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Idaho
State of Idaho
Flag of Idaho Official seal of Idaho
Seal
Nickname(s): 
Gem State
Motto(s): 
Esto perpetua (Latin for "Let it be perpetual")
Anthem: "Here We Have Idaho"
Map of the United States with Idaho highlighted
Map of the United States with Idaho highlighted
Country United States
Before statehood Oregon Territory, Washington Territory, Idaho Territory
Admitted to the Union July 3, 1890 (43rd)
Capital
(and largest city)
Boise
Largest metro Boise
Legislature Legislature
 • Upper house Senate
 • Lower house House of Representatives
Area
 • Total 83,569 sq mi (216,443 km2)
 • Land 83,570 sq mi (216,400 km2)
 • Water 926 sq mi (2,398 km2)  1.11%
Area rank 14th
Dimensions
 • Length 479 mi (771 km)
 • Width 305 mi (491 km)
Elevation
5,000 ft (1,520 m)
Highest elevation 12,662 ft (3,859 m)
Lowest elevation
(Confluence of Snake and Clearwater River; Lewiston)
713 ft (217 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 1,839,106
 • Rank 38th
 • Density 21.6/sq mi (8.33/km2)
 • Density rank 44th
 • Median household income
$52,225
 • Income rank
41st
Demonym(s) Idahoan
Language
 • Official language English
Time zones
primary UTC−07:00 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−06:00 (MDT)
Idaho Panhandle UTC−08:00 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−07:00 (PDT)
USPS abbreviation
ID
ISO 3166 code US-ID
Latitude 42° N to 49° N
Longitude 111°03′ W to 117°15′ W
Idaho state symbols
Flag of Idaho.svg
Seal of Idaho.svg
The Seal of Idaho
Living insignia
Amphibian Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
Bird
Fish Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii)
Flower Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii)
Horse breed Appaloosa
Insect Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Tree Western white pine (Pinus monticola)
Inanimate insignia
Dance Square dance
Food
Fossil Hagerman horse (Equus simplicidens)
Gemstone Star garnet
Soil Threebear
State route marker
Idaho state route marker
State quarter
Idaho quarter dollar coin
Released in 2007
Lists of United States state symbols

Idaho is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It borders the state of Montana to the east and northeast, Wyoming to the east, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Washington and Oregon to the west. To the north, it shares a small portion of the Canadian border with the province of British Columbia. With a population of approximately 1.8 million and an area of 83,570 square miles (216,400 km2), Idaho is the 14th largest, the 13th least populous and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 U.S. states. The state's capital and largest city is Boise.

For thousands of years Idaho has been inhabited by Native American peoples. In the early 19th century, Idaho was considered part of the Oregon Country, an area disputed between the United States and the British Empire. It officially became U.S. territory with the signing of the Oregon Treaty of 1846, but a separate Idaho Territory was not organized until 1863, instead being included for periods in Oregon Territory and Washington Territory. Idaho was eventually admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, becoming the 43rd state.

Forming part of the Pacific Northwest (and the associated Cascadia bioregion), Idaho is divided into several distinct geographic and climatic regions. The state's north, the relatively isolated Idaho Panhandle, is closely linked with Eastern Washington with which it shares the Pacific Time Zone—the rest of the state uses the Mountain Time Zone. The state's south includes the Snake River Plain (which has most of the population and agricultural land). The state's southeast incorporates part of the Great Basin. Idaho is quite mountainous, and contains several stretches of the Rocky Mountains. The United States Forest Service holds about 38% of Idaho's land, the highest proportion of any state.

Industries significant for the state economy include manufacturing, agriculture, mining, forestry, and tourism. A number of science and technology firms are either headquartered in Idaho or have factories there, and the state also contains the Idaho National Laboratory, which is the country's largest Department of Energy facility. Idaho's agricultural sector supplies many products, but the state is best known for its potato crop, which comprises around one-third of the nationwide yield. The official state nickname is the "Gem State", which references Idaho's natural beauty.

Etymology

The name "Idaho" may be derived from the Plains Apache word "ídaahę́", which means "enemy." The Comanches used this word to refer to the Idaho Territory.

Geography

National-atlas-idaho
Map of Idaho.

Idaho borders six US 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. The landscape is rugged with some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States. For example, at 2.3 million acres (930,000 ha), the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is the largest contiguous area of protected wilderness in the continental United States. Idaho is a Rocky Mountain state with abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons. The waters of the Snake River rush through Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States. Shoshone Falls plunges down rugged cliffs from a height greater than that of Niagara Falls. 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 Salmon River empties into the Snake in Hells Canyon and forms the southern boundary of Nez Perce County on its north shore, of which Lewiston is the county seat. The Port of Lewiston, at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Snake Rivers is the farthest inland seaport on the West Coast at 465 river miles from the Pacific at Astoria, Oregon.

Idaho's highest point is Borah Peak, 12,662 ft (3,859 m), in the Lost River Range north of Mackay. Idaho's lowest point, 710 ft (216 m), 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. Other mountain ranges in Idaho include the Bitterroot Range, the White Cloud Mountains, the Lost River Range, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Salmon River Mountains.

Idaho has two time zones, with the dividing line approximately midway between Canada and Nevada. Southern Idaho, including the Boise metropolitan area, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Twin Falls, are in the Mountain Time Zone. A legislative error theoretically placed this region in the Central Time Zone, but this 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, which contains less than a quarter of the state's population and land area.

Climate

Autumn in Boise
Autumn in Boise

Idaho has much variation in its climate.

Climate in Idaho can be hot, although extended periods over 98 °F (37 °C) for the maximum temperature are rare, except for the lowest point in elevation, Lewiston, which correspondingly sees very little snow. Hot summer days are tempered by the low relative humidity and cooler evenings during summer months since, for most of the state, the highest diurnal difference in temperature is often in the summer.

Winters can be cold, although extended periods of bitter cold weather below zero are unusual. This is what led the railroad tycoon Harriman family to develop the famous ski resort, Sun Valley.

Lakes/rivers

Lakecoeurdalenebig
Lake Coeur d'Alene in North Idaho
Redfish lake
Redfish Lake in central Idaho.
Checkerboard forest in Idaho
Priest River winding through Whitetail Butte

History

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. American Indian peoples predominant in the area included the Nez Percé in the north and the Northern and Western Shoshone in the south.

An early presence of French-Canadian trappers is visible in names and toponyms that have survived to this day: Nez Percé, Cœur d'Alène, Boisé, Payette, some preexisting the Lewis and Clark and Astorian expeditions which themselves included significant numbers of French and Métis guides recruited for their familiarity with the terrain.

Idaho, as 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 Oregon. When Oregon became a state, what is now Idaho was in what remained of the original Oregon Territory not part of the new state, and designated as the Washington Territory.

Between then and the creation of the Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863, at Lewiston, parts of the present-day state were included in the Oregon, Washington, and Dakota Territories. The new territory included present-day Idaho, Montana, and most of Wyoming.

The Lewis and Clark expedition crossed Idaho in 1805 on the way to the Pacific and in 1806 on the return, largely following the Clearwater River both directions.

The first non-indigenous settlement was Kullyspell House, established on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille for fur trading in 1809 by David Thompson of the North West Company.

In 1812 Donald Mackenzie, working for the Pacific Fur Company at the time, established a post on the lower Clearwater River near present-day Lewiston. This post, known as "MacKenzie's Post" or "Clearwater", operated until the Pacific Fur Company was bought out by the North West Company in 1813, after which it was abandoned. The first attempts at organized communities, within the present borders of Idaho, were established in 1860. The first permanent, substantial incorporated community was Lewiston in 1861.

After some tribulation as a territory Idaho achieved statehood in 1890. The economy of the state, which had been primarily supported by metal mining, shifted towards agriculture, forest products and tourism.

Idaho was one of the hardest hit of the Pacific Northwest states during the Great Depression.

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 combined.

Demographics

Population

Idaho population map
Idaho population density map
Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 14,999
1880 32,610 117.4%
1890 88,548 171.5%
1900 161,772 82.7%
1910 325,594 101.3%
1920 431,866 32.6%
1930 445,032 3.0%
1940 524,873 17.9%
1950 588,637 12.1%
1960 667,191 13.3%
1970 712,567 6.8%
1980 943,935 32.5%
1990 1,006,749 6.7%
2000 1,293,953 28.5%
2010 1,567,582 21.1%
2020 1,839,106 17.3%
Source: 1910–2020

The United States Census Bureau determined Idaho's population was 1,839,106 on July 1, 2020, a 17% increase since the 2010 U.S. census.

Idaho had an estimated population of 1,754,208 in 2018, which was an increase of 37,265, from the prior year and an increase of 186,626, or 11.91%, since 2010. This included a natural increase since the last census of 58,884 (111,131 births minus 52,247 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 75,795 people into the state. There are large numbers of Americans of English and German ancestry in Idaho. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 14,522 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 61,273 people.

This made Idaho the ninth fastest-growing state after Utah (+14.37%), Texas (+14.14%), Florida (+13.29%), Colorado (+13.25%), North Dakota (+13.01%), Nevada (+12.36%), Arizona (+12.20%) and Washington. From 2017 to 2018, Idaho grew the second-fastest, surpassed only by Nevada.

Nampa, about 20 miles (30 km) west of downtown Boise, became the state's second largest city in the late 1990s, passing Pocatello and Idaho Falls. Nampa's population was under 29,000 in 1990 and grew to over 81,000 by 2010. Located between Nampa and Boise, Meridian also experienced high growth, from fewer than 10,000 residents in 1990 to more than 75,000 in 2010 and is now Idaho's third largest city. Growth of 5% or more over the same period has also been observed in Caldwell, Coeur d'Alene, Post Falls, and Twin Falls.

From 1990 to 2010, Idaho's population increased by over 560,000 (55%). The Boise metropolitan area (officially known as the Boise City-Nampa, ID Metropolitan Statistical Area) is Idaho's largest metropolitan area. Other metropolitan areas in order of size are Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Lewiston.

The table below shows the ethnic composition of Idaho's population as of 2016.

Idaho ethnic composition of population
Race Population (2017 est.) Percentage
Total population 1,657,375 100%
Caucasian 1,507,880 91.0%
Black or African American 11,231 0.7%
American Indian and Alaska Native 21,323 1.3%
Asian 22,720 1.4%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 2,343 0.1%
Some other race 47,964 2.9%
Two or more races 43,914 2.6%
Idaho historical racial composition
Racial composition 1970 1990 2000 2010
Caucasian 98.1% 94.4% 90.1% 89.1%
Indigenous 0.9% 1.4% 1.4% 1.4%
Asian 0.5% 0.9% 0.9% 1.2%
Black 0.3% 0.3% 0.4% 0.6%
Native Hawaiian and
other Pacific Islander
0.1% 0.1%
Other race 0.2% 3.0% 4.2% 5.1%
Two or more races 2.0% 2.5%
Idaho ancestry
There are large numbers of Americans of German and English ancestry in Idaho.

According to the 2017 American Community Survey, 12.2% of Idaho's population were of Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race): Mexican (10.6%), Puerto Rican (0.2%), Cuban (0.1%), and other Hispanic or Latino origin (1.3%). The five largest ancestry groups were: German (17.5%), English (16.4%), Irish (9.3%), American (8.1%), and Scottish (3.2%).

Birth data

Note: Births in table don't add up, because Hispanics are counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.

Live Births by Single Race/Ethnicity of Mother
Race 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Caucasian: 21,246 (94.9%) 21,696 (94.8%) 21,618 (94.7%) ... ... ... ...
> Non-Hispanic 17,951 (80.2%) 18,188 (79.5%) 18,087 (79.2%) 17,543 (78.0%) 17,151 (77.3%) 16,574 (77.4%) 16,959 (76.9%)
Asian 491 (2.2%) 501 (2.2%) 516 (2.3%) 363 (1.6%) 366 (1.7%) 348 (1.6%) 350 (1.6%)
Indigenous 421 (1.9%) 429 (1.9%) 406 (1.8%) 261 (1.2%) 337 (1.5%) 285 (1.3%) 291 (1.3%)
Black 225 (1.0%) 250 (1.1%) 287 (1.2%) 217 (1.0%) 243 (1.1%) 233 (1.1%) 261 (1.2%)
Hispanic (of any race) 3,422 (15.3%) 3,651 (16.0%) 3,645 (16.0%) 3,614 (16.1%) 3,598 (16.2%) 3,549 (16.6%) 3,702 (16.8%)
Total Idaho 22,383 (100%) 22,876 (100%) 22,827 (100%) 22,482 (100%) 22,181 (100%) 21,403 (100%) 22,063 (100%)
  • Since 2016, data for births of White Hispanic origin are not collected, but included in one Hispanic group; persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

Religion

Religion in Idaho as of 2014
Religion Percent
Unaffiliated
  
27%
Evangelical Protestant
  
21%
Mormons
  
19%
Mainline Protestant
  
13%
Catholic
  
10%
Other Non-christian
  
4%
Eastern Orthodox
  
1%
Muslim
  
1%
Idaho Falls Temple
The Idaho Falls Idaho Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006

According to the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life, the self-identified religious affiliations of Idahoans over the age of 18 in 2008 and 2014 were:

Denomination 2008 2014
Christian, including: 81% 67%
* Evangelical Protestant 22% 21%
* Mainline Protestant 16% 16%
* Catholic 18% 10%
* Eastern Orthodox < 0.5% 1%
* Historically Black Protestant < 0.5% < 1%
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 23% 19%
* Jehovah's Witnesses 1% < 1%
* Other Christian < 0.5% < 1%
Unaffiliated, including: 18% 27%
* Nothing in particular n/d 22%
* Agnostic n/d 3%
* Atheist n/d 2%
Non-Christian faiths, including: n/d 4%
* Muslim < 0.5% 1%
* Jewish < 0.5% < 1%
* Buddhist < 0.5% < 1%
* Hindu < 0.5% < 1%
* Other World religions < 0.5% < 1%
* Other faiths (New Age, Native American, etc.) n/d 2%
Don't know/refused < 0.5% 1%

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the largest denominations by number of members in 2010 were The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 409,265; the Catholic Church with 123,400; the non-denominational Evangelical Protestant with 62,637; and the Assemblies of God with 22,183.

Language

English is the state's predominant language. Minority languages include Spanish and various Native American languages.

Economy

IdahoPotatoMuseumPotato
Idaho Potato Museum
Wheat harvest
Wheat harvest on the Palouse

Idaho is an important agricultural state, producing nearly one-third of the potatoes grown in the United States. All three varieties of wheat, dark northern spring, hard red, and soft white are grown in the state. Nez Perce County is considered a premier soft white growing locale.

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 in Gooding, Idaho.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the largest Department of Energy facility in the country by area. INL is an important part of the eastern Idaho economy.

Idaho also is home to three facilities of Anheuser-Busch which provide a large part of the malt for breweries across the nation.

Outdoor recreation is a common example ranging from numerous snowmobile and downhill and cross-country ski areas in winter, combined with the rivers for a wide variety of activities.

Wine grapes were grown between Kendrick and Juliaetta in the Idaho Panhandle by the French Rothschilds until Prohibition. In keeping with this, while there are no large wineries or breweries in Idaho, there are numerous and growing numbers of award-winning boutique wineries and microbreweries in the northern part of the state.

Today, Idaho's largest industry is the science and technology sector.

Since the late 1970s, Boise has emerged as a center for semiconductor manufacturing. Boise is the home of Micron Technology, the only U.S. manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips.

Energy

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 geothermal power 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 556,000 MWh, which amounts to about three-fourths of Idaho's electricity generated in the state.

Transportation

Idaho license plate - passenger baseplate - 2008
The current state license plate design, modified since its introduction in 1991

Highways

Idaho is among the few states in the nation without a major freeway linking its two largest metropolitan areas, Boise in the south and Coeur d'Alene in the north.

Airports

Idaho has 7 major airports

Railroads

Idaho is served by three transcontinental railroads.

The Union Pacific Railroad also crosses southern Idaho traveling between Portland, Oregon, Green River, Wyoming, and Ogden, Utah and serves Boise, Nampa, Twin Falls, and Pocatello.

Ports

The Port 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 Lewiston to Portland, where goods are loaded on ocean-going vessels.

Cities and towns

Coeur d'Alene
Sunset in Coeur d'Alene

Protected areas

National parks, reserves, monuments and historic sites

City of Rocks National Reserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument

National recreation areas

  • Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
  • Sawtooth National Recreation Area

National wildlife refuges and Wilderness Areas

National conservation areas

  • Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

State parks

See also: List of Idaho state parks

Official state emblems

In popular culture

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves starred in the movie My Own Private Idaho, portions of which take place in Idaho.

The 2004 cult film Napoleon Dynamite takes place in Preston, Idaho. The director and his wife, Jared and Jerusha Hess, attended Preston High School.

Judy Garland performed the elaborate song-and-dance routine "Born in a Trunk in the Princess Theater in Pocatello, Idaho" in the 1954 version of the film A Star is Born.

Education

K–12

As of January 2020, the State of Idaho contains 105 school districts and 62 charter schools. The school districts range in enrollment from two to 39,507 students.

Idaho school districts are governed by elected school boards, which are elected in November of odd-numbered years, except for the Boise School District, whose elections are held in September.

Colleges and universities

Spori Building
The Jacob Spori Building at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg

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). It opened its doors in 1892 and is the land-grant institution and primary research university of the state. Idaho State University in Pocatello opened in 1901 as the Academy of Idaho, attained four-year status in 1947 and university status in 1963. Boise State University is the most recent school to attain university status in Idaho. The school 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 four-year college in Idaho. It opened as a normal school in 1893.

Idaho has four regional community colleges: North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene; College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls; College of Western Idaho in Nampa, which opened in 2009, College of Eastern Idaho in Idaho Falls, which transitioned from a technical college in 2017.

Private institutions in Idaho are Boise Bible College, affiliated with congregations of the Christian churches and churches of Christ; Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, which is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a sister college to Brigham Young University; 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 background. McCall College is a non-affiliated two-year private college in McCall, which was founded in 2011 and later opened in 2013.

Sports

Central Idaho is home to one of North America's oldest ski resorts, Sun Valley, where the world's first chairlift was installed in 1936. Other noted outdoor sites include Hells Canyon, the Salmon River, and its embarkation point of Riggins.

Club Sport League
Boise Hawks Baseball Pioneer League
Boise State Broncos NCAA Div I FBS, MWC
Idaho Vandals NCAA Div I FCS, Big Sky
Idaho State Bengals NCAA Div I FCS, Big Sky
Idaho Falls Chukars Baseball Pioneer League
Idaho Steelheads Ice hockey ECHL

The Boise Open professional golf tournament has been played at Hillcrest Country Club since 1990 as part of the Korn Ferry Tour. The Open has been part of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals since 2016.

High school sports are overseen by the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA).

In 2016, Meridian's Michael Slagowski ran 800 meters in 1:48.70. That is one of the 35 fastest 800-meter times ever run by a high school boy in the United States. Weeks later, he would become only the ninth high school boy to complete a mile in under four minutes, running 3:59.53.

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