Idaho is more than just a rugged “no-man’s land” or a land of potatoes. This common misconception has taken years to overcome. In fact, when Idaho was originally created as a territory by Abraham Lincoln, he had trouble finding an appointee willing to come to this wilderness, even to assume the prestigious post of governor. One hundred and fifty years has done a lot to change how Idaho is received. Today, Idaho is visited by more than 20 million tourists every year, who come to enjoy the hidden natural beauty of this “Gem State”.
Idaho was once roamed by mammoths, camels, and mastadons millions of years ago. It has been settled by humans for at least 14,500 years, evidenced by excavations and artifacts found in the Wilson Butte Cave near Twin Falls. Native American tribes such as the Nez Perce, Shoshone, and Bannock once dominated the area before Lewis and Clark first entered the region in 1805. Idaho was, in fact, the last of the regions in the United States to be explored. The land at the time was teeming with fur-bearing animals. When word got out, fur trappers and fur companies like the Hudson’s Bay Company flocked to Idaho in waves. The discovery of gold in the Clearwater country, the Salmon River, and the Boise Basin in the 1860s brought even more migrants looking to strike it rich. Today, mining continues to play an important role in the state’s economy, but is supplemented by Idaho’s formidable farming industry, which produces one-third of the country’s potatoes.
Idaho is an absolute beauty of a state, colored by green virgin forests and valleys harboring hundreds of lakes and streams, some of them not even discovered yet! But Idaho also features alpine regions of snow peaks in the north, contrasted by some of the tallest sand dunes and deepest craters in the U.S. in the south. And in between is a land of rolling hills and sloping farmland.
Idaho is also a state of superlatives. It has North America’s deepest river gorge canyon at 7,914 feet called the Hell’s Canyon which overlooks the Seven Devil Mountains, a wilderness range with excellent hiking trails and mountain climbs. The Idaho Panhandle National Forests fosters the world’s largest stand of white pine. The country’s best game preserve is found at the Chamberlain Basin and Selway, an annual pilgrimage for hunting enthusiasts. North America’s tallest sand dunes are found in Idaho’s southwest. Some of the world’s best examples of lava fields, rifts, and tubes are featured at Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument, which has been used as an astronaut training ground for moonwalks. Idaho is also home to the largest wilderness area in the U.S. – the 2.3 million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, where moose, bighorns, and grizzly bears roam wild and the Salmon River bisects through in rushing fashion, providing some of the best white-water rafting in the world. And perhaps most well known is Idaho’s world-famous Sun Valley resort, home to mountains offering some of the best alpine skiing found anywhere.
With dozens of alpine ski resorts, miles of Nordic and snowmobile trails, hectares of lakes and reservoirs, and endless stretches of fishing and rafting streams, Idaho is definitely an unspoiled outdoor paradise that few other states or destinations in the world can match. And if you get tired of all the fun and exercising that this “Gem State” draws you into, you can slow down by checking out Idaho’s historic ghost mining towns, visiting the historic Lewis & Clark trails, or wine touring in Sun Valley and Coeur d’Alene.