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Boise ( locally, or , less commonly known as Boise City) is a city located in the Northwestern United Statesmarker in the state of Idahomarker. Boise is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho as well as the county seat of Ada Countymarker. Located on the Boise River, this is the principal city of the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area and the largest city between Salt Lake Citymarker, Utahmarker and Portlandmarker, Oregonmarker. Boise passed Spokanemarker in city population in 2001 census estimates and is now the third largest in the northwest U.S., behind Seattlemarker and Portlandmarker. Boise serves as the primary government, economic, cultural, and transportation center for the area.

As of the 2008 Census Bureau estimates, Boise's population was 205,314 with a metropolitan area estimated to have 587,689 inhabitants, by far the most populous metropolitan area in Idaho.


Boise is located at (43.613739, -116.237651), in southwestern Idahomarker, approximately 41 miles (66 km) east of the Oregonmarker border, and 110 miles (177 km) north of the Nevadamarker border. The downtown core sits at an elevation of 2704 feet (824 m) above sea level.

Most of the metropolitan area lies on a broad, relatively flat plain, descending to the west. Mountains rise up to the northeast, stretching from the far southeastern tip of the Boise city limits to nearby Eaglemarker. These mountains are known to locals as the Boise foothills and are sometimes described as the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. About 34 miles (55 km) southwest of Boise, and about 26 miles (42 km) southwest of Nampamarker, the Owyhee Mountains lie entirely in neighboring Owyhee Countymarker.

According to the census bureau, the city has a total area of 64.0 mi² (166 km²). 63.8 mi² (165 km²) of it is land and 0.2 mi² (0.5 km²) of it (0.33%) is water.


A Boise fountain in February.

Boise's climate is characterized as semi-arid with four distinct seasons. Boise experiences hot and dry summers where temperatures can often exceed 100°F (38°C), as well as cold winters with fair amounts of snowfall. Rainfall is usually infrequent and light, averaging an inch (25.4 mm) per month. March is the wettest month with an average of 1.41" (36 mm) of precipitation, and August is the driest month with 0.30" (7.6 mm). Spring and fall are generally temperate.


Boise, Idaho sign
It is commonly accepted that the area was referred to as Boise long before the establishment of Fort Boise. However, the exact details of how the name came to be applied to the area differ in the available accounts.

Some credit a story told of Captain B.L.E. Bonneville of the U.S. Army as the source of the name. After trekking for weeks through dry and rough terrain, his exploration party reached an overlook with a view of the Boise River Valley. The place where they stood is called Bonneville Point, and is located on the Oregon Trail east of the city. According to the story, a French-speaking guide, overwhelmed by the sight of the verdant river, yelled "Les bois! Les bois!" giving the area the name. An apocryphal version of this story, sometimes mis-attributes this guide as being part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

But the name "Boise" may actually derive from earlier mountain man usage, which contributed their naming of the river that flows through it. In the 1820s, French Canadian fur trappers set trap lines in the vicinity where Boise now lies. In a high desert area, the tree-lined valley of the Boise River became a prominent landmark. They called this "La rivière boisée", which means "the wooded river."

The original Fort Boise was 40 miles (64 km) west near Parmamarker, down the Boise River, near the confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This fort was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s, but massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863, during the U.S. Civil War. The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail and a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho Citymarker) and the Owyheemarker (Silver Citymarker) mining areas, which were both booming at the time. During the mid-1860s, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest, and as a staging area, Fort Boise grew rapidly and Boise was incorporated as a city in 1864. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewistonmarker in north Idaho, but Boise soon won the capital rights in 1865.

The U.S.marker Assay Officemarker at 210 Main Street was built in 1871 and is a National Historic Landmark.


Boise has grown considerably in recent years and is now comparable in size to other mid-size cities at the center of their own metropolitan areas in the United States. Comparable cities are Grand Rapidsmarker, Des Moinesmarker ,Providencemarker And Akron, Ohiomarker.

As of the census of 2000, there were 185,787 people, 74,438 households, and 46,523 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,913.1/sq mi (1,124.7/km²). There were 77,850 housing units at an average density of 1,220.7/mi² (471.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was:

Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.53% of the population.

There were 74,438 households out of which 32.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the city the population was spread out with:

  • 25.3% under the age of 18
  • 11.7% from 18 to 24
  • 32.3% from 25 to 44
  • 20.6% from 45 to 64
  • 10.0% 65 years of age or older

The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $42,432, and the median income for a family was $52,014. Males had a median income of $36,893 versus $26,173 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,696. About 5.9% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or older.


Boise frequently receives national recognition for its quality of life and business climate. Some recent national rankings:

  • Best places for business and careers: # 3 (Forbes Magazine, 2007)

  • Urban environment report card: # 6 (Earth Day Network, 2007)

  • Boomtowns: Hottest cities for entrepreneurs (midsize cities): # 9 (, 2007)

  • Most secure places to live (500,000 or more residents): # 1 (Farmers Insurance 2006)


Boise is the headquarters for several major companies, such as URS Corp. Washington Division (formerly Washington Group International, formerly Morrison-Knudsen), Boise Cascade LLC, New Albertsons Inc., Albertsons LLC, J.R. Simplot Company, Idaho Pacific Lumber Company, Idaho Timber, and WinCo Foods. Other major industries are headquartered in Boise or have large manufacturing facilities present. The state government is also one of the city's largest employers.

The area's largest private employer publicly traded and headquartered company in Boise is Micron Technology ( ). Others include IDACORP, Inc. ( ), the parent company of Idaho Power, Idaho Bancorp ( ), Boise, Inc. ( ), American Ecology Corp. ( ), PCS Inc. ( ) and Syringa Bancorp.

Technology investment and the high-tech industry have become increasingly important to the city, with businesses including,, MobileDataForce, MarkMonitor, Sybase, and Microsoft. The call center industry is also a major source of employment; there are over 20 call centers in the city employing more than 7,000 people, including WDS Global, EDS, Teleperformance, DIRECTV and T-Mobile.

Varney Airlines, founded by Walter Varney, was formed in Boise. The company is the root of present day United Airlines, which still serves the city at the newly renovated and upgraded Boise Airportmarker.


The Boise School District includes 31 elementary schools, 8 junior high schools, 5 high schools and 2 specialty schools. Part of the Meridian School District (the largest district in Idaho) overlaps into Boise city limits. The city is home to six public high schools: Boise High Schoolmarker, Borah High Schoolmarker, Capital High Schoolmarker, Timberline High Schoolmarker as well as Meridian School District's Centennial High Schoolmarker and the alternative Frank Church High Schoolmarker. Boise's private schools include Catholic Bishop Kelly High Schoolmarker, Foothills School of Arts and Sciences and Baccalaureate accredited Riverstone International School.

Post-secondary educational options in Boise include Boise State Universitymarker as well as a wide range of technical schools. University of Idahomarker and Idaho State Universitymarker each maintain a satellite campus in Boise. Boise is home to Boise Bible College, an undergraduate degree-granting college that exists to train leaders for churches as well as missionaries for the world. Boise is one of the largest cities in the United States that does not have a community college. The issue has received a fair amount of attention from city and state officials in recent years. As of May 2007 a community college special district was formed, with the intention of starting a community college in Nampa. However, with the development of the College of Western Idaho (CWI), plans to expand and provide courses in Ada County and the City of Boise is likely to occur in 2009.


Boise's Basque Block
Numbering about 15,000, Boise's ethnic Basque community is the second largest such community in the United States after Bakersfield, Californiamarker and the fifth largest in the world outside Argentinamarker, Chilemarker and the Basque Country in Spainmarker and Francemarker. A large Basque festival known as Jaialdi is held once every five years (next in 2010). Downtown Boise features a vibrant section known as the "Basque Block". Boise's mayor, David H. Bieter, is of Basque descent.

Boise is also a regional hub for jazz and theater. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival is hosted in Boise each spring. The city is also home to a number of museums, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Idaho Black History Museum, Boise WaterShed and the Discovery Center of Idahomarker. Several theater groups operate in the city, including the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise Little Theatre, Boise Contemporary Theater, and Prairie Dog Productions. On the first Thursday of each month, a gallery stroll is hosted in the city's core business district by the Downtown Boise Association. The city also has the Egyptian Theatremarker as a renovated venue. In the Fall season, Downtown Boise hosts a film festival called Idaho International Film Festival.

The Boise Centre on the Grovemarker is an convention center that hosts a variety of events, including international, national, and regional conventions, conferences, banquets, and consumer shows. It is located in the heart of downtown Boise and borders the Grove Plaza, which hosts numerous outdoor functions throughout the year.

The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center offers water features and wildlife experiences just east of downtown. It is located adjacent to Municipal Park. It features live fish and wildlife exhibits, viewing areas into the water, bird and butterfly gardens, waterfalls and a free visitor's center.

Boise has a diverse and vibrant religious communities. The Jewish community's Ahavath Beth Israel Temple, completed 1896, is the nation's oldest continually-used temple west of the Mississippi. The Boise Hare Krishna Temple opened in August 1999. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has over 60 congregations in Boise and dedicated a temple there in 1984, the first of 6 temples dedicated that year.

Boise (along with Valley and Boise Counties) hosted the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. More than 2,500 athletes from over 85 countries participated.

Famous residents



Club League Sport Venue Established Championships
Boise Hawks Northwest League Baseball Memorial Stadiummarker 1987 6
Idaho Steelheads ECHL Ice hockey Qwest Arenamarker 1996 2
Boise State Universitymarker NCAA - WAC Football Bronco Stadiummarker 1932 6
Idaho Stampede D-League Basketball Qwest Arenamarker 1997 1
Boise Burn arenafootball2 Arena Football Qwest Arenamarker 2007 0

Major attractions

The State Capitol in Boise, Idaho

A number of recreational opportunities are available in Boise, including extensive hiking and biking in the foothills to the immediate north of downtown. Much of this trail network is part of Hull's Gulch and can be accessed by 8th street. An extensive urban trail system called the Boise River Greenbelt runs along the river. The Boise River itself is a common destination for fishing, swimming and rafting.

In Julia Davis Parkmarker is Zoo Boise, which has over 200 animals representing over 80 species from around the world. An Africa exhibit, completed in 2008, is the most recent addition.

The Bogus Basinmarker ski area opened in 1942 and hosts multiple winter activities, primarily alpine skiing and snowboarding, but also cross-country skiing and snow tubing. "Bogus" is 16 miles (26 km) from the city limits (less than an hour drive from downtown) on a twisty paved road which climbs 3400 vertical feet (1036 m) through sagebrush and forest.

Professional sports teams in Boise include the Boise Hawks of the short-season Class A Northwest League (minor league baseball), the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL (minor league hockey), and the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League (minor league basketball). An arenafootball2 franchise, the Boise Burn, began play in 2007.

On the sports entertainment front, Boise is also the home of a DIY all-female, flat track roller derby league, the Treasure Valley Rollergirls.

The Boise State Universitymarker campus is home to Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts local and national fine arts performances; Bronco Stadiummarker, the 32,000 seat football and track stadium known for its blue Field Turf field; and Taco Bell Arenamarker, a 12,000 seat basketball and entertainment venue which opened in 1982 as the BSU Pavilion. Boise State University is known primarily for the recent successes of its football team, although it is also a fairly well-regarded commuter school for undergraduate students.

The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl football game (formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl and later the MPC Computers Bowl) is held in late December each year, and pairs a team from the Western Athletic Conference with an Atlantic Coast Conference team.

The World Center for Birds of Prey is located just outside city limits, and is a key part of the re-establishment of the Peregrine Falcon and the subsequent removal from the Endangered Species list. The center is currently breeding the very rare California condor, among many other rare and endangered species.

The city has been cited by publications like Forbes, Fortune and Sunset for its quality of life.

The cornerstone mall in Boise, Boise Towne Square Mall, is also a major shopping attraction for Boise, Nampamarker, Caldwellmarker, and surrounding areas and has recently been through an upgrade along with adding new retailers.

The state's largest giant sequoia can be found near St. Lukes Hospital.


The greater-Boise area is served by two daily newspapers, The Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press-Tribune. A free weekly publication, Boise Weekly, quarterly magazines "Boise Journal" and "Boise Home" have been serving the Treasure Valley for over eight years. "Sprout Magazine" is a Boise-based free quarterly sustainable living publication which is distributed throughout the Treasure Valley and Central Idaho.

Sister cities


The major Interstate serving Boise is I-84. Highway 55 branches outward northeast. There is a network of bike paths throughout the city and surrounding region.

Public transportation includes a series of bus lines operated by ValleyRide. Also, the Downtown Circulator, a proposed streetcar system, is in its planning stage.

Commercial air service is provided at the Boise Airportmarker, recently renovated to accommodate the growing number of passengers flying in and out of Boise. Public bus transportation is provided by ValleyRide and the Boise Urban Stages (BUS).

Parts of the city

Boise occupies a large area — according to the United States Census Bureau. Like most major metropolitan areas, it is divided into several neighborhoods. These include the Bench, the North End, West Boise and Downtown, among others.

Downtown Boise

Downtown Boise is Boise's cultural center and home to many small businesses and several high-rises. The area has an array of shopping and dining choices. Centrally, 8th Street contains a pedestrian zone with streetside cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood is home to many local restaurants, bars and boutiques and supports a lively night life.

Downtown Boise's economy was threatened in the late 1990s by extensive growth around the Boise Towne Square Mall (away from the city center) and an increasing number of shopping centers which have sprung up around new housing developments. Events such as Alive-after-Five and First Thursday have been created to combat this trend.

Tallest buildings

The North End

The North End, which contains many of Boise's older homes, is known for its tree-lined drives such as Harrison Boulevard, and for its quiet neighborhoods near the downtown area. Downtown Boise is visible from Camel's Back Park. On 13th Street, Hyde Parkmarker is home to four small restaurants and other businesses. The North End also hosts events such as the annual Hyde Park Street Fair. The American Planning Association (APA) is designating Boise's North End one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2008.

Southwest Boise

Southwest Boise has traditionally been known for its more bucolic aesthetics. It contains sparsely populated neighborhoods built from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Many include acre-sized plots and the occasional farmhouse and pasture. Growth in the area was limited in the 1980s due to a moratorium on new construction to prevent urban sprawl. Since this has been lifted there has been widespread growth of new homes and neighborhoods. The area lies fairly close to Interstate 84, theaters, shopping, the airport, golf and the Boise Bench area.

Northwest Boise

Northwest Boise lies blanketed against the Boise Foothills to the north, the major thoroughfare State Street to the south, the city of Eagle to the west, and Downtown Boise to the east. It contains an eclectic mix of old and new neighborhoods, including Lakeharbor, which features the private Silver Lake, a reclaimed quarry. Northwest Boise has some pockets of older homes with a similar aesthetic to the North End, yet housing prices tend to be lower. Downtown is minutes away, as is Veteran's Memorial Park and easy access to the Boise Greenbelt. Across the river sits the Boise Bench and to the west is fast access to the bedroom communities of Eagle, Starmarker, and Middleton.

Warm Springs

Warm Springs is centered around the tree-lined Warm Springs Avenue and contains some of Boise's largest and most expensive homes (many of which were erected by wealthy miners and businessmen around the turn of the 20th century; Victorian styles feature prominently). The area gets its name from the natural hot springs that flow from Boise's fault line and warm many of the homes in the area.

East End

The far east end of Warm Springs was once known as Barber Town, featuring a hotel with hot springs nestled into the foothills. It now has some new residential developments, with easy access to Highway 21, which leads to the south-central Idaho mountains, the Boise River, the Boise Foothills, and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

South East

South East Boise spans from Boise State University to Micron Technology – all areas between Federal Way and the Boise River. The older area just south of the University can be described as a cross between the North End and the Boise bench. The rest of South East Boise was developed in the last thirty years with suburban style homes. Unlike the more typical flat suburban sprawl, residents of South East Boise are reminded of their city's natural beauty as they catch a close view of Table Rock, or drive along the winding Parkcenter Blvd. along the Boise River. Many people consider this end of Boise a hidden gem as just about everything is about 15 minutes from home: the river, greenbelt, the mountains, lakes, snow, high mountain desert, and more.

Columbia Village subdivision and the older Oregon Trail Heights, were the first major planned communities in South East Boise with an elementary and middle school all within walking distance from all homes. The subdivision is located at the intersections of Interstate 84, Idaho 21, and Federal Way (former US Highway), which are all major arteries to get anywhere in Boise. The subdivision was developed around the Simplot Sports complex (with over 20 fields), as well as a baseball complex, swimming pools, and the has a stunning view of the valley. The fields are built over an old landfill/dump and the fields and gravel parking lot allow radon gases to escape through the ground. Columbia Village Homes are not built over the dump.

TrailWind Elementary School, built in 1997, is in the middle of the subdivision and is the largest population elementary school in the Boise School District. It has an extremely active parent teacher association and a high level of parental involvement. Les Bois Junior High is also located in the center of the subdivision, having relocated from its previous home at Apple and Boise Avenue. After an upgrade and expansion, the former junior high became Timberline High School.

Surprise Valley is another large subdivision located on the bench above the river. Its homes are much higher end than the Columbia Village and Oregon Trail Heights subdivisions. Two churches are located within its borders: Eastwind Fellowship and Trinity Presbyterian, which relocated in 2002 from an older SE Boise location on Apple Street.

On August 25, 2008 at about 7:00 pm a fire started near Amity and Holcomb during a major wind storm and destroyed 10 houses and damaged 9. A linguistics professor at Boise State University lost her life in the fire.

The Boise Bench

The Boise Bench is south of Downtown Boise and is raised in elevation approximately . The bench is named such because the sudden rise in elevation gives the prominent appearance of a step, or bench. The Bench (or Benches, there are 3 actual benches throughout the Boise Valley) was created as an ancient shoreline to the old river channel. The Bench is home to the old Boise Train Depot and extensive residential neighborhoods. Due south of the Boise Bench is the Boise Airportmarker.

West Boise

West Boise is home to Boise Towne Square Mall, the largest in the state, as well as numerous restaurants, strip malls, and residential developments ranging from new subdivisions to apartment complexes. The Ada County jail and Hewlett Packard's Printing Division are also located here. It is relatively the flattest section of Boise, with sweeping views of the Boise Front.

Linen District

This district was created as real estate marketing tool by Hale Development. Located at 15th Street and Grove, the Linen District currently has a mix of established retail stores and service oriented businesses. The future plans for the area will include a unique blend of commercial office space, local and regional retail stores as well as an urban residential area. The development will attract the creative professionals who are looking for both an urban workplace and lifestyle. The District is named after the anchor building of the area, the old American Linen Building, which occupies the northwest corner of 14th and Grove Streets, 1402 West Grove Street. Redevelopment is currently underway at two other key buildings. The Furness Building located at 1407 West Grove and the Goodyear Building located at 1515 West Grove. The residential areas around it are also considered part of the Linen District. 18th and Idaho is an example of a residential area that is part of the district.

About the name

Origin of name

Floating the Boise River
The name Boise comes from the French word boisé, which means "wooded". Many people assume that it means "tree", but the French word for "tree" is arbre, whereas the word bois means "wood" or "woods". One legend claims that French-Canadian fur trappers of the early 1800s came over the mountains looked down upon the Boise River Valley and exclaimed "Les bois!" (the woods!), and that this is also how Boise gained its nickname 'The City of Trees'. In actuality, the name was apparently a translation of an earlier English name for the Boise River, the Wood River. Wood River was traditionally called Pine River, but was changed in 1867.

19th Century maps of the Boise River.


Natives and generally those who have lived in the area for a period of time use the pronunciation , and this is the pronunciation given on the city's website. Non-natives generally pronounce the name .

Boise City Chamber of Commerce has run several campaigns to eliminate the latter pronunciation.

Photo gallery

Image:BoiseTrainDepot2.jpg|The Old Boise Train DepotmarkerImage:Boisenight.jpg|Boise DowntownImage:October 2010.jpg|Boise October 2007


Further reading

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