The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Idaho is a state located in the northwestern United States. Its capital is Boise and the U.S. postal abbreviation is ID.

The USS Idaho was named in honor of this state.



Idaho is perhaps the only state to be named as the result of a hoax. When a name was being selected for new territory, eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing suggested "Idaho," an Indian term he claimed meant "gem of the mountains." It was later revealed Willing had made up the name himself, and the original Idaho territory was re-named Colorado because of it. Eventually the controversy was forgotten, and modern-day Idaho was given the made-up name when the Idaho Territory was formally created in 1863.


The Lewis and Clark expedition entered present-day Idaho on August 12, 1805, at the Lemhi Pass. At that time, approximately 8,000 Native Americans lived in the region.

Idaho was subsequently part of Oregon Territory and later Washington Territory, fur trading and missionary work attracting the first settlers to the region. While thousands passed through Idaho during the California gold rush of 1849, few people settled there. The first organized town in Idaho was Franklin, settled in 1860 by Mormon pioneers. When organized as a territory in 1863, Idaho's total population was under 17,000.

On March 4, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act creating Idaho Territory. The political stability of the territorial period encouraged settlement. Almost immediately, a public school system was created, stage coach lines were established and a newspaper, the Idaho Statesman, began publication. In 1865, Boise replaced Lewiston as capital. The 1861 discovery of gold in Idaho and the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869 brought many new people to the territory, including Chinese laborers who came to work the mines. When President Benjamin Harrison signed the law admitting Idaho as a U.S. state on July 3, 1890, the population was 88,548. An interesting fact is that Idaho almost never became a state - in 1887, President Grover Cleveland refused to sign a bill that would have combined southern Idaho with Nevada and northern Idaho with the Washington Territory. Sectionalism in early Idaho was abated by moving the University of Idaho from its planned location in Eagle Rock (near Idaho Falls) to Moscow in northern Idaho. Idaho still operates under its original (1889) state constitution.

As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to her economy. By the 1890s, for example, Idaho exported more lead than any other state. Although Idaho's dependence on mining has decreased, the state remains a top producer of silver and lead. Today, Idaho's industrial economy is growing, as plants are built to process the state's rich agricultural and natural resources. Since in the late 1970s Boise has emerged as a center of semiconductor manufacturing. Boise is the home of Micron Technology Inc., the only U.S. manufacturer of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips. Hewlett-Packard has operated a large plant in Boise, in southwestern Idaho, since the 1970s, devoted primarily to Laserjet printers.[1]

A troubling recent development in the Idaho panhandle region has been the location therein of a few right-wing extremist and "survivalist" political groups, most notably one holding Neo-Nazi views, the Aryan Nations. These groups are most heavily concentrated in the northern part of the state, particularly in the vicinity of Coeur d'Alene, a resort town. Although Idaho is a conservative state politically, the vast majority of its residents reject such hateful ideologies. Boise recently installed an impressive stone Human Rights Memorial featuring quotations from Anne Frank and many other writers extolling human freedom and equality. In 2002 the Aryan Nations compound, which had been located in Hayden Lake, Idaho, was confiscated as a result of a court case, and the organization moved out of state.

Law and government

State government

The current Governor of Idaho is Dirk Kempthorne (Republican), re-elected in 2002.

See: List of Idaho Governors

The constitution of Idaho provides for 3 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.

Federal government

United States Senators:

House of Representatives: Idaho has two House Representatives


Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in the Owyhee Mountains about 50 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho.
Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in the Owyhee Mountains about 50 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho.

See: List of Idaho counties

Idaho borders Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Wyoming and the Canadian province of British Columbia (the Idaho-BC border which is 48 miles long). Idaho has a rugged landscape with some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the country. Idaho is a Rocky Mountains state with exciting scenery and enormous natural resources. Idaho has towering, snow-capped mountain ranges, swirling white rapids, peaceful lakes and steep canyons. The churning waters of Snake River rush through Hells Canyon, which is deeper than the Grand Canyon. 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 Clearwater River and the Salmon River. Other significant rivers include the Boise River and the Payette River .

Idaho's highest point is Borah Peak in the Lost River Mountains north of Mackay. Idaho's lowest point is in Lewiston, where the Clearwater River joins the Snake River and continues into Washington.


  • Sawtooth National Recreational Area
    • Redfish Lake
    • Alturas Lake
    • Petit Lake
    • Sawtooth Lake



The state's gross product for 1999 was $34 billion placing it 44th among the states. The Per Capita Income for 2000 was $24,180.

Idaho is an important agricultural state, producing nearly one third of the potatoes grown in the United States. Other important agricultral products are beans, lentils, sugar beets, cattle, dairy products, wheat, and barley.

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 Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a government lab for nuclear energy research, is also an important part of the eastern Idaho economy.


As of 2003, the population of Idaho was 1,366,332.

Racially, the state is:

The five largest ancestries in the state are: German (18.9%), English (18.1%), Irish (10%), American (8.4%), Norwegian (3.6%).


Idaho is a unique state religiously; it is the only state with large percentages of both Protestants (39%) and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) (30%), and as with many western states, there is also a large number of non-religious people (when compared to the nation as a whole).

The religious affiliations of the people of Idaho are:

  • Protestant 39%
  • LDS - 30%
  • Roman Catholic 12%
  • Other Christian 2%
  • Other Religions 1%
  • Non-Religious 13%

The three largest Protestant denominations in Idaho are: Methodist (6% of total state population), Lutheran (4%), Baptist (4%).

Important cities and towns

Population > 100,000 (urbanized area)

(state capital)

Population > 10,000 (urbanized area)

Smaller Towns and Cities


Colleges and universities

Professional sports teams

The Minor League baseball teams are:

Other minor league sports teams:

Miscellaneous information

Major highways

Well-known Idahoans

See also

External links

  • Visit Idaho site
  • A photographic virtual tour of Idaho
  • US Census Bureau

Last updated: 05-02-2005 20:08:04
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55