The Idaho Territory, including Montana and much of modern-day Wyoming, was formed in 1863, with Lewiston as its capital. The capital was moved to Boise the following year. Settlement in the 1870s led to a series of battles between US forces and American Indian peoples. The major battle of the period took place on 17 June 1877 at White Bird Canyon in north-central Idaho, when the Nez Percé decimated the US army. The Nez Percé were later defeated by increased levels of troops. In 1878 the Bannock Indians, who had been sent to live on reservations, revolted but were suppressed by US forces.
Early statehood The Idaho Territory adopted a constitution in 1889 and entered the Union as the 43rd state on 3 July 1890. In the late 19th century mining was Idaho's chief activity, stimulating the development of railroads and the growth of an early trading and manufacturing economy. The 1890s saw violent labour disputes in the state involving the Western Federation of Miners, the chief union in the Industrial Workers of the World (a US labour union dedicated to the overthrow of capitalism). After a strike in 1899, Governor Frank Steunenberg declared martial law and federal troops were called upon to break the strike. Steunenberg was murdered in 1905 by a bomb and the ensuing trial in 1907 gained worldwide notoriety when a union member confessed to the killing, accusing three other union leaders of complicity. Railroads and the development of irrigation on the Snake River brought growth to cities in the south. The timber industry, begun in 1906, was by World War I a leading enterprise.
World War I and World War II World War I was a time of agricultural expansion as wartime food shortages created farm prosperity. Idaho was badly shaken by the impact of the Great Depression in 1929, however, and was forced to rely heavily on federal aid administrated by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The 1930s creation of the Sun Valley resort by the Union Pacific Railroad put Idaho on the vacation and recreation map. World War II brought a second economic boom to the state, with factories manufacturing airplanes, arms, and other military supplies. Lake Pend Oreille became a major submarine training site, and metal mining became increasingly important. Camp Minidoka, near Twin Falls, was a Japanese labour camp during the mass internments of the Japanese during this period. In the post-war period Idaho experienced a housing boom, huge growth in the lumber industry, and increased urbanization. The Republican party has dominated in both state and national elections since World War II.
Atomic age and recent developments The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) built the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory near Idaho Falls in 1949, and nuclear-powered electricity was pioneered in the state throughout the 1950s. Hydroelectric dams were built to meet the energy demands of an increasing population and spurred further agricultural expansion. There were two major disasters in the 1970s: an underground fire in the Sunshine silver mine caused 91 deaths in 1972 and the collapse of the Teton Dam in 1976 caused severe flooding. The mining industry declined during the 1980s and 1990s, and Idaho began to experience tensions between environmentalists and developers over the use of natural resources. An increase in tourism in north Idaho has been important for the economy.
Famous peoplesport Harmon Killebrew (1936–2011), baseball player; Picabo Street (1971– ), skier
the arts Gutzon Borglum (1867–1941), sculptor; Ezra Pound (1885–1972), poet and critic; Lana Turner (1920–1995), actor
science Sacagawea (c.1788–1812), explorer; Philo Farnsworth (1906–1971), inventor; James Rainwater (1917–1986), physicist.
Idaho – flag
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