Idaho is a state of the northwest United States. It was admitted as the 43rd state in 1890. Explored by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805, the region was held jointly by Great Britain and the United States from 1818 to 1846. Idaho became a separate territory in 1863. Boise is the capital and the largest city. Population: 1,420,000.
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Early Explorers and Fur Traders
Probably the first nonnatives to enter the area that is now Idaho were members of the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. They were not far ahead of the fur traders who came to the region shortly thereafter. A Canadian, David Thompson of the North West Company, established the first trading post in Idaho in 1809. The next year traders from St. Louis penetrated the mountains, and Andrew Henry of the Missouri Fur Company established a post near present-day Rexburg, the first American trading post established in the area.
In this period the fortunes of the Idaho region were wrapped up with those of the Columbia River region, and the area encompassed by what is now the state of Idaho was part of Oregon country, held jointly by the United States and Great Britain from 1818 to 1846. Fur traders in an expedition sent out by John Jacob Astor came to the Snake River region to trap for furs after having established (1811) a trading post at Astoria on the Columbia River. In 1821 two British trading companies operating in the Idaho region, the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, were joined together as the Hudson's Bay Company which, after 1824, came into competition with American mountain men also trapping in the area. By the 1840s the two groups had severely depleted the region's fur supply.
Gold, Settlement, and Resistance
In 1846 the United States gained sole claim to Oregon country south of the 49th parallel by the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain. The area was established as a territory in 1848. Idaho still had no permanent settlement when Oregon Territory became a state in 1859 and the eastern part of Idaho was added to Washington Territory. A Mormon outpost founded at Franklin in 1860 is considered the first permanent settlement, but it was not until the discovery of gold that settlers poured into Idaho.
Gold was discovered on the Clearwater River in 1860, on the Salmon in 1861, in the Boise River basin in 1862, and gold and silver were found in the Owyhee River country in 1863. The usual rush of settlers followed, along with the spectacular but ephemeral growth of towns. Most of these settlements are only ghost towns now, but the many settlers who poured in during the gold rush—mainly from Washington, Oregon, and California, with smaller numbers from the east—formed a population large enough to demand new government administration, and Idaho Territory was set up in 1863.
Native Americans, mostly Kootenai, Nez Percé, Western Shoshone, Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, and Pend d'Oreille, became upset by the incursion of settlers and some resisted violently. The federal government had subdued many of these groups by 1858, placing them on reservations. The Bannock were defeated in 1863 and again in 1878. In 1876–77 the Nez Percé, led by Chief Joseph, made their heroic but unsuccessful attempt to flee to Canada while being pursued by U.S. troops.
Development and Disputes
A new mining boom started in 1882 with the discovery of gold in the Coeur d'Alene, and although the gold strike ended in disappointment, it prefaced the discovery there of some of the richest silver mines in the world. Coeur d'Alene and Kellogg became notable mining centers, and the Bunker Hill and Sullivan (a lead mine) became extremely famous mines. Severe labor troubles in the mines at the end of the century led to political uprisings. Frank Steunenberg, who as governor had used federal troops to put down the uprisings, was assassinated in 1905. The trial of William Haywood and others accused of involvement in the murder drew national attention and marked the beginning of the long career of William E. Borah (who had prosecuted the mine leaders) as an outstanding Republican party leader in the state and nation.
The late 19th cent. also witnessed the growth of cattle and sheep ranching, along with the strife that developed between the two groups of ranchers over grazing areas. The coming of the railroads (notably the Northern Pacific) through Idaho in the 1880s and 90s brought new settlers and aided in the founding of such cities as Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and American Falls.
Putting Water and the Atom to Work
Expanding Idaho farming led to private irrigation projects. Some of these aroused public opposition, which led to establishment of state irrigation districts under the Carey Land Act of 1894. The Reclamation Act of 1902 brought direct federal aid. Notable among public reclamation works are the Boise and Minidoka projects. Both public and private, these have also helped to increase the development of Idaho's enormous hydroelectric potential. Further private hydroelectric projects along the Snake River were put into operation between 1959 and 1968.
In 1949 the Atomic Energy Commission built the National Reactor Testing Station in SE Idaho. Now known as the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, the facility in 1955 provided energy for nearby Arco, the first American town to be lighted by electricity from a nuclear power plant.
Idaho suffered during the recession of the early 1980s but rebounded later in the decade by attracting new business, including high-technology firms. The growth of the winter sports industry has helped make Idaho a leading tourist state. These improvements in its economy made Idaho one of the nation's fastest-growing states in population between 1990 and 2000.
- The Cataldo mission is the oldest building in the state.
- American Falls is unique from most communities because the entire town was moved in the mid-1920s when the original American Falls Dam was constructed.
- Rexburg is home to Brigham Young University-Idaho (formerly Ricks College).
- Elk River is the home of the Idaho Champion Western Red Cedar Tree, the largest tree in the state. Estimated to be over 3000 years old this giant is more than 18 feet in diameter and stands 177 feet tall.
- Albertson College of Idaho in Caldwell was founded as the College of Idaho in 1891 and is the state's oldest four-year institution of higher learning.
- Perched at 9,500 feet on Trinity Mountain is the highest fire lookout in the Boise National Forest.
- In Idaho law forbids a citizen to give another citizen a box of candy that weighs more than 50 pounds.
- The city of Grace in the Gem Valley is most famous for their certified seed potatoes.
- Blackfoot is home of the Eastern Idaho State Fair.
- The Dworshak Reservoir is over 50 miles long. The Dworshak Dam is in Orofino.
- Grangeville is located in north central Idaho. The community is considered the getaway to five wilderness areas and four national forests totaling 5 1/2 million acres. The total is second only to Alaska in designated wilderness area.
- In 1896 Council Valley shortened its name to Council.
- The Lewis & Clark Highway (United State Highway 12) is the shortest route from the midwest to the Pacific Coast and the longest highway within a national forest in the nation.
- The elevation of Cambridge is 2,650 feet above sea level with the surrounding mountains reaching elevations around 8000 feet and plummeting to around 1500 feet in Hells Canyon.
- The economy of Idaho City originally developed around gold mining in the 1860s.
- Heyburn, originally named Riverton, is the fourth oldest community in the Mini-Cassia area and the second frontier town to be settled in what is now the county of Minidoka.
- Bruneau Dunes State Park contains North America's tallest single structured sand dune. It stands 470 feet high.
- Bruneau Canyon Overlook offers a view into a 1,200 foot-deep, 800-foot-wide river canyon.
- Downey's first mercantile store, the W. A. Hyde Co., was built in 1894.
- The Kamiah Valley is rich in the heritage and legends of the Nez Perce. It was here, among the ancestors of the present day Nez Perce, the Appaloosa horse was first bred, primarily for use as a war animal.
- In 1973, the Sawtooth Recreation Area opened its doors north of Ketchum, making the community the gateway to the Sawtooths.
- On August 8, 1905, Kimberly auctioned city lots for prices ranging from $100 to $750.
- Idaho's world famous hot springs are located in Lava Hot Springs.
- Hell's Canyon is the deepest gorge in America.
- Shoshone Falls, The Niagara of the West, spills over a 212-foot drop near Twin Falls.
- Kuna is known as the Gateway City to the Birds of Prey Natural Area.
- Birds of Prey Wildlife Area is home to the world's most dense population of nesting eagles, hawks, and falcons.
- At 5897 feet elevation, Mackay calls itself the Top of Idaho because it is the nearest city to Mt. Borah, the highest mountain in Idaho.
- Soda Springs boasts the largest man-made geyser in the world.
- Lewiston is located at the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. The elevation is 738 feet above sea level.
- The Treasure Valley area around Nampa is known as Idaho's Banana Belt.
- During the 1860s an Oregon Shoreline Railroad base camp called Boomerang was constructed in Payette.
- Pocatello is home to Idaho State University.
- Post Falls is known as Idaho's River City.
- Saint Stanislaus Church, in Rathdrum, is the oldest brick church in the state of Idaho.
- Rigby is known as the birthplace of television since it is Philo T. Farnsworth's hometown. Farnsworth pioneered television technology.
- Under Idaho law only two forms of city government are allowed: a mayor/councilor or a council/manager form.
- Shelley has been the home of the Idaho Annual Spud Day since 1927.
- Sun Valley is recognized as the home of America's first destination ski resort.
- Weiser is Home of the National Old Time Fiddlers Contest.
- The "Idaho Enterprise" published its first issue on June 6, 1879 and is one of the oldest weekly publications in Idaho.
- President Theodore Roosevelt established the Caribou National Forest in 1907. The area now covers more than 1 million acres in southeast Idaho.
- In 1924 local McCall resident and Olympic ski champion, Cory Engen, started the celebration known as the Winter Carnival to help curb the boredom of the long McCall winters.
- Meridian is named for the Boise Meridian, the Idaho land surveyor's north-south line running through Initial Point, located 16 miles due south of the city.
- Annually Mountain Home Air Force Appreciation Day boasts presenting the largest parade in Idaho.
- Idaho ghost towns include Silver City, Yankee Fork, Gold Dredge, and the Sierra Silver Mine.
- Sawtooth Mountain/Sawtooth National Recreational Area was named for its jagged profile.
- Anderson Dam is known for its blue-ribbon fly-fishing.
- Idaho's first territorial prison was opened in 1872. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was converted into a public facility after the last prisoners were removed in 1974.
- Seven Devils' Peaks, one of the highest mountain ranges in Idaho, Includes Heaven's Gate Lookout, where sightseers can look into four states.
- Idaho.gov - Official website.
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