When you think of Idaho, we’re guessing your first thought isn’t waterfalls. In fact, you might be familiar with Niagara Falls, a group of three spectacular waterfalls in the state of New York. But, did you know that Idaho is actually home to the Niagara of the West? At the edge of Twin Falls on the Snake River, you will find Shoshone Falls. At 212 feet, these falls are higher than Niagara Falls!
Still, if you ask people what the state is mostly known for, their answer will probably be one word: potatoes. (One museum in the state is even called the Idaho Potato Museum.) Yet, the state’s nickname is the Gem State because 72 precious and semi-precious stones like opal, jade, zircon, and garnets have been found there. A rare gemstone called the Star Garnet has only been found in two places in the world: Idaho and India.
Idaho, which is in the Northwest US, borders six states: Washington and Oregon to the West, Montana and Wyoming to the East, and Nevada and Utah to the South. What is north of the state? Here’s a clue: It’s a country where ice hockey is very popular.
Can you find Idaho on a US map?
What really happened
As the country’s 43rd state, Idaho has a rich history to share:
- In 1805, explorers Lewis and Clarkentered the state on their way to the Pacific Ocean.
- Although Idaho’s most famous crop is the potato, the first potato planted in America was in New Hampshire, way back in 1719. A missionary named Henry Harmon Spalding brought the potato to Lapwai, Idaho in 1836 to teach the Nez Perce tribe how to grow their own food. They were the first to cultivate and sell spuds in the area.
- Throughout the early 1800s, settlers arrived. They included missionaries, fur traders, miners and farmers. While many traveled along the Oregon Trailthat went through southern Idaho, some stopped and made their home here.
- For many years, the region that included Idaho was claimed by both Britain and the United States. In 1846, the area became part of the US through the Oregon Treaty with Britain.
- It became part of the Oregon Territory in 1848. Then in 1853, Oregon became its own territory and Idaho became part of the Washington Territory. After the population grew and gold was discovered, it became its own territory in 1863 called the Idaho Territory. The state then joined the Union in 1890.
- Idaho was one of only 5 states that allowed women to vote long before the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed. (The 19th amendment prevents any citizen from being denied the right to vote because of their sex.) Almost 50 years after the women’s suffrage movement began, the organization that formed in 1848 to promote women’s right to vote, the state amended its constitution so that women were allowed to vote as of 1896.
- In 1948, people started building homes in McCall, a resort town by Payette Lake. This is where beavers had been living and thriving for many decades, maybe even centuries. But people and beavers don’t mix. So Idaho Fish and Game decided to relocate the beavers to a new home, a protected wilderness area called Chamberlain Basin. But how would they move them? There were no roads leading to this place. After much thought, they placed the beavers in specially designed wooden boxes that would automatically open once hitting the ground. These boxes were attached to leftover parachutes from World War II. The beavers then went skydiving…well, sort of. They safely parachuted from planes into this spot where no one would bother them anymore. Lastly, guess what they named the first beaver that parachuted? Geronimo, naturally!
Stuff you should know
- The state has more rivers than any other state. 3,100 miles of river, to be exact!
- Know how the state got its name? Many believe it’s a Native American word. Wrong! The word was actually initially made up for a different state, according to the Idaho Historical Society.
- Idaho is among 13 states that are split into two time zones. Although the majority of people observe Mountain Time, the area above the Salmon River is part of the Pacific Time Zone.
- Idaho’s state seal is the only one in the country that was designed by a woman. Emma Green’s design was adopted in 1891.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- Idaho is home to the largest potato in the world. It weighs six tons and is made of steel, plaster, and concrete.
- Located near the town of Cottonwood (which is located in north-central Idaho) is the Dog Bark Park. This bed and breakfast is dog-shaped, actually beagle-shaped.
- In Idaho, it’s against the law to:
- Live in a dog kennel (or doghouse) unless you’re a dog. (Why would anyone want to?)
- Ride a merry-go-round on a Sunday.
- Buy onions or sell chickens after sundown in Tamarack without a permit.
- Sell an “Idaho Deluxe” potato with rot, blemishes or sun damage. You could be jailed for up to six months.
- Display frowns, grimaces, scowls, threatening and glowering looks, gloomy and depressed facial appearances (in Pocatello), generally all of which reflect unfavorably upon the city’s reputation.
Tell me more
- In 1914, a six-year-old girl named May Pierstorff was mailed. Yes, she was actually mailed from her hometown in Grangeville to Lewiston, which, back then, took many hours to drive to by car. May’s parents wanted to send their daughter to visit her grandparents in Lewiston, but the train fare was too high. However, they could mail a package – up to 50 pounds – for just 53 cents. May weighed around 45 pounds. So her parents purchased 53 cents in stamps and attached them to May’s coat. She traveled the entire distance to Lewiston in the train’s mail car and was safely delivered to her grandmother’s home by the mail clerk on duty. This was probably the first and last time a live person was mailed. We think… we hope…
Know of any other interesting tidbits about the state? Please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your first name and the state you call home. If published on our website or Mo’s social media pages, we’ll credit you for the information!