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Valley County
Bighorn Ram, Recycled Barbed Wire Sculpture in Cascade, Idaho
Bighorn Ram, Recycled Barbed Wire Sculpture in Cascade, Idaho
Official seal of Valley County
Map of Idaho highlighting Valley County
Location within the U.S. state of Idaho
Map of the United States highlighting Idaho
Idaho's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Idaho
Founded February 26, 1917
Named for The Long Valley of the North Fork of the Payette River
Seat Cascade
Largest city McCall
 • Total 3,733 sq mi (9,670 km2)
 • Land 3,665 sq mi (9,490 km2)
 • Water 68 sq mi (180 km2)  1.8%
 • Total 11,746 Increase
 • Density 3.1/sq mi (1.2/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 1st

Valley County is a rural county located in the U.S. state of Idaho. As of the 2020 census, the population was 11,746. The county seat is Cascade, and the largest city is McCall. Established in 1917, it was named after the Long Valley of the North Fork of the Payette River, which extends over 30 miles (50 km) from Payette Lake at McCall south to Cascade to Round Valley. The valley was formerly a summer pasture for livestock from the Boise Valley. Since the completion of the Cascade Dam in 1948, much of the northern valley has been covered by the Cascade Reservoir.

Valley County is home to the Idaho ground squirrel.


Packer John Welch, who had contracted to freight supplies to miners of Idaho City, established a camp on Gold Fork Creek and a brush cabin on Clear Creek in the 1860s. He also established a station near what later became the town of Cascade.

During the 1870s, prospectors and miners started searching for gold. The Clara Foltz mines opened on Paddy Flat, and other diggings commenced on Boulder and Gold Fork Creeks. In the late 1870s, the last of the Sheepeater Tribe was removed from Long Valley and Round Valley to a reservation. As the gold sources dwindled, a few of the miners took up squatter's rights. James Horner built a cabin on Clear Creek in 1881, other miners settled on the Payette River.

Also in 1888, the first post offices in Valley County were opened at VanWyck, another one opened at Lardo in 1889. That same year Louis McCall and other settlers took squatter's rights on Payette Lake. Their homesteads were the nucleus of what would later become the town of McCall. A freight stop was established at Lardo to service the increased mining activity at Warren Meadows.

The 1890 census stated 538 people resided in the VanWyck precinct, and 110 resided in the Alpha precinct. Land survey maps drawn in the 1890s show four schools. The maps also point out sawmills at Warner's Pond and on Gold Fork Creek. A small reservoir near VanWyck can also be seen on them.

The 1890s were a period of strife for the new settlers. Ranchers from south of Long Valley annually brought their large herds of cattle to graze in Long Valley. The homesteaders resented the intrusion and retaliated on several occasions by slaughtering the outsiders' cattle.

Gold was first discovered in the Thunder Mountain area in 1893, W.H. Dewey began mining on a large scale in 1902. As many as 3,000 miners swarmed into the region.

From the 1910s onwards logging became, along with farming and ranching, the economic mainstay of Long Valley. Towns distant from the railroad, such as Alpha, Crawford and Roseberry, soon lost their vitality and died. Towns near the railroad, such as Cascade, Donnelly and McCall, thrived and became the population centers of Valley County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,733 square miles (9,670 km2), of which 3,665 square miles (9,490 km2) is land and 68 square miles (180 km2) (1.8%) is water. It is the fifth-largest county in Idaho by area.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

  • Boise National Forest (part)
  • Payette National Forest (part)
  • Salmon National Forest (part)


Cascade Dam & reservoir


  • SH 55 - Payette River Scenic Byway

The county's primary highway is the north–south State Highway 55, the Payette River Scenic Byway, a designated national scenic byway. It heads north from Eagle in Ada County to Horseshoe Bend in Boise County, and climbs the whitewater of the Payette River to Cascade and McCall. The route turns west at Payette Lake in McCall and ends at New Meadows in Adams County, at the junction with US-95.


The county has public-use airports owned by the state, by the U.S. Forest Service, and by local municipalities.

  • Bernard USFS Airport (U54)
  • Big Creek Airport (U60)
  • Bruce Meadows Airport (U63)
  • Cabin Creek USFS Airport (I08)
  • Cascade Airport (U70)
  • Donald D. Coski Memorial Airport (U84)
  • Indian Creek USFS Airport (S81)
  • Johnson Creek Airport (3U2)
  • Krassel USFS Airport (24K)
  • Landmark USFS Airport (0U0)
  • Mahoney Creek USFS Airport (0U3)
  • McCall Municipal Airport (MYL)
  • Soldier Bar USFS Airport (85U)
  • Thomas Creek Airport (2U8)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 2,524
1930 3,488 38.2%
1940 4,035 15.7%
1950 4,270 5.8%
1960 3,663 −14.2%
1970 3,609 −1.5%
1980 5,604 55.3%
1990 6,109 9.0%
2000 7,651 25.2%
2010 9,862 28.9%
2020 11,746 19.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020 2020

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 9,862 people, 4,393 households, and 2,870 families living in the county. The population density was 2.7 inhabitants per square mile (1.0/km2). There were 11,789 housing units at an average density of 3.2 per square mile (1.2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.8% white, 0.7% American Indian, 0.4% Asian, 0.1% black or African American, 1.6% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.9% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 33.9% were German, 19.3% were English, 12.8% were Irish, 7.6% were American, and 5.5% were Scottish.

Of the 4,393 households, 24.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.8% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.7% were non-families, and 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.71. The median age was 46.9 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $50,851 and the median income for a family was $59,737. Males had a median income of $40,917 versus $35,876 for females. The per capita income for the county was $27,577. About 11.5% of families and 15.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.0% of those under age 18 and 7.3% of those age 65 or over.


Tamarack view
View from the top of West Mountain at Tamarack Resort, overlooking Lake Cascade to the east


Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

  • Big Creek
  • Lake Fork
  • Roseberry
  • Warm Lake

Ski areas

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