FULL NAME: State of Idaho
Rank: 43rd

CAPITAL CITY: Boise, the largest city in the state, located on the Boise River in southwestern Idaho; population 125,738. Originally an army camp, it was founded as a settlement in 1863 and was incorporated as a city the following year, when it also became the territorial capital.

STATE NAME AND NICKNAMES: The name “Idaho” is an artificial Indian word invented by George M. Willing. Also known as the Gem State and the Gem of the Mountains (the putative meaning of “Idaho”).

STATE SEAL: In the center is a shield showing a landscape, with the Snake River, mountains, a fir tree, and a farmer at the plow. Above the shield is an elk’s head and the state motto on a scroll; below it is a sheaf of wheat; to the right is a miner; to the left a woman holding symbols of justice and liberty. Along the bottom are agricultural symbols, including two cornucopias, the state flower, and ripened wheat. The yellow border reads “Great Seal of the State of Idaho.”

MOTTO: Esto Perpetua (It Is Forever) SONG “Here We Have Idaho,” lyrics by McKinley Helm and Albert J. Tompkins, music by Sallie Hume Douglas.

SYMBOLS: Flower syringa Tree white pine Bird mountain bluebird Gem star garnet Horse Appaloosa FLAG A blue field with the state seal in the center and below it a red band bearing the legend “State of Idaho.”

ELEVATIONS: Highest point-. Borah Peak, Cus – ter County, 12,662 feet. Lowest point. Snake River, Nez Perce County, 710 feet. Mean elevation: 5,000 feet.

MAJOR RIVERS: Snake, Salmon, Clearwater.

MAJOR LAKES: Pend Oreille, Coeur d’Alene, Priest, Bear, American Falls, Cascade, and Dworshak.

TEMPERATURES: (1990) The highest recorded temperature was 118°F on July 28, 1934, at

Orotino. The lowest was -60°F on January 18, 1943, at Island Park Dam.

SOME INFORMATION: The Idaho potato remains the state’s most important cash crop, followed by wheat, sugar beets, alfalfa, beans, truck vegetables, and peas. Cattle are the main livestock. Total farm receipts were over $2.7 billion in 1989. Manufacturing in the state is centered around potato and beet-sugar processing, lumber products, and chemicals. Silver, lead, and zinc, sand, gravel, basalt, pumice, garnet, and phosphate are the principle mining products. As in many Western states, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, as visitors flock to see Idaho’s spectacular national and state parks. Among states, Idaho ranks high in the generation of energy from renewable resources – mainly hydropower and woodburning. The Columbia and Snake River system, which passes through the state, is one of the most endangered in the nation, in part due to Idaho’s heavy use of irrigation. In fact, Idahoans use more water per capita than the inhabitants of any other state. Among the species threatened by declining river levels is the sockeye salmon, which is nearly extinct in Idaho.

NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES: Idaho was formerly home to the Kalispel, Nehelem, Northern Paiute, Palouse, and Spokane tribes. Groups that continue to live there include the Bannock, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenay, Nez Perce, Northern Shoshoni, and Western Shoshoni. Native Americans were 1.4 percent of the population in 1990.

RELIGIONS, ETHNICITIES, AND LANGUAGES: More than half of Idaho’s population was born in Idaho; the rest is drawn mainly from the western and north central states. There is also a large community of Basques, originally from Spain, who continue their tradition of sheep-herding. Among churchgoers, Mormons are the biggest group, followed by Catholics and Methodists. In 1990, 2.9 percent of the population was foreign-born, with the majority of immigrants coming from Mexico and Canada; 6.4 percent of the population spoke languages other than English at home, of which the ten most common were Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Shoshoni, Chinese, Basque, Thai (Laotian), Portuguese, and Italian. Catholics and Methodists. In 1990, 2.9 percent of the population was foreign-born, with the majority of immigrants coming from Mexico and Canada; 6.4 percent of the population spoke languages other than English at home, of which the ten most common were Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Shoshoni, Chinese, Basque, Thai (Laotian), Portuguese, and Italian.

MAJOR MUSEUMS AND LIBRARIES: Boise Gallery of Art Idaho State Historical Museum, Boise.

MAJOR ARTS ORGANIZATIONS: Boise Opera Boise Philharmonic Association.


The western state of Idaho belongs to the Mountain states. It is bordered on the north by Canada, on the east by Montana and Wyoming, on the south by Nevada and Utah, and on the west by Oregon, Washington, and the Snake River. It ranks 42nd in population and 14th in area among the states.

As a Rocky Mountain state, Idaho is dominated by mountain terrain, with the Continental Divide forming Idaho’s eastern border. The state contains some of the largest stretches of unspoiled wilderness in the continental U. S., with a wide diversity of flora and game. Idaho also boasts more than 2,000 lakes and ten major rivers. Heavily irrigated farmland lines the Snake River valley, the state’s major drainage; Hell’s Canyon, along the western Snake River, is the deepest gorge-about one mile in depth-in North America.

Idaho has the only state seal designed by a woman-Emma Sarah Edwards. The seal was officially adopted on March 14, 1891. Democrat Moses Alexander, Idaho governor from 1915 to 1919, was the nation’s first full-term Jewish governor. Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument, a region of volcanic craters and ash-strewn low hills, was used by NASA as a training ground for Apollo astronauts. The state’s hydroelectric power plants, with 1 million-plus kilowatt capacity, use less than ten percent of Idaho’s hydroelectric potential. Idaho’s stretch of U. S. Highway 12 runs along the route taken by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. Only one major highway runs north-south in the state; when that is blocked in winter, vehicular travel between the upper and lower parts of the state is nearly impossible.

Throughout the 1860’s, Idaho experienced a gold rush that drew scores of prospectors but left a lot of ghost towns. These relics of instant communities are found in many parts of the state. Mining, however, is still important. Idaho ranks first internationally in the production of silver, lead, zinc, copper and cobalt. The famed Sunshine Mince, a long and largest lode producer of silver in the United States, is there. In May 1972, a fire in the Sunshine sent lethal carbon monoxide and smoke wafting through 100 miles of workings. The death toll of miners was a staggering 91 people. Of all commercial activities in the state, Idaho leans most heavily on agriculture for its economic well-being. It is the tenth largest producer of wheat in the nation and the leader in potatoes. The Idaho potato, like the Georgia peach, remains something of an American institution. But it is the cattle industry that is responsible for the largest single share in annual farm-marketing cash receipts. Tourism, now the third-ranked industry, is on the rise, with an estimated 6 million yearly visitors. There are more than 25 established ski areas in Idaho, including that dowager of winter resorts, Sun Valley. Celebrated in song and film, Sun Valley has worn its fame well through the years.

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