Idaho ( ) is a state in the Pacific
Northwest region of the United States of America. The state's largest city and capital is Boise.
Residents are called "Idahoans
." Idaho was admitted to
the Union on 3 July
1890 as the 43rd state.
Idaho is a
mostly mountainous state larger than the whole of New England. It is landlocked,
surrounded by the states of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and the
Canadian Province of British
the network of dams and locks on the Columbia River and Snake River make Lewiston, Idaho the farthest inland seaport on the west coast of
the continental United States.
To residents of the state and regular visitors, Idaho is regarded
as a highly outdoors-oriented community. Central Idaho is home to
one of North America's oldest ski
, Sun Valley
, where the
world's first chairlift
Snow sports are important keystones of Idaho's identity, with a ski
resort adjacent to nearly every urban area. Whitewater rafting
are among the state's major pastimes.
Hell's Canyon and the Salmon River
boast some of North America's finest whitewater, with the nearby town of Riggins, ID serving as the state's informal whitewater
According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2008 the
population for Idaho was estimated to be 1,523,816. The state's
postal abbreviation is ID
. Idaho's nickname is the
because nearly every known gem has been
found there. In addition, Idaho is one of only two places
in the world where star garnets can be
found (the other is the Himalaya Mountains, in India), and is the
only place six pointed star garnets have been found.
state motto is Esto Perpetua
for "Let it be forever").
Digitally colored elevation map of
Idaho Population Density Map
Sixty percent of Idaho's land is held
by the National Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management,
and it leads the nation in forest service land as a percentage of
Crooked Creek in Gospel Hump
borders six states and one Canadian province. The states of Washington and Oregon are to the
west, Nevada and Utah are to the
south, and Montana and Wyoming are to the
east. Idaho also shares a short border ( ) with
the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north.
A scenic part of the Snake River in
The landscape is rugged with
some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States.
It is a Rocky Mountain
abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has
snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons.
waters of Snake River rush through
Canyon, the deepest canyon in the United
Falls plunges down rugged cliffs from a height greater
than that of Niagara
The major rivers in Idaho are the Snake River
, the Clark Fork
/Pend Oreille River
, the Clearwater River
and the Salmon River
. Other significant
rivers include the Coeur d'Alene River, the Spokane River,
the Boise River and the Payette River. The Port of Lewiston, at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Snake Rivers is the farthest inland seaport on
the West Coast.
highest point is Borah
Peak, , in the Lost River Range north of Mackay.
lowest point, , is in Lewiston, where the Clearwater
River joins the Snake River and
continues into Washington.
The Sawtooth Range
is often considered
Idaho's most famous mountain range.
Map of Idaho
Idaho, including the Boise
, Idaho Falls
, and Twin Falls
are in the Mountain
. (A legislative oddity ( § 264) theoretically
placed this region in the Central Time
Zone, but this error was corrected with a 2007 Amendment.)
Areas north of the Salmon
River, including Coeur d'Alene, Moscow, Lewiston, and Sandpoint are in the Pacific
Time Zone and revolve commercially and culturally around
Idaho has much variation in its climate. Although the state's
western border is located about from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in Idaho,
especially in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at their
This influence has a moderating effect in
the winter where temperatures are not as low as would otherwise be
expected for a northern state with a mostly elevated altitude. The
maritime influence is lowest in the southeastern part of the state
where the precipitation patterns are often reversed, with wetter
summers and drier winters, and seasonal temperature differences
more extreme, showing a more continental climate.
in Idaho can be hot, although
extended periods over for the maximum temperature are rare. Hot
summer days are tempered by the low relative humidity and cooler
evenings during summer months since, for most of the state, the
difference in temperature is
often in the summer. Winters can be cold, although extended periods
of bitter cold weather below zero are unusual.
Normal High and Low Temperatures For Various Idaho Cities.
Humans may have been present in the Idaho area as long as 14,500
years ago. Excavations at Wilson Butte Cave near Twin Falls in 1959 revealed evidence of human activity,
including arrowheads, that rank among the oldest dated artifacts in
North America. Native American
predominant in the area included the Nez
in the north and the Northern and Western Shoshone
in the south.
part of the Oregon Country, was
claimed by both the United States and Great Britain until the United States gained undisputed
jurisdiction in 1846.
From 1843 to 1849 present-day Idaho
was under the de facto
jurisdiction of the Provisional Government of
then and the creation of the Idaho
Territory in 1863, parts of the present-day state were included
in the Oregon, Washington,
and Dakota Territories.
territory included most of present-day Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
first organized communities, within the present borders of Idaho,
were established in 1860.
some tribulation as a territory, including the chaotic transfer of
the territorial capital from Lewiston to Boise, disenfranchisement of Mormon polygamists, and a
federal attempt to split the territory between Washington Territory
and the state of Nevada, Idaho
achieved statehood in 1890.
The economy of the state, which
had been primarily supported by metal mining, shifted towards
In recent years, Idaho has expanded its commercial base as a
tourism and agricultural state to include science and technology
industries. Science and technology have become the largest single
economic center (over 25% of the state's total revenue) within the
state and are greater than agriculture, forestry and mining
The Idaho State
preserves and promotes Idaho’s cultural
Origin of name
Lake Coeur d'Alene in North
was possibly named as the result of a hoax
so-called "Idahoax") although this is disputed. The exact origin of
the name remains a mystery. In the early 1860s, when the United States Congress
considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains
, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing
suggested the name "Idaho," which
he claimed was derived from a Shoshone
term meaning "the sun comes from the mountains" or
"gem of the mountains." Willing later claimed that he had made up
the name himself. Congress ultimately decided to name the area
when it was
created in February 1861.
However, the name "Idaho" did not go away. The same year
Congress created Colorado Territory, a county called Idaho
County was created in eastern Washington Territory.
was named after a steamship
, which was launched on the Columbia River
in 1860. It is unclear whether
the steamship was named before or after Willing's claim was
revealed. Regardless, a portion of Washington Territory, including
Idaho County, was used to create Idaho Territory in 1863.
Despite this lack of evidence for the origin of the name, many
textbooks well into the 20th century repeated as fact Willing's
account that the name "Idaho" derived from the Shoshone term
An excerpt from an Idaho History Textbook:
- "Idaho" is a Shoshoni Indian exclamation. The word consists of
three parts. The first is "Ee", which in English conveys the idea
of "coming down". The second is "dah" which is the Shoshoni stem or
root for both "sun" and "mountain". The third syllable, "how",
denotes the exclamation and stands for the same thing in Shoshoni
that the exclamation mark (!) does in the English language. The
Shoshoni word is "Ee-dah-how", and the Indian thought thus conveyed
when translated into English means, "Behold! the sun coming down
Chief Joseph Seltice, of the Coeur
d'Alene Tribal Nation
, posits another possible origin of the
name. In his history of the tribe, Saga of the Coeur d'Alene
, he writes:
Some sources claim that the name "Idaho" comes from an Indian word, "Ee-dah-how," meaning "Gem of the Mountains." This expression may have come from some other Tribe, and it would have a different meaning for them than it would for the Coeur d'Alenes.
As the Coeur d'Alenes understood the word "Idaho," it would be more correctly pronounced "Ah-d'Hoo." It means "greetings by surprise," indicating friendship, but surprise.
The first syllable conveys to the mind, "All are welcome, from wherever you come; but keep the friendly peace. We welcome you with out-stretched arms, and this entitles us to permanent friendship."
The last syllable is a surprise and exclamation point. The expression means that all are welcome, "though we are surprised to see so many different strangers. The first dawn of day welcomes you as the sun rises." This expression was used by many of the Coeur d'Alenes on the Bitterroot Mountains to greet all who come.
So to all who read these words: "Welcome, with open arms! We're just surprised that there are so many of you!"
As of 2005, Idaho has an estimated population of 1,429,096, which
is an increase of 33,956, or 2.4%, from the prior year and an
increase of 135,140, or 10.4%, since the year 2000. This includes a
natural increase since the last census of 58,884 people (that is
111,131 births minus 52,247 deaths) and an increase due to net
of 75,795 people into the
from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 14,522
people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of
Idaho the sixth fastest-growing
state after Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, and Utah.
2004 to 2005, Idaho grew the third-fastest, surpassed only by
Nevada and Arizona.
Nampa, the state's second largest city, has experienced
particularly strong growth in recent years.
census estimates Nampa has grown 22.1% to nearly 65,000 residents
between 2000 and 2003. As of 2007, the population in Nampa was estimated at 84,000. Growth of 5% or more
over the same period has also been observed in Caldwell, Coeur d'Alene, Meridian, Post Falls and Twin Falls.
Since 1990, Idaho's population has increased by 386,000
The Boise Metropolitan Area
(officially known as the Boise City-Nampa, ID Metropolitan
Statistical Area) is Idaho's largest metropolitan area.
metropolitan areas in order of size are Coeur
d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Lewiston.
As of 2006, six official micropolitan statistical
are based in Idaho. Twin Falls is the largest of
center of population of Idaho
is located in Custer County, in the town of Stanley.
The largest reported ancestries in the state are: German
The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints Idaho Falls Temple.
According to the 15th annual Idaho Public Policy study (
, 2004) by the Social Science Research
Center at BSU, the ambiguous
affiliations of Idahoans break down roughly as follows.
- Protestant – 29.3%
- LDS (Mormon)
- Catholic – 14.3%
- Non-Denominational Christian – 13.6%
- None – 12.7%
- Other – 7.2%
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(2007: 399,427) the Roman Catholic
with 130,847; the Assemblies of God
with 18,745; and the
United Methodist Church
Gross state product
American Falls Dam
for 2004 was
US$43.6 billion. The per capita income for 2004 was US$26,881.Idaho
is an important agricultural state, producing nearly one third of
grown in the United
Important industries in Idaho are food processing, lumber and wood
products, machinery, chemical products, paper products, electronics
manufacturing, silver and other mining, and tourism. The world's largest
factory for barrel cheese, the raw product for processed cheese is located in Gooding,
Idaho. It has a capacity of 120,000 metric tons per
year of barrel cheese and belongs to the Glanbia group. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a government lab for nuclear energy
research, is also an important part of the eastern Idaho
Idaho also is home to three facilities of
Anheuser-Busch which provide a large part of the malt for breweries
located across the nation.
Today, the largest industry in Idaho is the science and technology
sector. It accounts for over 25% of the State's total revenue and
70%+ of the State's exports (in dollars). Idaho's industrial
economy is growing, with high-tech products leading the way.
late 1970s, Boise has
emerged as a center for semiconductor
Boise is the home of Micron Technology Inc.
, the only U.S.
manufacturer of dynamic
random access memory
(DRAM) chips. Hewlett-Packard
has operated a large plant
in Boise since the 1970s, which is devoted primarily to LaserJet printers
production. Dell, Inc.
major customer support call center in Twin Falls. AMI Semiconductor, whose worldwide
headquarter locates in Pocatello, is a widely recognized innovator in
state-of-the-art integrated mixed-signal semiconductor products,
mixed-signal foundry services, and structured digital
Creek, a women's clothing retailer, is headquartered in
Fortune 500 Sun
has two offices in Boise and a parts depot in
Pocatello. Sun brings $4M in annual salaries and over $300M of
revenue to the state each year.
The state personal income tax
1.6% to 7.8% in eight income brackets. Idahoans may apply for state
for taxes paid to other
states, as well as for donations to Idaho state educational
entities and some nonprofit youth and rehabilitation
The state sales tax
is 6%. Sales tax
applies to the sale, rental or lease of tangible personal property
and some services. Food is taxed, but prescription drugs
are not. Hotel
, and campground
accommodations are taxed at a higher
rate (7% to 11%). Some jurisdictions impose local option sales
Idaho has a state gambling lottery
which contributed $333.5 million in payments to all Idaho public schools
and Idaho higher
from 1990 - 2006.
Electricity Generation in Idaho
The energy landscape of Idaho is favorable to the development of
renewable energy systems. The state is rich in renewable energy
resources but has limited fossil fuel resources. The Snake River Plain
and smaller river basins
provide Idaho with some of the best hydroelectric power
resources in the
nation and its geologically active mountain areas have significant
and wind power
potential. These realities have shaped
much of the state’s current energy landscape.
The state’s numerous river basins allow hydroelectric power plants
to provide 556 thousand MWh, which amounts to about three-fourths
of Idaho’s electricity output. Washington State provides most of
the natural gas used in Idaho through one of the two major pipeline
systems supplying the state. Although the state relies on
out-of-state sources for its entire natural gas supply, it uses
natural gas-fired plants to generate 127 thousand MWh, or about ten
percent of its output. Coal-fired generation and the state’s small
array of wind turbines supplies the remainder of the state’s
electricity output. The state produces 739 thousand MWh but still
needs to import half of its electricity from out-of-state to meet
While Idaho’s 515 trillion Btu total energy consumption is
relatively low compared to other states and represents just 0.5% of
United States consumption, the state also has the nation’s 11th
smallest population, 1.5 million, so its per capita energy
consumption of 352 million Btu is currently just above the national
average of 333 million Btu.
In addition, Idaho also has the 6th fastest growing population in
the United States with the population expected to increase by 31%
from 2008 to 2030.This projected increase in population will
contribute to a 42% increase in demand by 2030, further straining
Idaho’s finite hydroelectric resources.Given that Idaho has no
crude oil reserves and a limited supply of natural gas, the state’s
most realistic method of meeting this projected increase in demand
is to develop its ample renewable resources.
among the few states in the nation without a major freeway linking
the two largest metropolitan areas of Boise in the south
d'Alene in the north. US-95
links the two ends of the
state, but like many other highways in Idaho, it is badly in need
of repair and upgrade. In 2007, the Idaho Transportation Department
stated that the state's highway infrastructure faces a $200 million
per year shortfall in maintenance and upgrades. Interstate 84
is the main highway
linking the Southeast and Southwest portions of the state, along
with Interstate 86
and Interstate 15
Major federal aid highways in Idaho:
airports include the Boise International Airport serving the southwest region of Idaho, and the
International Airport (actually located in Spokane, Washington), which serves northern Idaho. Other airports with
scheduled service are the Pullman-Moscow Regional
Airport serving the Palouse; the
Lewiston-Nez Perce County
Airport, serving the Lewis-Clark Valley and north central
Idaho; The Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls; the Idaho Falls
Regional Airport; and the Pocatello Regional Airport.
Idaho is served by two transcontinental railroads. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe
connects North Idaho with Seattle, Portland and Spokane to the west, and Minneapolis and Chicago to the east. The BNSF travels
through Kootenai, Bonner and Boundary Counties. The Union Pacific Railroad crosses
southern Idaho traveling between Portland, Green River, WY, and
Utah and serves Boise, Nampa, Twin Falls, and Pocatello. Amtrak's Empire
Builder crosses northern Idaho, with its only stop being in
There has been a push recently to return
Amtrak service to southern Idaho as well.
of Lewiston is the farthest inland Pacific port on the west
coast. A series of dams and locks on the Snake River and Columbia River facilitate barge travel from
here to Portland, where goods are loaded on ocean-going
Law and government
State capitol building in Boise
The Constitution of Idaho is roughly modeled on the national
constitution with several additions. The constitution defines the
form and function of the state government, and may be amended
through plebiscite. Notably, the state constitution presently
requires the state government to maintain a balanced budget. As
result, the State of Idaho has limited debt (construction bonds,
All of Idaho's state laws are contained in the Idaho Code. The code
is amended through the Legislature with the approval of the
Governor. Although extensive, the code is exceptionally easy to
read and interpret.
The constitution of Idaho provides for three branches of
government: the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Idaho
has a bicameral
legislature, elected from
35 legislative districts, each represented by one senator and two
representatives. Idaho still operates under its original (1889)
Since 1946, statewide elected constitutional officers have been
elected to four-year terms. They include: Governor
, Lieutenant Governor
, Secretary of State
(Auditor before 1994), Treasurer, Attorney General, and
Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Last contested in 1966, Inspector of Mines was an original elected
constitutional office. Afterward it was an appointed position and
ultimately done away with entirely in 1974.
Idaho's government has an alcohol monopoly
The governor of Idaho serves a four-year term, and is elected
during what is nationally referred to as midterm elections. As
such, the governor is not elected in the same election year as the
president of the United States. The current governor is Republican C. L. "Butch" Otter
, who was elected in 2006.
However, the session may be extended if necessary, and often is.
Because of this, Idaho's legislators are considered "citizen
legislators", meaning that their position as a legislator is not
their main occupation.
Terms for both the Senate
and House of Representatives
two years. Legislative elections occur every even numbered
Legislature has been continuously controlled by the Republican
Party since the late 1950s, although Democratic legislators are
routinely elected from Boise, Pocatello, Blaine County and the northern Panhandle.
See also List of Idaho
senators and representatives
highest court in Idaho is the Idaho Supreme Court.
There is also an intermediate appellate court
, the Idaho Court of Appeals
, which hears
cases assigned to it from the Supreme Court. The state's District
Idaho is divided into political jurisdictions designated as
. As of 1919
there were 44 counties in the state, ranging in size from 410 to
8,502 square miles (1,062 to 22,020 square kilometers).
||Population 2008 Est.
||Area (sq. m.)
|Gooding County, Idaho
|Total Counties: 44
||Total 2008 Population Est.: 1,523,816
||Total Area: 87,530 square miles
- three counties were first designated as such by the Washington
Territorial Legislature in 1861; they were subsequently
re-designated as Idaho counties in 1864
Presidential elections results
After the Civil War
moved to Idaho Territory. As a result, the early territorial
legislatures were solidly Democrat-controlled. In contrast, most of
the territorial governors were appointed by Republican
were Republicans themselves. This led to sometimes bitter clashes
between the two parties. In the 1880s, Republicans became more
prominent in local politics.
Since statehood, the Republican Party has usually been the dominant
party in Idaho, as there was a polar shift in social and political
stance between the two parties, when the Democrats became more
liberal and the Republicans more conservative. In the 1890s and
early 1900s, the Populist
enjoyed prominence while the Democratic Party maintained
a brief dominance in the 1930s during the Great Depression
. Since World War II
, most statewide elected officials
have been Republicans.
Idaho Congressional delegations have also been generally Republican
since statehood. Several Idaho Democrats have had electoral success
in the House
over the years, but the Senate
delegation has been a Republican stronghold for decades. Several
Idaho Republicans, including current Senator Mike Crapo
, have won reelection to the Senate,
but only Frank Church
reelection as a Democrat. Church was the last Idaho Democrat to win
a U.S. Senate race, in 1974. Walt
's 2008 win in the First Congressional
was the state's first Democratic Congressional victory
in 16 years.
In modern times, Idaho has been a reliably Republican state in
presidential politics as well. It has not supported a Democrat for
Even in that election, Lyndon Johnson
defeated Barry Goldwater
than two percentage points. In 2004, Republican George W. Bush
carried Idaho by a margin of 38 percentage points and with 68.4% of
the vote, winning in 43 of 44 counties. Only Blaine
County, which contains the Sun
Valley ski resort, supported John
Kerry, who owns a home in the area.
In 2008 Barack Obama
's 36.1 percent showing was the
best for a Democratic presidential candidate in Idaho since 1976.
However, Republican margins were narrower in 1992 and 1996.
In the 2006 elections, Republicans, led by gubernatorial candidate
, won all of the state's
constitutional offices and retained both of the state's seats in
the United States
House of Representatives
. However, Democrats picked up several
seats in the Idaho Legislature, notably in the Boise area.
Republicans lost one of the House seats in 2008 to Minnick, but
Republican Jim Risch
Craig's Senate seat for the GOP by a comfortable margin.
Important cities and towns
|Population > 100,000 (urbanized
Population > 50,000 (urbanized area)
Population > 30,000 (urbanized area)
Population > 10,000 (urbanized area)
||Smaller Towns and Cities
National Parks, Reserves, Mounuments and Historic sites
Image:City of rocks view NPS.jpg|City of Rocks National
ReserveImage:Scoria field at Craters of the Moon
NM-750px.JPG|Craters of the Moon National Monument
National Recreation Areas
National Wildlife Refuges
National Conservation Areas
Colleges and universities
Idaho State University in
University of Idaho in Moscow.
Boise State University in Boise.
Boise State University in Boise.
The Idaho State Board of Education oversees three comprehensive
universities. The University of Idaho in Moscow was the first university in the state (founded in
1889). A land-grant institution, the UI is the state's flagship university.
State University in Pocatello opened in 1901 as the Academy of Idaho and was
granted university status in 1963. Boise
State University is the most recent school to attain university
status in Idaho, and is primarily geared toward being a commuter
school for part-time undergraduate students.
opened in 1932 as Boise Junior College and became Boise State
University in 1974. Lewis-Clark State College in
Lewiston is the only public, non-university 4 year college
has three regional community colleges: North
Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene; College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls; and The College of Western Idaho in
opened in 2009.
institutions in Idaho are Brigham Young
University-Idaho in Rexburg, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints; The College of Idaho in Caldwell, which still maintains a loose affiliation with
the Presbyterian Church; Northwest Nazarene
University in Nampa; and
New Saint Andrews College
in Moscow, of reformed Christian theological
Boise is the host to the largest 5 K run for women, the St. Luke's
Women's Fitness Celebration.
Official State Emblems
- Just, Rick. "Star Garnet." Idaho Snapshots. Meridian,
Idaho: Radio Idaho, 1990. 9.
- Western States Data Public Land Acreage
- "Mormon" Entry for The Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court
of the United States, David S.Tanenhaus
- "IDAHO in the Pacific Northwest". Barber -Martin. 1956. Caxton
Printers Ltd. Library of Congress 55-5192.
- "Zuivelzicht" April 25, 2007
- Idaho Secretary of State Election Division,
"November 4, 2008 General Election Results"
- 2008 statewide totals
- Idaho history homepage