27 Surprising Facts About Idaho That You Never Knew

Facts About Idaho

Quick Facts

  • Capital: Boise
  • Population: 1.84 million
  • Nickname: Gem State
  • Statehood: July 3, 1890
  • Largest City: Boise

Welcome to Idaho, a state known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and unique culture. In this article, you’ll learn about 27 fascinating facts about the Gem State.

So, let’s dive in!

  1. Famous Potatoes: Idaho is famous for its potatoes, with the state producing around 30% of the potatoes consumed in the United States. It is no wonder that the state’s license plate proudly displays the slogan “Famous Potatoes.”
  2. Craters of the Moon: Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a unique geological wonder in Idaho, featuring an otherworldly landscape of volcanic rock and lava formations. The area has even been used by NASA to train astronauts for lunar missions!
  3. Home of the Peregrine Falcon: Idaho’s World Center for Birds of Prey played a significant role in the recovery of the peregrine falcon, once an endangered species. The center successfully bred the falcon in captivity, leading to its removal from the endangered species list.
  4. Heaven’s Gate Lookout: Located in the Seven Devils Mountains, Heaven’s Gate Lookout offers an unmatched view of four states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. On a clear day, you can even see Canada from the lookout point.
  5. First Ski Lift: The world’s first chairlift was installed in Sun Valley in 1936. The ski resort is known as the birthplace of destination skiing in the United States and remains a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts.
  6. Hell’s Canyon: Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America, surpassing even the Grand Canyon. It’s an incredible 7,993 feet deep and provides a fantastic opportunity for whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking.
  7. Shoshone Falls: Often called the “Niagara of the West,” Shoshone Falls is a beautiful waterfall on the Snake River in southern Idaho. It is 212 feet high, making it taller than the famous Niagara Falls.
  8. Center of the Universe: In the small town of Wallace, Idaho, you’ll find the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe.” The town has a manhole cover marking the spot, and although it’s all in good fun, it’s a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
  9. Idaho’s State Horse: The Appaloosa is Idaho’s official state horse. Known for its colorful, spotted coat and versatility, the Appaloosa breed originated from the Nez Perce Native American tribe in Idaho.
  10. The Blue Turf: Boise State University’s Albertsons Stadium is famous for its blue turf, nicknamed “The Blue.” The unique playing surface was first installed in 1986 and is still a distinctive feature of the university’s football program.
  11. Floating the Boise River: A popular summer activity in Idaho is floating the Boise River on inner tubes, inflatable rafts, or kayaks. The river runs through the heart of Boise, providing residents and visitors with a fun and relaxing way to cool off during the hot summer months.
  12. Largest Sand Dune: The Bruneau Sand Dunes in Idaho are the tallest single-structured sand dunes in North America, with the highest reaching 470 feet. The dunes are part of Bruneau Dunes State Park, which also features a small lake and a public observatory.
  13. Home of the Basque: Idaho has the largest population of Basque Americans in the United States, with many residing in Boise. The city hosts a vibrant Basque community and even has a Basque Block with a museum, restaurants, and cultural events.
  14. Idaho’s State Dance: Idaho’s official state dance is the square dance, adopted in 1989. The lively dance has a rich history in the state, dating back to its early pioneer days.
  15. The Idaho Potato Museum: Located in Blackfoot, the Idaho Potato Museum is dedicated to the history and impact of the potato on Idaho and the world. The museum even features the world’s largest potato chip, a Pringle that measures 25 inches long.
  16. Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area: The Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in Idaho is home to the largest concentration of nesting raptors in North America. Visitors can witness a variety of birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, and falcons.
  17. Silver Mining: Idaho has a rich history of silver mining, with over a billion ounces of silver produced since 1884. The Silver Valley, located in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, was once one of the most productive silver mining regions in the world.
  18. The Idaho State Capitol: Constructed between 1905 and 1912, the Idaho State Capitol is made of local sandstone and features a stunning rotunda with a 5-foot-tall star at the center. The capitol building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  19. Atomic City: Atomic City is a small town in Idaho with a history tied to nuclear energy. In 1955, the nearby Idaho National Laboratory was the site of the world’s first nuclear power plant, which generated electricity for the town.
  20. State Gem: Idaho is nicknamed the Gem State because it is the only state that produces all six of the world’s most precious gems: star garnets, diamonds, opals, jade, topaz, and zircon. Star garnets, which are found almost exclusively in Idaho and India, are the state’s official gemstone.
  21. Salmon River: Known as the “River of No Return,” the Salmon River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the lower 48 states. It offers excellent opportunities for rafting, fishing, and camping.
  22. Ernest Hemingway: Famed author Ernest Hemingway lived in Ketchum, Idaho, during the last years of his life. He completed several of his works there, including “A Moveable Feast” and “The Dangerous Summer.” Hemingway is buried in Ketchum’s town cemetery.
  23. Largest City Underground: The city of Pocatello, Idaho is known to have a vast network of underground tunnels. These tunnels were initially built for steam heating and transporting goods but are now mostly sealed off and inaccessible to the public.
  24. Experimental Breeder Reactor I: In 1951, the Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) in Idaho became the first power plant in the world to generate electricity using nuclear energy. Today, it serves as a museum where visitors can learn about the history of nuclear power.
  25. Carved by Ice: Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake, was formed by glaciers during the last ice age. The lake is over 1,150 feet deep, making it the fifth deepest in the United States.
  26. Balanced Rock: In the southern part of Idaho, you’ll find Balanced Rock, a unique geological formation. The 48-foot-tall rock balances on a pedestal that is only 3 feet by 17 inches at its narrowest point.
  27. State Fossil: The Hagerman horse, Idaho’s official state fossil, is an extinct species of horse that lived around 3.5 million years ago. The first fossils of this species were discovered near Hagerman, Idaho, in 1928.


Idaho is a state filled with natural beauty, unique history, and rich culture. From its world-famous potatoes to its stunning landscapes and geological wonders, the Gem State offers something for everyone.

Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures or exploring the state’s fascinating history, Idaho is a destination that should not be missed.

Idaho FAQ

What is Idaho known for?

Idaho is known for its potatoes, beautiful landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and the unique culture of its Basque community.

It is also nicknamed the Gem State due to its abundance of precious gemstones.

What is the climate like in Idaho?

Idaho has a varied climate, with warm summers and cold winters.

The state experiences a range of temperatures and precipitation levels due to its diverse geography, including mountains, valleys, and high desert regions.

Are there any famous people from Idaho?

Some famous people from Idaho include actress Lana Turner, poet Ezra Pound, and TV personality Aaron Paul.

Ernest Hemingway, although not born in Idaho, spent his last years living in Ketchum and is buried there.

What are some popular outdoor activities in Idaho?

Popular outdoor activities in Idaho include skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, rafting, and camping.

The state offers a wealth of opportunities for adventure seekers and nature lovers, with its vast landscapes and natural attractions.

What are some must-visit attractions in Idaho?

Some must-visit attractions in Idaho include Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Hell’s Canyon, Shoshone Falls, Sun Valley, the Idaho Potato Museum, and the World Center for Birds of Prey.

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