Idaho ( /ˈaɪdəhoʊ/) is a state in the northwestern region of the United States. Idaho is the 14th largest, the 39th most populous, and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state.

Idaho is a mountainous state with an area larger than that of all of New England. It borders the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, Montana to the northeast, Wyoming to the east, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Washington and Oregon to the west. The network of dams and locks on the Columbia River and Snake River make the city of Lewiston the farthest inland seaport on the Pacific coast of the contiguous United States.

Idaho's nickname is the "Gem State", because nearly every known type of gemstone has been found there.[7] In addition, Idaho is one of only two places in the world where star garnets can be found in any significant quantities, the other being India.[8][9] Idaho is sometimes called the "Potato State" owing to its popular and widely distributed crop. The state motto is Esto Perpetua (Latin for "Let it be forever").


The exact origin of the name remains a mystery.[10] In the early 1860s, when the United States Congress was considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested the name "Idaho", which he claimed was derived from a Shoshone language term meaning "the sun comes from the mountains" or "gem of the mountains". Willing later claimed that he had simply invented the name.[11][12] Congress ultimately decided to name the area Colorado Territory when it was created in February 1861. Thinking they would get a jump on the name, locals named a community in Colorado "Idaho Springs".

However, the name "Idaho" did not fall into obscurity. The same year Congress created Colorado Territory, a county called Idaho County was created in eastern Washington Territory. The county was named after a steamship named Idaho, which was launched on the Columbia River in 1860. It is unclear whether the steamship was named before or after Willing's claim was revealed. Regardless, a portion of Washington Territory, including Idaho County, was used to create Idaho Territory in 1863.[13]

Despite this lack of evidence for the origin of the name, many textbooks well into the 20th century repeated as fact Willing's account that the name "Idaho" derived from the Shoshone term "ee-da-how".

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.[14]

An excerpt from a 1956 Idaho history textbook:

"Idaho" is a Shoshoni Indian exclamation. The word consists of three parts. The first is "Ee", which in English conveys the idea of "coming down". The second is "dah" which is the Shoshoni stem or root for both "sun" and "mountain". The third syllable, "how", denotes the exclamation and stands for the same thing in Shoshoni that the exclamation mark (!) does in the English language. The Shoshoni word is "Ee-dah-how", and the Indian thought thus conveyed when translated into English means, "Behold! the sun coming down the mountain".[15]

According to local knowledge , the name Idaho originated from the Nez Perce language and stands for "the Land of many Waters", a kidney-shaped drainage area in north central Idaho in which a multitude of rivers come together. These rivers include the Snake, the Salmon, the Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, the Selway, and more. The famed steamboat was probably named 'Idaho' because it voyaged along the Columbia river to "the Land of many Waters".
Map of Idaho

Idaho borders six 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.[16]

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.[17] 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 (15 U.S.C. ch. 6 §264) theoretically placed this region in the Central Time Zone, but this was corrected with a 2007 amendment.[18] 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.
Autumn in Boise

Idaho has much variation in its climate. Although the state's western border is located about 350 miles (560 km) from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in Idaho, especially in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at their maximum extent. This influence has a moderating effect in the winter where temperatures are not as low as would otherwise be expected for a northern state with predominantly high elevations.[19] The maritime influence is least prominent in the eastern part of the state where the precipitation patterns are often reversed, with wetter summers and drier winters, and seasonal temperature differences more extreme, showing a more semi-arid continental 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. Idaho's all-time highest temperature of 118 °F (48 °C) was recorded at Orofino on July 28, 1934; the all-time lowest temperature of −60 °F (−51 °C) was recorded at Island Park Dam on January 18, 1943.
Monthly normal high and low temperatures for various Idaho cities. (°F)
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Boise 38/24 45/27 55/33 62/38 72/46 81/53 91/59 90/59 79/50 65/40 48/31 38/23
Lewiston 42/30 47/31 55/36 62/41 71/47 79/54 89/60 89/60 78/51 63/41 48/34 40/28
Pocatello 33/16 38/19 49/27 59/33 68/40 78/46 88/52 88/51 76/42 62/33 45/24 33/16
Lake Coeur d'Alene in North Idaho
Redfish Lake in central Idaho.

Alturas Lake
Bear Lake (Idaho-Utah)
Clearwater River
Dierkes Lake
Hayden Lake
Henry's Lake
Hidden Lake
Lake Cascade
Lake Cleveland
Lake Coeur d'Alene
Lake Lowell
Lake Walcott
Payette Lake, (McCall)
Pend Oreille
Little Redfish Lake
Lucky Peak Lake
Pettit Lake
Priest Lake
Redfish Lake
Sawtooth Lake
Stanley Lake
Warm Lake
Williams Lake (Salmon)
Snake River
Boise River

Main article: History of Idaho

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 Metis 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 July 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.[21][22] 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.[23][24] The first attempts at organized communities, within the present borders of Idaho, were established in 1860.[25][26] The first permanent, substantial incorporated community was Lewiston in 1861.

After some tribulation as a territory, including the chaotic transfer of the territorial capital from Lewiston to Boise,[27] disenfranchisement of Mormon polygamists upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1877,[28] and a federal attempt to split the territory between Washington Territory which gained statehood in 1889, a year before Idaho, and the state of Nevada which had been a state since 1864, 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.[29] Prices plummeted for Idaho's major crops: in 1932 a bushel of potatoes brought only $.10 compared to $1.51 in 1919, while Idaho farmers saw their annual income of $686 in 1929 drop to $250 by 1932.[30]

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.[31]

The Idaho State Historical Society and numerous local historical societies and museums preserve and promote Idaho's cultural heritage.
There are large numbers of Americans of German and English ancestry in Idaho
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%
Est. 2014 1,634,464 4.3%
Source: 1910–2010[32]
2014 estimate[1]

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Idaho was 1,634,464 on July 11, 2014, a 4.27% increase since 2010.[1]

At the 2010 Census,

89.1% of the population was White American
0.6% Black or African American
1.4% American Indian and Alaska Native
1.2% Asian American
0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
2.5% of two or more races.

11.2% of Idaho's population was of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin (they may be of any race).[33] As of 2011, 27.2% of Idaho's children under the age of one belonged to racial or ethnic minority groups, meaning that they had at least one parent who was not non-Hispanic white.[34]
Idaho Racial Breakdown of Population Racial composition 1970[35] 1990[35] 2000[36] 2010[37]
White 98.1% 94.4% 90.1% 89.1%
Native 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 had an estimated population of 1,634,464 in 2014, which was an increase of 22,328, from the prior year and an increase of 66,882, or 4.27%, since 2010. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 58,884 people (that is 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 sixth fastest-growing state after Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, and Utah. From 2004 to 2005, Idaho grew the third-fastest, surpassed only by Nevada and Arizona.

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 under 10 000 residents in 1990 to over 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.[38]

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.

As of 2006, six official micropolitan statistical areas are based in Idaho. Twin Falls is the largest of these.

The center of population of Idaho is located in Custer County, in the town of Stanley.[39]

The most common reported ancestries in the state are: German (18.9%), English (18.1%), Irish (10%), American (8.4%), Norwegian (3.6%), and Swedish (3.5%).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Idaho Falls Temple.

According to a report produced by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the self-identified religious affiliations of Idahoans over the age of 18 as of 2008 are:[40]
Denomination %
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 23
Evangelical Protestant 22
Catholic 18
Unaffiliated 18
Mainline Protestant 16
Other Faiths 2
Jehovah's Witnesses 1
Eastern Orthodox < 0.5
Other Christian < 0.5
Jewish < 0.5
Muslim < 0.5
Buddhist < 0.5
Hindu < 0.5
Otherworld < 0.5
Don't know/refused < 0.5

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.[41]
See also: Idaho locations by per capita income
Idaho State Quarter.
American Falls Dam

Gross state product for 2012 was $58.2 billion, and the per capita income based on 2012 GDP and 2012 population estimates was $36,472.[42][43] 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 located in Gooding, Idaho. It has a capacity of 120,000 metric tons per year of barrel cheese and belongs to the Glanbia group.[44] The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the largest Department of Energy facility in the country, and one of the most contaminated from years of nuclear weapons related processing and haphazard storage of chemical and radioactive waste. It contains every known type of nuclear waste and receives nearly one billion dollars annually from the DOE budget for cleaning up previous contamination, and managing storage of remaining above ground nuclear waste. INL resides over one of the largest fresh water aquifers in North America, the Snake River Plain Aquifer, the most significant water source for south central and south east Idaho. 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 located across the nation.

Locally, a variety of industries are important. Outdoor recreation is a common example ranging from numerous snowmobile and downhill and cross-country ski areas in winter to the evolution of Lewiston as a retirement community based on mild winters, dry, year-round climate and one of the lowest median wind velocities anywhere, combined with the rivers for a wide variety of activities. Other examples would be ATK Corporation, which operates three ammunition and ammunition components plants in Lewiston. Two are sporting and one is defense contract. The Lewis-Clark valley has an additional independent ammunition components manufacturer and the Chipmunk rifle factory until it was purchased in 2007 by Keystone Sporting Arms and production was moved to Milton, Pennsylvania. Four of the world's six welded aluminum jet boat (for running river rapids) manufacturers are in the Lewiston-Clarkston, WAvalley. 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, the largest industry in Idaho is the science and technology sector. It accounts for over 25% of the state's total revenue and over 70% of the state's exports. Idaho's industrial economy is growing, with high-tech products leading the way. 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. Micron at one time manufactured desktop computers, but with very limited success. Hewlett-Packard has operated a large plant in Boise since the 1970s, which is devoted primarily to LaserJet printers production.[45] Clearwater Analytics is another rapidly growing investment accounting and reporting software firm headquartered in Boise, reporting on over $1 trillion in assets.[46] ON Semiconductor, whose worldwide headquarters in Pocatello, is a widely recognized innovator in modern integrated mixed-signal semiconductor products, mixed-signal foundry services, and structured digital products. Coldwater Creek, a women's clothing retailer, is headquartered in Sandpoint. Sun Microsystems (now a part of Oracle Corporation) has two offices in Boise and a parts depot in Pocatello. Sun brings $4 million in annual salaries and over $300 million of revenue to the state each year.
Wheat harvest on the Palouse

A number of Fortune 500 companies started in or trace their roots to Idaho, including Safeway in American Falls, Albertsons in Boise, JR Simplot across southern Idaho, and Potlatch Corp. in Lewiston. Zimmerly Air Transport in Lewiston-Clarkston was one of the five companies in the merger centered around Varney Air Lines of Pasco, Washington, which became United Airlines and subsequently Varney Air Group that became Continental Airlines.

The state personal income tax ranges from 1.6% to 7.8% in eight income brackets. Idahoans may apply for state tax credits for taxes paid to other states, as well as for donations to Idaho state educational entities and some nonprofit youth and rehabilitation facilities.

The state sales tax is 6% with a very limited, selective local option up to 6.5%. Sales tax applies to the sale, rental or lease of tangible personal property and some services. Food is taxed, but prescription drugs are not. Hotel, motel, and campground accommodations are taxed at a higher rate (7% to 11%). Some jurisdictions impose local option sales tax.

The sales tax was introduced at 3% in 1965, easily approved by voters,[47] where it remained until 1983.[48]

In 2014, Idaho emerged as the second most small business friendly state, ranking behind Utah, based on a study drawing upon data from over 12,000 small business owners.[49]

Idaho has a state gambling lottery which contributed $333.5 million in payments to all Idaho public schools and Idaho higher education from 1990 to 2006.[50]
Electricity generation in Idaho.

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.

Most of the energy consumed in Idaho is imported from other states. Imports account for more than 80% of total energy consumption, including all of Idaho's natural gas and petroleum supplies and more than half of its electricity. Of the electricity consumed in Idaho in 2005, 48% came from hydroelectricity, 42% was generated by burning coal and 9% was generated by burning natural gas. The remainder came from other renewable sources such as wind.[51]

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. Washington State provides most of the natural gas used in Idaho through one of the two major pipeline systems supplying the state. Although the state relies on out-of-state sources for its entire natural gas supply, it uses natural gas-fired plants to generate 127,000 MWh, or about ten percent of its output. Coal-fired generation and the state's small array of wind turbines supplies the remainder of the state's electricity output. The state produces 739,000 MWh but still needs to import half of its electricity from out-of-state to meet demand.[52]

While Idaho's 515 trillion BTU total energy consumption is low compared with other states and represents just 0.5% of United States consumption, the state also has the nation's 11th smallest population, 1.5 million, so its per capita energy consumption of 352 million Btu is currently just above the national average of 333 million Btu.[52] As the 13th‑largest state in terms of land area (83,570 sq. mi=53,485,000ac), distance creates the additional problem of "line loss". When the length of an electrical transmission line is doubled, the resistance to an electric current passing through it is also doubled.

In addition, Idaho also has the 6th fastest growing population in the United States with the population expected to increase by 31% from 2008 to 2030.[53] This projected increase in population will contribute to a 42% increase in demand by 2030, further straining Idaho's finite hydroelectric resources.[54]

Idaho has an upper-boundary estimate of development potential to generate 44,320 GWh/year from 18,076 MW of wind power, and 7,467,000 GWh/year from solar power using 2,061,000 MW of photovoltaics (PV), including 3,224 MW of rooftop photovoltaics, and 1,267,000 MW of concentrated solar power.[55]
Idaho Wind Generation (GWh, Million kWh)
Year Capacity
(MW) Total Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2009 147 313 21 18 25 24 22 17 14 19 21 33 34 38
2010 353 441 29 24 35 43 36 28 24 26 26 57 69 78
2011 618 1,308 90 120 132 140 120 112 83 78 71 118 145 105
2012 191 133 197 155 148

Idaho Grid-Connected PV Capacity (MW)[59][60]
Year Capacity Installed % Growth
2010 0.4 0.2 100%
2011 0.4 0 0%
Main article: List of Idaho State Highways
The current state license plate design, modified since its introduction in 1991.

The Idaho Transportation Department is the government agency responsible for Idaho's transportation infrastructure, including operations and maintenance as well as planning for future needs. The agency is also responsible for overseeing the disbursement of federal, state, and grant funding for the transportation programs of the state.[61]
I-15 shield
US-95 shield

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. U.S. Route 95 (US-95) links the two ends of the state, but like many other highways in Idaho, it is badly in need of repair and upgrade. In 2007, the Idaho Transportation Department stated that the state's highway infrastructure faces a $200 million per year shortfall in maintenance and upgrades. I-84 is the main highway linking the southeast and southwest portions of the state, along with I-86 and I-15.

Major federal aid highways in Idaho:










Major airports include the Boise Airport serving the southwest region of Idaho, and the Spokane International Airport (located in Spokane, Washington), which serves northern Idaho. Other airports with scheduled service are the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport serving the Palouse; the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport, serving the Lewis-Clark Valley and north central and west central Idaho; The Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls; the Idaho Falls Regional Airport; and the Pocatello Regional Airport.

Idaho is served by three transcontinental railroads. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) connects the Idaho Panhandle with Seattle, Portland, and Spokane to the west, and Minneapolis and Chicago to the east. The BNSF travels through Kootenai, Bonner, and Boundary counties. The Union Pacific Railroad crosses North Idaho entering from Canada through Boundary and Bonner, and proceeding to Spokane. Canadian Pacific Railway uses Union Pacific Railroad tracks in North Idaho carrying products from Alberta to Spokane and Portland, Oregon. Amtrak's Empire Builder crosses northern Idaho, with its only stop being in Sandpoint. Montana Rail Link also operates between Billings, Montana and Sandpoint, Idaho.

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. There has been a recent call to return Amtrak service to southern Idaho.

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.
Law and government
The Idaho State Capitol in Boise.
State Constitution

The Constitution of Idaho is roughly modeled on the national constitution with several additions. The constitution defines the form and functions of the state government, and may be amended through plebiscite. Notably, the state constitution presently requires the state government to maintain a balanced budget. As result, Idaho has limited debt (construction bonds, etc.).
Idaho Code

All of Idaho's state laws are contained in the Idaho Code. The code is amended through the Legislature with the approval of the Governor. Idaho still operates under its original (1889) state constitution.
State government

The constitution of Idaho provides for three branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Idaho has a bicameral legislature, elected from 35 legislative districts, each represented by one senator and two representatives.

Since 1946, statewide elected constitutional officers have been elected to four-year terms. They include: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller (Auditor before 1994), Treasurer, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Last contested in 1966, Inspector of Mines was an original elected constitutional office. Afterward it was an appointed position and ultimately done away with entirely in 1974.

Idaho's government has an alcohol monopoly.
Executive branch
Further information: List of Idaho Governors
Further information: Lieutenant Governor of Idaho
Further information: Secretary of State of Idaho

The governor of Idaho serves a four-year term, and is elected during what is nationally referred to as midterm elections. As such, the governor is not elected in the same election year as the president of the United States. The current governor is Republican CL "Butch" Otter, who was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010.
Legislative branch
Main article: Idaho Legislature

Idaho's legislature is part-time. However, the session may be extended if necessary, and often is. Because of this, Idaho's legislators are considered "citizen legislators", meaning that their position as a legislator is not their main occupation.

Terms for both the Senate and House of Representatives are two years. Legislative elections occur every even numbered year.

The Idaho Legislature has been continuously controlled by the Republican Party since the late 1950s, although Democratic legislators are routinely elected from Boise, Pocatello, Blaine County and the northern Panhandle.

See also List of Idaho senators and representatives
Judicial branch
Main article: Courts of Idaho

The highest court in Idaho is the Idaho Supreme Court. There is also an intermediate appellate court, the Idaho Court of Appeals, which hears cases assigned to it from the Supreme Court. The state's District Courts serve seven judicial districts.[62]
Map of all Idaho's counties.

Idaho is divided into political jurisdictions designated as counties. Since 1919 there are 44 counties in the state, ranging in size from 410 to 8 502 square miles (1 062 to 22 020 square kilometers).
County County seat License
Code Year
founded Population
(2008 est.) Population
Percentage Area
(sq. mi.) Area %
Ada Boise 1A 1864 380,920 25.00 % 1 060 1.21 %
Adams Council 2A 1911 3,499 0.23 % 1,370 1.57 %
Bannock Pocatello 1B 1893 80,812 05.30 % 1,147 1.31 %
Bear Lake Paris 2B 1893 5,798 00.38 % 1,049 1.20 %
Benewah St. Maries 3B 1915 9,352 00.61 % 784 0.90 %
Bingham Blackfoot 4B 1885 43,903 02.88 % 2,120 2.42 %
Blaine Hailey 5B 1895 21,731 01.43 % 2,661 3.04 %
Boise Idaho City 6B 1864 7,504 00.49 % 1,907 2.18 %
Bonner Sandpoint 7B 1907 41,168 02.70 % 1,920 2.19 %
Bonneville Idaho Falls 8B 1911 99,135 06.51 % 1,901 2.17 %
Boundary Bonners Ferry 9B 1915 10,962 00.72 % 1,278 1.46 %
Butte Arco 10B 1917 2,751 00.18 % 2,234 2.55 %
Camas Fairfield 1C 1917 1,126 00.07 % 1,079 1.23 %
Canyon Caldwell 2C 1891 183,939 12.07 % 604 0.69 %
Caribou Soda Springs 3C 1919 6,826 00.45 % 1,799 2.06 %
Cassia Burley 4C 1879 21,348 01.40 % 2,580 2.95 %
Clark Dubois 5C 1919 910 00.06 % 1,765 2.02 %
Clearwater Orofino 6C 1911 8,176 00.54 % 2,488 2.84 %
Custer Challis 7C 1881 4,254 00.28 % 4,937 5.64 %
Elmore Mountain Home E 1889 28,997 01.90 % 3,101 3.54 %
Franklin Preston 1F 1913 12,454 00.82 % 668 0.76 %
Fremont St. Anthony 2F 1893 12,551 00.82 % 1,896 2.17 %
Gem Emmett 1G 1915 16,513 01.08 % 566 0.65 %
Gooding Gooding 2G 1913 14,295 00.94 % 734 0.84 %
Idaho Grangeville I 1861/1864 15,448 01.01 % 8,502 9.71 %
Jefferson Rigby 1J 1913 23,860 01.57 % 1,106 1.26 %
Jerome Jerome 2J 1919 20,468 01.34 % 602 0.69 %
Kootenai Coeur d'Alene K 1864 137,475 09.02 % 1,316 1.50 %
Latah Moscow 1L 1888 35,906 02.36 % 1,077 1.23 %
Lemhi Salmon 2L 1869 7,808 00.51 % 4,570 5.22 %
Lewis Nezperce 3L 1911 3,594 00.24 % 480 0.55 %
Lincoln Shoshone 4L 1895 4,503 00.30 % 1,206 1.38 %
Madison Rexburg 1M 1914 37,456 02.46 % 473 0.54 %
Minidoka Rupert 2M 1913 18,645 01.22 % 763 0.87 %
Nez Perce Lewiston N 1861/1864 38,975 02.56 % 856 0.98 %
Oneida Malad City 1O 1864 4,130 00.27 % 1,202 1.37 %
Owyhee Murphy 2O 1863 10,877 00.71 % 7,697 8.79 %
Payette Payette 1P 1917 22,966 01.51 % 410 0.47 %
Power American Falls 2P 1913 7,683 00.50 % 1,443 1.65 %
Shoshone Wallace S 1861/64 12,913 0.85 % 2 636 3.01 %
Teton Driggs 1T 1915 8,833 0.58 % 451 0.52 %
Twin Falls Twin Falls 2T 1907 74,284 4.87 % 1 928 2.20 %
Valley Cascade V 1917 8,862 0.58 % 3 734 4.27 %
Washington Weiser W 1879 10,206 0.67 % 1 474 1.68 %

Total Counties: 44. Total 2008 Population Est.: 1 523 816. Total Area: 87,530 square miles (226,700 km2).

Three counties were first designated as such by the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1861;[63] they were subsequently redesignated as Idaho counties in 1864. The 1861 Nez Percé county has since been broken up into Nez Percé, Lewis, Boundary, Benewah, Latah, Kootenai, and Clearwater counties.

Idaho license plates begin with a county designation based on the first letter of the county's name. Where a letter is at the beginning of more than one name, a number accompanies precedingly in alphabetical order. This reflects an anomalous coincidental situation wherein 10 counties begin with B, seven with C and four with L, which is 21 of the 44 counties.
Presidential elections results Year Republican Democratic
2012 64.5 % 420 390 32.6 % 212 699
2008 61.5 % 403 012 36.1 % 236 440
2004 68.38 % 409 235 30.26 % 181 098
2000 67.17 % 336 937 27.64 % 138 637
1996 52.18 % 256 595 33.65% 165,443
1992 42.03% 202,645 28.42% 137,013
1988 62.08% 253,881 36.01% 147,272
1984 72.36% 297,523 26.39% 108,510
1980 66.46% 290,699 25.19% 110,192
1976 59.88% 204,151 37.12% 126,549
1972 64.24% 199,384 26.04% 80,826
1968 56.79% 165,369 30.66% 89,273
1964 49.08% 143,557 50.92% 148,920
1960 53.78% 161,597 46.22% 138,853

After the Civil War, many Midwestern and Southern Democrats moved to the Idaho Territory. As a result, the early territorial legislatures were solidly Democrat-controlled. In contrast, most of the territorial governors were appointed by Republican presidents and were Republicans themselves. This led to sometimes-bitter clashes between the two parties, including a range war with the Democrats backing the sheepherders and the Republicans the cattlemen. That ended with the "Diamondfield" Jack Davis murder trial. In the 1880s, Republicans became more prominent in local politics.

In 1864, Clinton DeWitt Smith removed the Territorial Seal and the State Constitution from a locked safe, and took them to Boise. This effectively moved the capital from where they were stored (Lewiston, Idaho) to the current capital Boise, Idaho.[64]

Since statehood, the Republican Party has usually been the dominant party in Idaho, as there was a polar shift in social and political stance between the two parties, when the Democrats became more liberal and the Republicans more conservative. At one time, Idaho had two Democratic parties, one being the mainstream and the other called the Anti-Mormon Democrats, lasting into the early 20th century. In the 1890s and early 1900s, the Populist Party enjoyed prominence while the Democratic Party maintained a brief dominance in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Since World War II, most statewide elected officials have been Republicans. The last time the Democratic Party held a majority in either house of the state legislature was the House of Representatives in 1958 by one seat. However, Democrats did hold the governorship from 1971 to 1995, despite the state's Republican tilt.

Idaho Congressional delegations have also been generally Republican since statehood. Several Idaho Democrats have had electoral success in the House over the years, but the Senate delegation has been a Republican stronghold for decades. Several Idaho Republicans, including current Senator Mike Crapo, have won reelection to the Senate, but only Frank Church has won reelection as a Democrat. Church was the last Idaho Democrat to win a U.S. Senate race, in 1974. Walt Minnick's 2008 win in the First Congressional District was the state's first Democratic Congressional victory in 16 years.

In modern times, Idaho has been a reliably Republican state in presidential politics as well. It has not supported a Democrat for president since 1964. Even in that election, Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in the state by fewer than two percentage points, compared to a landslide nationally. In 2004, Republican George W. Bush carried Idaho by a margin of 38 percentage points and with 68.4% of the vote, winning in 43 of 44 counties. Only Blaine County, which contains the Sun Valley ski resort, supported John Kerry, who owns a home in the area. In 2008 Barack Obama's 36.1 percent[65] showing was the best for a Democratic presidential candidate in Idaho since 1976. However, Republican margins were narrower in 1992 and 1996.

In the 2006 elections, Republicans, led by gubernatorial candidate CL "Butch" Otter, won all the state's constitutional offices and retained both of the state's seats in the United States House of Representatives. However, Democrats picked up several seats in the Idaho Legislature, notably in the Boise area.[66]

Republicans lost one of the House seats in 2008 to Minnick, but Republican Jim Risch retained Larry Craig's Senate seat for the GOP by a comfortable margin.[67]
Further information: Political party strength in Idaho
Important cities and towns
Sunset in Coeur d'Alene
Post Falls
Idaho Falls

Population > 100,000 (urbanized area)

Boise (state capital)

Population > 50,000 (urbanized area)

Idaho Falls – Location of the main offices of the Idaho National Laboratory
Nampa – Home of Northwest Nazarene University
Pocatello – Home of Idaho State University
Meridian – Suburb of Boise, Fastest growing city in Idaho

Population > 30,000 (urbanized area)

Caldwell – Home of the College of Idaho
Coeur d'Alene – Home of North Idaho College, major tourist hub
Lewiston – Home of Lewis-Clark State College, inland port
Twin Falls – Home of College of Southern Idaho, BASE jumping
Rexburg - Home of Brigham Young University Idaho

Population > 10,000 (urbanized area)

Ammon – Suburb of Idaho Falls
Blackfoot – Home of the Idaho Potato Museum
Chubbuck, Idaho-Suburb of Pocatello
Eagle – Suburb of Boise
Garden City – Suburb of Boise
Kuna – Suburb of Boise
Moscow – Home of the University of Idaho
Mountain Home – U.S. Air Force Base
Post Falls

Smaller Towns and Cities

American Falls – first town to be entirely relocated
Arco – first city to be lit by electricity generated from a nuclear power plant
Bonners Ferry – northernmost major town in Idaho
Buhl – "Trout capital of the world"
Bone- population 2, but still has gas station
Cascade - Lake Cascade and dam
Driggs – skiing (Grand Targhee)
Grangeville - Idaho County seat
Filer – suburb of Twin Falls
Homedale - "Gateway to the Owyhees"
Island Park – snowmobiling, world-class fishing
Kimberly – suburb of Twin Falls
Kellogg – skiing (Silver Mountain Ski Resort)
Lapwai- "Lep'wey"- Business Headquarters of the Nez Perce Tribe
Malad City - where Utah buys Lottery tickets
McCall – skiing (Brundage Mountain Resort) and Recreation Payette Lake
Melba, Idaho - south of Nampa, Idaho
Middleton - small town
Montpelier - bank robbed by the wild bunch
Mullan – silver/lead/zinc mining
New Meadows - at the 45th parallel north
New Plymouth – first planned community in Idaho, third west of the Rocky Mountains
Nezperce - Lewis County seat
Oakley – famous pioneer town, home of many historic buildings
Orofino – site of Dworshak Dam, highest straight-axis dam in Western hemisphere
Paris – Bear Lake County seat
Parma - site of Old Fort Boise
Payette – Payette County seat
Pierce - location of the first discovery of gold in Idaho
Plummer- CDA tribal headquarters
Preston- location of the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite and the annual International Bed Races
Rigby – television birthplace
Riggins - located near the Seven Devils Mountains
Rupert- Minidoka County seat
Salmon – gateway to "River of No Return" (Salmon River)
Sandpoint – skiing (Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort) and recreation Lake Pend Oreille
Shelley – home of the Russet potato
Soda Springs – U.S.'s only captive geyser
St. Anthony – sand dunes and several lava tubes
St. Maries – Benewah County seat
Stanley, Idaho – heart of the Sawtooth mountains
Star, Idaho - suburb of Boise
Sun Valley – year-round resort with world-class skiing
Wallace – historic district and Shoshone County seat
Weippe - where the Lewis and Clark Expedition first met the Nez Perce tribe
Weiser – Washington County seat, home of the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest
Wilder - hometown of former governor Phil Batt
Worley – casino

National parks, reserves, monuments and historic sites
City of Rocks National Reserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument

California National Historic Trail
City of Rocks National Reserve
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail
Minidoka National Historic Site
Nez Perce National Historical Park
Oregon National Historic Trail
Yellowstone National Park

National Recreation Areas

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
Sawtooth National Recreation Area

National Wildlife Refuges

Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Camas National Wildlife Refuge
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge
Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge

National Conservation Areas

Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area

State parks
Bear Lake viewed from Bear Lake State Park.
See also: List of Idaho state parks

Bear Lake State Park
Bruneau Dunes State Park
Castle Rocks State Park
City of Rocks National Reserve
Coeur d'Alene Parkway State Park
Dworshak State Park
Eagle Island State Park
Farragut State Park
Harriman State Park
Hells Gate State Park
Henrys Lake State Park
Heyburn State Park
Lake Cascade State Park
Lake Walcott State Park
Land of the Yankee Fork State Park
Lucky Peak State Park
Massacre Rocks State Park
McCroskey State Park
Old Mission State Park
Ponderosa State Park
Priest Lake State Park
Round Lake State Park
Thousand Springs State Park
Three Island Crossing State Park
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
Winchester Lake State Park

Colleges and universities
The Jacob Spori Building at Brigham Young University-Idaho
in Rexburg.
Idaho State University in Pocatello
University of Idaho Arboretum
in Moscow
Bronco Stadium
at Boise State University in Boise

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 4-year college in Idaho. It opened as a normal school in 1893.

Idaho has three regional community colleges: North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene; College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls; and College of Western Idaho in Nampa, which opened in 2009. A public technical college, Eastern Idaho Technical College, operates in Idaho Falls.

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.

Boise Bible College
Boise State University
Brigham Young University-Idaho
College of Idaho
College of Southern Idaho
College of Western Idaho
Eastern Idaho Technical College
Idaho State University
Lewis-Clark State College
New Saint Andrews College
North Idaho College
Northwest Nazarene University
University of Idaho


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 Hell's Canyon, the Salmon River, and its embarkation point of Riggins.
Club Sport League
Boise Hawks Baseball Northwest - (Class A)
Boise State Broncos NCAA Div I FBS – MWC
Idaho Vandals NCAA Div I FBS – Sun Belt
Idaho State Bengals NCAA Div I FCS – Big Sky
Idaho Falls Chukars Baseball Pioneer - (Rookie)
Idaho Stampede Basketball NBA D-League
Idaho Steelheads Ice hockey ECHL

Boise is the host to the largest 5 km run for women, the St. Luke's Women's Fitness Celebration.

High school sports are overseen by the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA).
Official state emblems
Idaho state symbols
Flag of Idaho.svg
The Flag of Idaho
Seal of Idaho.svg
The Seal of Idaho
Animal and Plant insignia
Amphibian Tiger salamander
Bird(s) Mountain Bluebird
Fish Cutthroat trout
Flower(s) Syringa
Insect Monarch butterfly
Tree Western White Pine
Inanimate insignia
Dance Square dance
Food Potato, Huckleberry
Fossil Hagerman horse
Gemstone Idaho Star garnet
Motto Esto perpetua ("Let it be perpetual")
Slogan(s) Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.
Soil Threebear (soil)
Song(s) Here We Have Idaho
Route marker(s)
Idaho Route Marker
State Quarter
Quarter of Idaho
Released in 2007
Lists of United States state symbols

State Amphibian: Tiger salamander
State Bird: Mountain Bluebird[68]
State Dance: Square Dance
State Fish: Cutthroat trout
State Flower: Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii)
State Fossil: Hagerman Horse (Equus simplicidens)
State Fruit: Huckleberry
State Gem: Idaho star garnet
State Horse: Appaloosa
State Motto: Esto perpetua ("Let it be perpetual")[69]
State Insect: Monarch butterfly
State Raptor: Peregrine falcon
State Song: Here We Have Idaho
State Tree: Western White Pine
State Vegetable: Potato

Main article: List of people from Idaho
See also
Portal icon Idaho portal

Outline of Idaho – organized list of topics about Idaho
List of counties in Idaho
Index of Idaho-related articles
List of companies based in Idaho


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External links
Find more about

State of Idaho government.
Idaho at DMOZ
Energy Profile for Idaho, US: DoE.
Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.
"Idaho Newspapers", US newspapers.
Idaho State Databases (wiki), Government Documents Roundtable of the American Library Association – Annotated list of searchable databases produced by Idaho state agencies.
Idaho State Facts, USDA.
Log Cabins in America: The Finnish Experience (teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan), National Park Service.
The History of Idaho, State government.
"States", Quick facts, US: Census Bureau.
Real-time, geographic, and other scientific resources of Idaho, USGS.
Visit Idaho (official state tourism website).
Geographic data related to Idaho at OpenStreetMap

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