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What Idaho is Known For & Famous For

Idaho is a state located in the northwest of the United States with huge forests and protected land.

 

Idaho is known for its scenic beauty, protected wildernesses, star garnet mining, and outdoor recreation and activities. The state is also known for its agriculture industry or potatoes and onions as well as its many ghost towns and history with the gold rush.

 

Read on to learn more about what Idaho is known for and famous for.

 

 

The Gem State

Idaho is known as the Gem State because over 240 types of minerals can be found within its borders. Topaz is the most well-known and popular gem found in Idaho.

 

Most of the world’s topaz is found in this western state. In 2003 one mine outside of Idaho Falls was producing a quarter of all the world’s supply. Idaho is also known for producing wide-ranging types and colors of precious stones such as amethyst, citrine, garnet, morganite, peridot, smoky quartz, and more.

 

Although not technically a gemstone, gold was discovered in the Boise Basin of Idaho in 1862. Gold is still mined there today.

 

Digging for Emerald Creek Star Garnets, circa 1960s – Fernwood, Idaho – Photo by Steve Shock on Flickr

 

Star Garnets

The official state gemstone is the star garnet. Idaho designated the star garnet as the official state gemstone in 1985. Idaho is one of two places in the world where star garnets are found. The other being India.

 

At one-time, star garnets were found all over northern Idaho in large quantities. Many were sent to New York where they were cut and polished, but the main source of the gemstone is now located about sixty miles south of Lewiston, in the Sawtooth Mountains.

 

The star garnet is considered a “semi-precious” stone. It gets this designation because it does not have the luster of other gemstones, such as rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. The star garnet is a member of the pyrope family.

 

 

Potato Crops

Potato farming is a huge industry in Idaho, with the state providing around a third of the nation’s crop in 2008. There are three types of potatoes that can be farmed in Idaho: russet, red, and round white mashers. According to the American Potato Board, roughly one-hundred and fifty (150) million pounds of potatoes come from Idaho annually.

 

 

Onions

Idaho ties first place with Washington for onion production in the United States. In fact, Idaho is known for producing dozens of varieties of onions on their farms.

 

The mild weather is one of the reasons why onions are grown in the area. The other reason is because of its volcanic soil, which is rich in minerals and nutrients.

 

Most of the farms are privately owned and because there is a large demand for onions, many farmers plant them twice a year. The first planting is done in April and the second is done in mid-August.

 

A common practice among onion farmers is to burn their plots before planting the first batch of onions. The farmers do this so that the onion will have a strong taste, creating more demand for their product.

 

Photo by Steve Shock on Flickr

 

Lentil Capital of the World

Those are not words one would normally expect to see in the same sentence. The main cities of interest in Idaho are Boise, Nampa, Meridian, and Caldwell—and they’re hardly world-renowned for their lentil production. Despite this lack of recognition, however, Idaho is in fact the Lentil Capital of the World.

 

More specifically, the region of Palouse is the lentil capital of the world, this region covers north-central Idaho and a bit of southeast Washington.

 

 

Trout Supply

The state of Idaho is known for its trout. Every year, thousands of people flock to the area to fish for them at one of the many bodies of water available. The Boise River, which runs through Boise, is popular among fly fishermen because it has large hatches during certain times of the year that drive trout to the surface in droves. The Boise River is one of many rivers that are close together, allowing fishermen to take advantage of multiple bodies of water in a short amount of time.

 

Deer Creek reservoir offers some prime spots for tourists to fish. It’s up high in elevation which provides cool waters and comfortable weather when most other lakes are too hot to handle. Its also full of hungry trout.

 

There are rivers, streams, and lakes everywhere in Idaho so it’s easy to see why fishing is so popular. Whether you’re fly fishing or using lures, you’re sure to catch a few trout.

 

Photo by Jean on Flickr

 

Appaloosa – The State Horse

The Appaloosa is not only the state horse of Idaho, but it is also the official state animal of Nez Perce county. The breed was founded in the region and is well known for its colorful spots.

 

Before horses were introduced to North America by Europeans, they did not have any spotted or color variations that are found in modern breeds. The appaloosa was developed from a combination of several types of horses, including the Arabian and the Spanish Barb, which were brought to North America by early explorers in the late 15th century.

 

The Nez Perce Indians have been credited with developing this breed because when Lewis and Clark came upon the tribe in 1805, they had already been selectively breeding their horses for certain traits. With the addition of the Spanish Barb, the Nez Perce were able to develop a breed that reflected the physical characteristics of their people. With this new breed, the Nez Perce were able to become powerful horsemen and successfully defend themselves against other tribes that were trying to steal their horses.

 

 

Hells Canyon

Hells Canyon is located on the border of Oregon and Idaho. This canyon contains the deepest river gorge in North America with a depth of 7,900 ft. The canyon is often referred to as “The River Within a River” as it is home to multiple rivers that deeply cut through the surrounding landscape.

 

Hells Canyon stretches more than 100 miles which provides plenty of room for a wide range of outdoor activities. The canyon is home to a vast amount of wildlife including, deer, elk, bighorn sheep and more. This canyon also plays host to many different species of fish such as rainbow trout, steelhead, salmon and mackinaw trout.

 

 

Has Two Time Zones

Idaho has two time zones: Mountain and Pacific. This is because the state’s northern border with Canada falls along the two-hour long Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) minus eight hours difference in time, which sets the local standard to pacific time. The southern border follows UTC minus seven hours, therefore placing Idaho within the mountain time zone.

 

Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr

 

Dog Bark Park Inn

is a dog-themed hotel which situated in Cottonwood, Idaho. It was built on the land of Howard Bullard back in 2006. The concept of this business is to attract people who love dogs and have some original ideas on interior design.

 

Dog Bark Park Inn has everything that every pet lover would like to see under one roof. One can enjoy special dog-themed rooms, pet-friendly restaurants and activity areas. The hotel also has a store that sells many products of the local artisans.

 

The area is surrounded by cottonwood trees which create beautiful scenery just like in any other park. There are some spots on the property where one can go play Frisbee or have a picnic with your four-legged friend.

 

It is a very cozy and comfortable hotel, suitable for family vacations as well as romantic getaways.

 

 

Lewiston has the Furthest Inland Port on the West Coast

Lewiston, ID is strategically situated right on the snake river, and roughly three hundred and fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. Lewiston is the furthest inland sea port on the West coast of North America (from Vancouver Canada, to San Diego California there are many ports much closer).

 

The closest ocean port is in Portland, Oregon at a distance of about 150 miles by river to Lewiston.

 

 

Scenic Mountain Landscapes

The Scenic Mountain Landscape of Idaho is known for its fresh air and natural beauty.

 

In the northern part of the state, mountains are tall and rugged, boasting spectacular views from scenic overlooks.

 

The Sawtooth Mountains in central Idaho rise to an elevation of 10,000 feet and offer numerous hiking trails and snowmobile routes during winter months.

 

On the south side of the state is found Craters of the Moon National Monument, an area covered by lava flows.

 

There are many beautiful trails for bikers and hikers to explore during the summer months.

 

 

Protected Wilderness

Idaho is widely known as a state that has protected areas. The fact that it ranks number one in the nation with the most land designated as wilderness speaks well for Idaho’s conservation efforts and its desire to keep nature pure. The central Wilderness Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson and created America’s National Wilderness Preservation System. This act put into place a preservation system that would provide for the permanent protection of certain wildlands across the nation.

 

Idaho has always been very proud of its wilderness regions. Thirteen million acres of land have been designated as wilderness in Idaho, representing more than a quarter of the state’s total landmass. Millions of acres have been set aside for pure conservation, preserving the rich biodiversity found within. The wilderness areas in Idaho are managed primarily by the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

 

 

Outdoor Recreation Areas

With so many millions of acres of wilderness, it is no wonder why Idaho has such a reputation for its outdoor recreation areas. There are more than 46 million acres of land to explore and play in. Idaho’s mountainous lands make it a skier’s paradise, but there are many excellent outdoor recreation areas for the hiker, biker, angler, wildlife watcher, and other types of adventurers as well.

 

The River of No Return Wilderness is an expansive area that is almost entirely roadless. There are hundreds of miles of trails that lead through some spectacular country.

 

The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness borders on the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, which also provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

 

Just below the town of Crouch is the Crooked River where some people enjoy swimming or fishing in its pristine waters year round.

 

The 1.1 million acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has more than 600 miles of trails, some of which were once used by the Lewis and Clark party.

 

 

Outdoor Sports & Activities

And with so many outdoor recreation areas there are tons of outdoor sports and activities to take part in. Whether you are looking for an adrenaline rush, sightseeing or just a new hobby, Idaho has something to offer.

 

Most people think of water sports when they think of outdoor activities in the state, however, there are also many exciting dry land activities. Take rock climbing for instance. The geology of Idaho’s mountains makes it ideal for climbers. Its state parks even offer rock climbing classes.

 

And of course, as mentioned above, the state is famous for its world-renowned trout fishing destinations, where anglers come from all over to enjoy catching trophy trout.  Idaho also has fantastic hunting areas, too. Elk, deer, and other big game are all common sights across this state.

 

With so many options for outdoor recreation, it is no wonder that Idaho is a top destination for sports and activities.

 

 

Ski Resorts

The Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho are home to four ski resorts that offer millions of skiers fun runs all winter long.

 

Sun Valley Resort, the largest ski area in Idaho, offers over 600 skiable acres and averages a snowfall of 430 inches.

 

Brundage Mountain is known for its groomed runs and dependable snow cover.

 

Tamarack Resort has been called one of America’s 10 Best Ski Resorts by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine.

 

Schweitzer Mountain Resort has the highest base elevation of any ski area in the Northwest, with 136 trails spread out over 2,400 acres.

 

 

Boise National Forest

The Boise National Forest is a National Forest located in central Idaho. The forest covers 741,174 acres, which includes parts of the Salmon River Mountains, the Snake River Range, and the Clearwater Mountains among other mountain ranges. However, most of it is part of the Rocky Mountains with only small isolated parts of plains along the rivers particularly in the southern part of the forest.

 

The Boise National Forest is administered by the United States Forest Service. There are local ranger district offices in Lowman, Cascade, Emmett, Idaho City, and Mountain Home.

 

The continental divide runs north of the forest where it includes the Sawtooth Wilderness on its eastern side while its west is included in the Hells Canyon Wilderness. In descending order of land area it lies in parts of Blaine, Camas, Benewah, and Valley counties.

 

Shoshone Falls

 

Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls is one of the biggest waterfalls in North America. It is located at roughly 4,000ft above sea level in Twin Falls, Idaho. It has roughly 197ft of wide open falls that have been known to reach up to 400 ft. during peak flow.

 

The name Shoshone Falls comes from the large number of “Cattails” that grow in the area. This plant is called “Shoshoni” in local Native American Douge.

 

The Shoshone Falls is roughly 60-100 ft wide and is located at the border of Idaho and Nevada.

 

Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

 

Soda Springs

Soda Springs, Idaho is a small town in the western region of the state. Known for its historic significance, it has several points of interest that are frequented by visitors each year.

 

One of these places is the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, which offers trails throughout an interesting landscape filled with jagged lava rocks, raw earth, and even a couple of lava caves.

 

The preserve is noted for its inaccessibility and in the days prior to the automobile, it was known as “Idaho’s Desert,” where there were no roads present. It also served as a training ground for World War II soldiers when they wanted to experience what it would be like fighting in jungle warfare conditions.

 

The preserve was created in 1924 and is home to rare plants, invertebrates, and reptiles.

 

 

Huckleberries

Huckleberries are Idaho’s state fruit. These berries are small, round, black to purple-black in color, and have white insides when broken open. Huckleberries are native to North America and grow in abundance in Idaho. They are a cousin of the blueberry. Huckleberries can be eaten fresh, made into jams, jellies or preserves.

 

The short height of huckleberry plants limits their commercial use as far as being grown on a large scale to produce fruit for sale in grocery stores. However, many people do pick and eat them from the wild.

 

Another source of huckleberry pies and jams is from farmers who have small patches of bushes growing in their fields.

 

Photo by Kylen Robinson Flickr

 

The Idaho Champion Western Red Cedar Tree

This over 3,000-year-old tree is one thing that truly makes Idaho special. This tree is located in Elk River, a small town in Idaho’s Panhandle. This giant cedar tree has been given the nicknames Champion Tree and King Tree. It’s over 18 feet wide and 177 feet tall.

 

The tree is readily accessible through a small hiking trail that is well maintained just off Elk Basin Rd. There is also a beautiful waterfall nearby called Elk River Falls.

 

Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr

 

Arco – The First City to be Lit by Atomic Energy

On December 20, 1951 the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL) and the town of Arco lit up the night sky with a flashy ceremony commemorating the first electrical generation from nuclear power.

 

The “Atoms for Peace” campaign had just started and this event was widely publicized as an example of the peaceful applications of atomic energy. It was intended to show that electricity could be provided by atomic energy in large quantities, without creating harmful radiation or nuclear weapons.

 

The Arco reactor was designed to produce 80 megawatts of electricity by splitting uranium atoms. This is the same type of reactor that was used in the Chernobyl accident.

 

Photo by Bureau of Land Management on Flickr

 

Home to Many Ghost Towns

During the gold rush in the 1800s, Idaho was home to many people and many mining towns. However, as the gold disappeared and, naturally, so did the interest in mining for gold. Most of these towns died out and became ghost towns.

 

One such town is aptly named Ghost Town Mountain. It was a mining town that once had over 100 buildings and almost 1,000 residents before they packed up and left. Ghosts Town Mountain has no municipality or organization that manages the town, so it is not maintained in any way.

 

Bonanza is another well-known Idaho ghost town. This town was once home to more than 1,000 people and 90 buildings. Bonanza also died out due to the decline in gold mining. However, unlike most ghost towns that fall into disrepair, this one has been maintained by different organizations throughout time. It is now a state park with many of the original buildings restored and open for viewing.

 

 

Final Thoughts

As you can see Idaho is an outdoor wonderland that should be on everyone’s bucket list!

 

Idaho is famous for its vast wilderness, beautiful scenery, and outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, skiing, and more. The state is also famous for its gemstone mining, potato and onion crops, and its abundance of trout.