Whether you are thinking about moving to Idaho or if you are just curious about what goes on there, there are several big questions about the state that are commonly asked.
How big is Idaho? This mountainous state is the fourteenth-largest in America and covers an area of 83,569 square miles. There are over 3,100 miles of rivers in Idaho and 107,651 miles of running water, including creeks and irrigation canals. That’s more than any other state! In fact, the entire length of the United States is only 2,680 miles, so if you were to fit all the rivers end to end, they would be longer than our country. Idaho also has the longest river that is contained entirely within one state – the Salmon River. It’s no surprise that Idaho is known for river sports such as fly-fishing and rafting. If you were to visit a different Idaho waterway every day, it would take you over 28 years to visit them all. With 10,419 named streams, rivers, and springs, you’ll be able to enjoy nearly all the state’s pristine wilderness and beautiful backcountry.
Where are the best places to live? Arguably, the best place to live in Idaho is Boise, the capital and largest city. There are so many interesting shops and people here that you’ll be able to find something new whenever you leave your neighborhood. Boise is also packed with historical landmarks and museums, so you will be learning along the way. Take a tour of the Old Idaho Penitentiary or visit the World Center for Birds of Prey. Art exhibits are scattered all over the city and many parks have art installations for you to enjoy.
If the big city isn’t for you and you prefer the beautiful outdoors, take a trip to Moscow, which is just an hour and a half south of Coeur d’Alene. While there isn’t much to do in the city itself, the surrounding area is rich with beautiful views and undisturbed wilderness for you to explore. You can take a trip to the nearby Spring Valley Reservoir and spend the week camping and fishing or rent some gear from the University of Idaho Outdoor Rental Center and blaze your own trail through the surrounding areas. Eastern Idaho is also full of incredible places to see, not to mention you will be very close to Yellowstone National Park and the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Additionally, Idaho Falls has a population of 60,000 and is a great place for growing families.
Why is Idaho the Gem State? The first non-native settlers of Idaho were mostly fur trappers and miners who were scattered throughout the territory. As gold was discovered in the fall of 1860 near present-day Pierce, many prospectors traveled to the region and found precious metals and gems in many nearby rivers. Idaho became a state just 30 years later as many mining towns sprung up throughout the region. Many of these communities existed only to provide services to the miners, so many towns appeared seemingly overnight and disappeared just as quickly as miners moved to more profitable areas.
Today, Idaho is known as the Gem State because it produces 72 types of gemstones and many more precious metals and minerals, including gold, silver, zinc, phosphates, lead, platinum, and tungsten. Mining industries in the state make up ten percent of yearly exports, generating over 1.8 billion dollars for Idaho. Currently, around 15,000 people are employed by the various mining industries, and ground samples estimate that there are still enough untapped deposits to support the region for years to come.
Where did the name Idaho come from? To make a long story short, it might just be a made-up word. When Idaho applied to be a state, a lobbyist suggested the word, claiming it was from the Shoshone language. The proposed translation meant “gem of the mountains” or “sun over the mountains,” but it has become increasingly clear that the word does not exist in Shoshone. Instead, it is most likely that the man made up the word based on his understanding of the language and not from an already invented word.
Does Idaho grow anything besides potatoes? Yes! Idaho is the number one producer of potatoes and winter peas in the United States but is second in the nation in barley, hay, sugar beets, wrinkled seed peas, prunes, and plums. It is also a large producer of hops, mint, lentils, cherries, and onions. In fact, Idaho is among the top ten in the nation for nearly 30 of its agricultural products, so it is extremely likely you already have a little piece of the state in your kitchen or pantry.
How cold is Idaho? In the winters, it can easily drop below zero degrees. While many see that as a downside, it’s no secret that Idaho has some of the best snow in the United States. The cold temperatures produce beautifully powdered snow, so the state is peppered with winter resorts. It is very common for many residents to take their snowmobiles to the nearby forests and explore the approved trails. You may also consider taking the time to cross-country ski or snowshoe through the parks and monuments in the area. Before embarking on any winter adventure, make sure you notify someone close to you of your plans and speak to park rangers before passing through a state or national park. You will also need to obtain a permit if you plan to stay overnight in the park. The best way to enjoy the remote wilderness is to make sure you are doing it safely!
There are many more questions you might have about Idaho, but the best way to get the answers is to visit it yourself! Idahoans are very proud of their homeland and it is easy to find those who are willing to teach you about this incredible state.