Interesting Idaho facts

80 Interesting Facts About Idaho

Idaho is well known for its potatoes, gems, and volcanic landscapes. Below you’ll find out what else “The Gem State” is famous for with these fascinating and fun Idaho facts!

General Idaho Facts

  • Idaho is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the US. The Rocky Mountains cover the northern half of the state.
  • Depending on who you ask, people say that Idaho is shaped like a boot or a gun, with its skinny northern tip (the Idaho Panhandle).
  • Idaho has a land area of 83,569 mi² (216,443 km²), making it the 14th largest state in the nation, putting it between Utah and Kansas in size.
  • In terms of size, Idaho is twice as large as Guatemala or three times as large as Ireland.
  • With a population of 1.8 million, Idaho is the 13th least populous (between Nebraska and West Virginia) and 7th least densely populated state in the country. For the last decade, it has been one of the fastest growing states.
  • Boise is the most populous city and as the state capital of Idaho. The Boise Metropolitan Area, which includes the state’s 2nd and 3rd largest cities (Nampa and Meridian), has a population of 800,000, making it the 75th largest city in the US.
A street with cars on it and buildings on either side leading the Idaho State Capitol building in Boise
The Idaho State Capitol in Boise
  • Native American tribes traditionally inhabiting the area include the Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone-Paiute and Kootenai. Today they make up only 1.3% of the state’s population.
  • Boise has one of the largest Basque communities (a people from Basque Country in Spain and Southwest France) in the country.
  • Idaho is the state with the most Mormons, after Utah of course. The Idaho Falls Temple was the first Mormon church in Idaho, and the church’s first one with a modern spiral design.
  • The motto of Idaho is Esto Perpetua, which is Latin for “let it be perpetual” or “it is forever”.
  • The name “Idaho” was almost used for Colorado. The person who originally chose the name falsely claimed it was a Native American word, so the Senate rejected it. The name stuck around though, and was eventually used for Idaho.
  • The official abbreviation for Idaho is ID.
  • People from Idaho are called Idahoans or Idahoers.
A waterfall with the white spiral tip of an LDS church in the background in Idaho Falls
Idaho Falls Idaho Temple of the LDS church
  • “The Gem State” is another one of Idaho’s nicknames- as nearly every known type of gemstone has been found there, with over 70 of them being actively mined.
  • The official state gem is the Star Garnet, which can only be found in two places in the world: Idaho and India. The gems got their name because their stone causes a reflection that gives them the appearance of a 4- or 6-pointed star.
  • Another state nickname is “The Potato State”. One-third of the nation’s potatoes are grown there, more than any other state, adding up to approximately 27 billion potatoes each year.
  • The state bird of Idaho is the mountain bluebird, which can be spotted on many of the famous hiking trails in the state.
  • The appaloosa horse is the state animal of Idaho. The appaloosa was a breed of horse that was originally brought over by the Spanish. The horse was embraced by the Nez Perce tribe and as a result, became heavily entwined in the area’s culture.
The state flag of Idaho
The Idaho state flag
  • Idaho’s flag features the state seal on a blue background. The seal has a woman and a miner, and several of the state’s natural resources, including the Shoshone River.
  • The state seal of Idaho is the only one in the country to be designed by a woman, Emma Edwards Green.

Random Interesting Facts About Idaho

  • At the Dog Bark Park Inn in Idaho, guests can stay in a beagle-shaped house. It is the largest beagle in the world.
Cave Falls, a wide waterfall in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone’s Cave Falls is in Wyoming, but near the Idaho border and accessed from the Idaho side.
  • The Idaho part of Yellowstone has been called the “Zone of Death”. Due to a loophole in the constitution, a person could avoid been convicted of murder there.
  • Hells Canyon, formed by the Snake River on the border between Idaho and Oregon, is North America’s deepest canyon, at 7993 ft (2436 m), deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The inside of a black and red volcano at Craters of the Moon in Idaho
Volcanic cinder cone at Craters of the Moon National Monument
  • The state is home to several volcanoes, lava fields, and other volcanic features, including Cerro Grande, Craters of the Moon, North and South Robbers, Hell’s Half Acre, Kings Bowl, Shoshone Lava Fields, and Wapi Lava Field.
  • The youngest volcano and the only one that’s still lying dormant is the Crater of the Moon, which means it could erupt at any point.
  • Wallace, a town in Idaho, was declared the “Center of the Universe” by mayor Wallace. A manhole cover stating this declaration was created in 2004.
Aerial view of the multiple cascades of Shoshone Falls in Idaho
Shoshone Falls is higher than Niagara Falls
  • Idaho’s highest point is located in the eastern Custer County, at the Lost River Range. Borah Peak has an elevation of 12,662 ft (3859 m), while the lowest point is where the Snake River joins the Clearwater River, near Lewiston. This point has an elevation of 710 ft (216 m).
  • 118°F (47.8°C) is the state’s all-time highest temperature, recorded in Orofino in 1934. -60°F (-51.1°C) was the lowest, recorded in Island Park in 1943.
  • Besides potatoes, Idaho is also the country’s top lentil producer, making 90% of the country’s lentils, and sometimes called the “Lentil Capital of the World. The majority of the country’s trout is also supplied by Idaho.
  • Idaho is home to over a hundred ghost towns, the most popular ones being Burke and Silver City.
  • The 2004 comedy classic Napoleon Dynamite was filmed in Preston, Idaho.
  • Other movies that were filmed in Idaho include Dante’s Peak, Breakfast of Champions, Town & Country, Magic Valley, and Dark Horse.
A mountains with ski runs on it in Idaho
Ski hills at Sun Valley
  • Sun Valley, known for its ski hills and equestrian trails, is a celebrity hotspot, with famous people such as Mark Zuckerberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger owning homes there.
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote part of his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls in Sun Valley, Idaho. He was hoping that the mountain life and open air would help inspire him; apparently it did! He wrote other parts in Havana, Cuba and Key West, Florida.
  • Hemingway once said the following about Idaho-born poet Ezra Pound: “for poets born in the late 19th or early 20th century, not to be influenced by Pound would be like passing through a great blizzard and not feeling its cold.” One of Pound’s most famous epic poems is 800 pages long.
  • Harmon Killebrew of Payette, Idaho was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played for the Minnesota Twins.
  • Model, WWE wrestler, and winner of Miss Galaxy 1999 Torrie Wilson was born in Boise, Idaho.
A giant sign of a potato with sour cream and butter on it and the words "Idaho Potato Museum, Blackfoot, Idaho"
A museum for Idaho’s most famous export
  • J. R. Simplot became one of richest people in the US after his Idaho-based company invented ways to dry potatoes and other vegetables and sell them to the US Army.
  • Angelyne, a blonde, large-busted pop culture icon that appeared on billboards in Hollywood in the 80s, often in a pink Corvette, was from Idaho.
  • The Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) in the desert of Idaho was the world’s first nuclear power plant. A sign in nearby Arco marks the first time a city was powered by atomic energy. There is also an Atomic City in the area, current population: 41.
  • Albertsons, the second-largest supermarket chain in the US after Kroger, was established in Boise, Idaho in 1939.
  • Some interesting foods associated with Idaho include finger steaks, Idaho ice cream potatoes, and Idahoan, a brand of mashed potatoes.
Some deep fried pieces of meat with a dish of sauce and some French fries
Idaho finger steaks
  • Idaho has several militia groups operating in the Idaho Panhandle, including the 600-member nationalist Idaho Light Foot Militia, who describe themselves as the “teeth of the constitution.”
  • Legend has it that a monster inhabits Bear Lake, Idaho, called the Bear Lake Monster.
  • According to one bizarre Idaho law, only dogs can live in dog kennels.
  • If you’re over 88, it’s illegal to ride a motorcycle in Idaho Falls.
  • Don’t even dare riding a merry-go-round on a Sunday; that’s also technically against the law in Idaho.
  • If you’re in a bad mood, you might want to stay at home if you live in Pocatello, Idaho. By law, you are required to smile in public there, as public displays of frowns, scowls, grimaces, or other gloomy facial expressions may reflect badly on the reputation of the city.
  • Idaho limits public displays of affection to under 18 minutes.

Historical Facts About Idaho

  • From 15,000 to 2000 years ago, multiple volcanic eruptions on the Columbia Plateau in the southern region of Idaho explain why the area is so flat today.
  • Tools dating to 14,500 years ago were recently found at Wilson Butte Cave, some of the oldest evidence of human settlement in the country.
A black and white photograph of a Nez Perce woman standing in front of an animal hide tent with a horse
Member of the Nez Perce tribe
  • Before the arrival of the Europeans, around 8,000 Native Americans lived in the region of Idaho.
  • Early French fur trappers in the area left their mark with many place names, like Cœur d’Alène, Boisé, Payette, and the tribe Nez Percé, which means “pierced nose”.
  • In 1805, Lewis and Clarke passed through the state as the explored the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. The Idaho town Lewiston is named after the former, and the adjacent Washington town is named Clarkston after the latter.
  • In 1809, the British opened the first trading post in Idaho. At the time, the area of Idaho was part of Oregon Country, which was shared by the US and England.
  • The Hudson’s Bay Company founded Fort Boise in 1811, which was later moved to a different location and developed into modern-day Boise.
A view of a winding road overlooking a river with towns on either side
Lewiston and Clakston, two towns named after Lewis and Clark
  • The US took full control of the area in 1846. Idaho then became part of the Washington Territory after Oregon was admitted as a state in 1859.
  • In 1860, Mormons founded Franklin, the first permanent European settlement in Idaho, though it was probably in Utah at that time.
  • Four years later, Boise was incorporated as a city.
  • In 1863, Idaho became its own territory, and Boise was designated the state capital in 1865.
  • In 1866, there was a discovery of gold at Leesburg in Lemhi County, and the Caribou Gold Rush in the southeastern region of the state started a few years later.
  • Idaho’s first railroad was completed in 1874, from Utah Northern to Franklin.
A railway line crossing a land bridge across a lake, surrounded by forests
A railway line in Idaho
  • The Owyhee Daily Avalanche was the first daily newspaper to be published in the state on October 17, 1874 in Silver City.
  • Idaho’s first telephone service commenced on October 1, 1883 in Hailey.
  • In 1887, a law was passed for compulsory education in Idaho.
  • On July 3, 1890, Idaho became the 43rd state of the US.
  • Between 1900 and 1920, a large number of Basque immigrants came to Idaho from the Pyrenees to find work as sheepherders.
  • The first Jewish governor to be elected in the US was Moses Alexander in Idaho in 1914.
A field with lots of sheep in it and mountains in the background
Sheep farm in Idaho’s Rocky Mountains
  • In 1939, both the Idaho State Police and Albertson’s supermarket were established.
  • In 1964, Bible reading was ended in Boise public schools by the Federal Court.
  • In 1982, Idaho became the first state in the nation to outlaw the insanity plea for defendants in its legislature.
  • Permanent sales tax was implemented in 1987, at 5%.
  • In the 1992 Ruby Ridge Standoff near Naples, Idaho, there was an 11-day standoff between police and white separatist Randy Weaver. His wife and son were killed by the police, but he survived the incident, and his family received over 3 million dollars in compensation.
Some hoodoo-like rock formations in Idaho
Rock formations in the desert of Idaho
  • 24 counties in Idaho were declared drought disaster areas in 2001.
  • In 2003, a legislative session in Idaho lasted 118 days, the longest legislative session to be held in history at the time. In 2021, it passed its own record, with a 311-day session.
  • In 2009, over 1.5 million acres of land in Idaho were damaged by wildfires. In fact, Idaho had more wildfires burning than any of the other 49 states.
  • In 2009, Idaho hosted the Special Olympics of the World Winter Games.
  • In 2010, a law was passed to reject the federal mandatory health insurance requirement. Idaho became the first state in the country to pass this law.

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