Idaho is in love with its history. There are museums everywhere all over the state for a hundred different topics about the past and there are tons of historic landmarks that point out where some kind of important or tragic event happened in history. In the same day that you visit the Warhawk Air Museum to learn about aviation history, you can go to the site where the Oregon Trail used to run next to Boise and check out what the American settlers saw as they moved west. However, Idaho also has a special place in its heart for the prehistoric side of Idaho. There are a few places across the state where you can get a really good look at what the world looked like before humans actually started recording information about themselves and the world around them. There are two in specific that I want to talk to you about. One is about a species of fish that has managed to stick around and remained mostly unchanged since the dinosaurs (Kind of like crocodiles have) and a place in the Hagerman Valley in Idaho where you can learn about the earlier ancestors of a species of animal that a lot of us know and love and which used to be the backbone of transportation in the world.
Fishing in Idaho is a pretty big deal. A lot of people pull out their poles when the weather is good and search for a good river to cast a line into, but did you know you can catch a dinosaur? Well, you actually cannot and exaggerated, but you can get pretty close. Within the Snake River, Idaho’s largest and most famous river, there is a species of fish swimming around that is pretty much unchanged in its evolution since the age of the dinosaurs. The White Sturgeon is of a particular species of fish that has been around in one way or another since the Triassic era just before the dinosaurs ate the big one. They honestly look a little bit like some kind of ancient fish, though they also look like most other fish in their physical appearance. There is a certain reptilian look to them that makes them familiar to dinosaurs. The reason they are so interesting is that they have been very slow to evolve. Evolution is an incredibly slow process but it usually does not occur as slowly as it does in Sturgeon. Perhaps evolution just was not necessary for these particular fish and they were already pretty much ideal to start with.
One of the fun things about White Sturgeon is that you can actually fish them up and eat them. That is right, you can eat a prehistoric fish. Maybe that does not sound all that appealing, but the act of catching them is probably going to be exciting enough. First of all, White Sturgeon are really big. They can go grow to be five to seven feet long and way in the thousands of pounds if you are lucky and catch a good one. Naturally, that means you are going to have a bit of a struggle to pull them out of the water, but the prize you are going to come out with at the end is completely worth it. The struggle can be its own reward as well. White Sturgeon have gone through some population problems in the past, though business is still open for fishing them. Some of the strategic damming of the Snake River meant that certain parts of the sturgeon population where cut off from where they were traditionally free to roam. This means that fishing them is regulated, but not much more than any other fish is regulated in Idaho. As long as you have the proper licenses and permissions, you are going to have no problem going after these dinosaur fish.
Horses are a pretty common animal, though not as common as they used to be. There was a time where we used them for pretty much every activity. They hauled supplies back and forth between distant towns, carried soldiers into battle, and helped humans get work done in a variety of different ways. Horses still have their uses but now that cars and other motorized vehicles do the workhorses used to handle. But in their heyday, horses were the most useful tool for many humans, and that started well before recorded history. Interestingly enough, Idaho is home to some of the unrecorded history that tells us about horses. In the Hagerman Valley, there is a fossil bed where the Hagerman Horse was found in 1928. The Hagerman Horse is a very old relative of modern-day horses going back into the million-year range. This is definitely not one of the horses you know and love and see walking around all the time, but it is close and looks remarkably similar in many ways.
It also was not necessarily a horse, though it is hard to come up with any other name that matches that is also not completely scientific. To some, the Hagerman Horse is known as the Hagerman Zebra, and there is where you might come to understand the differences between modern horses and the Hagerman variety. If you just look at them and not very closely, horses and zebras are pretty much the same thing, but once you start looking with a more focused eye the big and small differences start to pop out. If you visit the Hagerman Valley in Idaho you will get a chance to see a full skeleton of the Hagerman Horse and get an idea for yourself of what exactly the animal might actually have looked like. Either way, you are going to get a chance to look at some long-dead history that is still hanging around to spread wonder and awe. If you like learning about things that were going on way before any humans were writing it down, check out the Snake River and the Hagerman Valley.