Idaho, the land of potatoes, and what is it…corn? No, wait, that’s Iowa. Or is it Nebraska?
So…what is Idaho known for?
This is a typical question for anyone who hasn’t spent time in the beautiful and reclusive Gem State. Idaho is a lot more than potatoes! As someone who calls Idaho home, I can tell you it’s a wonderland of hot springs, alpine lakes, mountain peaks, volcanic soil, top-tier ski resorts, and fascinating history that is sure to surprise you.
While it is true Idaho is most notably known for its potatoes, it’s also a dazzling state with all sorts of interesting tidbits that will come in handy when you need to pull out your Idaho trivia.
Here’s our collection of 57 fun facts about Idaho state. Sectioned off from the important, the historical, the interesting, and the downright weird, these Idaho facts are sure to delight and entertain.
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57 FUN FACTS ABOUT IDAHO
Important Facts About Idaho
Let’s start with some basic Idaho state facts before diving into the weirdest parts of Idaho trivia.
IDAHO FACT 1
Idaho is named the Gem State because of the abundant minerals from the land and water. The state has over 240 gems, including gold, zinc, cobalt, lead, copper, and semi-precious gemstones like vivianite, opal, tourmaline, garnet, topaz, jasper, and aquamarine.
IDAHO FACT 2
Star Garnet is the state gem, largely in part because Idaho is one of only two places in the entire world where you can find the gem. The only other place to find star garnet is in India. The gem gets its name from its star-like reflection.
IDAHO FACT 3
The state fruit is the huckleberry, a wild berry that grows in higher elevations and is nearly impossible to cultivate. It is lovingly referred to as “purple gold” and is a beloved tradition to forage every summer in the mountains for huckleberries.
IDAHO FACT 4
Idaho has a population of 1.9 million people, with more than half living in the Boise Metro area.
IDAHO FACT 5
Though Idaho has a smaller population, Idaho is the 11th largest state by land area. Idaho is bigger than Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, AND Connecticut.
IDAHO FACT 6
Idaho’s state motto is “Esto Perpetua,” which translates to “Let it be perpetual” or last forever. Look out for an Idaho quarter after 2007, and you’ll see the state motto.
IDAHO FACT 7
The roots of the word Idaho and how it came to be the state’s name remain a mystery, though several “sources” claim to know its origin. Theories abound, including it being a Native American spin-off, the name of a Shoshone princess, and a made-up word that was intended to be used for the state of Colorado. The truth is…no one is exactly sure. You can dive further into the mysteries of the different stories about the word Idaho here.
IDAHO FACT 8
The Mountain Bluebird is Idaho’s state bird.
IDAHO FACT 9
The Syringa is Idaho’s state flower.
IDAHO FACT 10
The Appaloosa is the state horse of Idaho. The Appaloosa is part of the history of the Nez Perce Tribe, who first bred these majestic horses that descend from horses brought over by the Spaniards.
IDAHO FACT 11
The state dance is the Square Dance.
IDAHO FACT 12
Idaho is one of thirteen states that has two different time zones. Northern Idaho is on Pacific Standard Time, while Southern Idaho is on Mountain Time. You’ll want to remember that when making an Idaho road trip!
IDAHO FACT 13
Idaho is most famously known for being the place where potatoes are grown. The state produces nearly a 3rd of all US potatoes. Due to Idaho’s cool nights, warm days, and nutrient-rich volcanic soil, Idaho potatoes are considered the tastiest potatoes around!
IDAHO FACT 14
Idaho is the top trout producer, accounting for 70% of total production in the US. Most of Idaho’s trout farming comes from the waters of the Snake River.
IDAHO FACT 15
Idaho produces more than potatoes and trout! It’s also the top producer of barley, the 2nd top producer of hops, and the nation’s 3rd largest cheese producer.
IDAHO FACT 16
The largest hops farm in the world is located in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Elk Mountain Farms has over 1700 acres of hops and is owned by Anheuser-Busch.
IDAHO FACT 17
With upwards of 16,000 Basque people living in Boise, it is the largest community of Basque people in the US. There’s even a Basque Block with restaurants, events, and a museum celebrating Basque culture.
IDAHO FACT 18
Idaho is 63% public land, making it the 3rd state in the US with the most federally owned land.
Historical Facts About Idaho
Let’s dive into Idaho history facts and learn more about the unique stories of Idaho.
IDAHO FACT 19
Sacagawea, famous for accompanying the Lewis and Clark expedition explorers, was born in Lemhi County, Idaho. She was the guide and interpreter and helped the explorers communicate with Shoshone tribes along the way. She was pivotal to the success of the excursion and the only woman in the group.
IDAHO FACT 20
Idaho is the only state to have its Great Seal designed by a woman. In 1890, Emma Edwards Green became the first and only woman to design a Great Seal for a state.
IDAHO FACT 21
The federally recognized native tribes of Idaho include the Nez Perce, the Kootenai, the Shoshone-Bannock, the Shoshone-Paiute, and the Coeur d’Alene.
IDAHO FACT 22
The Sun Valley Resort is America’s first ski resort and opened in 1936. The area has attracted celebrities since its inception in the 30s when the publicist for the resort offered A-list stars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, Gary Cooper, Marilyn Monore, and the Kennedy family free ski vacations and resort stays.
IDAHO FACT 23
Famed writer Earnest Hemingway lived and died in Ketchum, Idaho, and wrote portions of his famous books in Idaho, including For Whom The Bell Tolls, in suite 206 at the Sun Valley Resort. He is buried in the Ketchum Cemetery, a short distance from the Sun Valley Resort.
IDAHO FACT 24
Silver City in northern Idaho is an old mining town that, in the late 1800s, produced more than $60 million of precious metals. The town has stayed true to its mining history and looks more or less precisely the same as it did a hundred years ago. Tourists can even stay in the same hotel where miners slept.
IDAHO FACT 25
Twin Falls, Idaho, is where the infamous daredevil Evel Knievel attempted to jump the 1600-foot expanse of the Snake River Canyon. On September 8, 1974, Knievel’s parachute malfunctioned and deployed just after launch, causing him to float to the riverbed 500 feet below him. On September 16, 2016, Eddie Bran, a stuntman, successfully jumped the Snake River Canyon in a rocket motorcycle. The motorcycle was named “Evel Spirit” in Knievel’s honor.
IDAHO FACT 26
The oldest building in Idaho is the Cataldo Mission of the Sacred Heart in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Built from 1850-1853, the site is most famous for the church built by missionaries and the Coeur d’Alene tribe.
IDAHO FACT 27
On August 13, 1986, famous outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch Gang robbed a bank in Montpelier, Idaho, where they allegedly got away with $7165. It is the only bank in the country still left from their spree of bank robberies.
IDAHO FACT 28
In 1959, Ruth Gruhn and her crew excavated at the Wilson Butte Cave near Twin Falls, Idaho. They found bones of camel, an ancient horse, antelope, and bison. Most notably, they found signs of human life like pottery, arrowheads, and a moccasin. The artifacts were carbon-dated to be 14,500 years old, making them some of the oldest dated artifacts in the United States.
IDAHO FACT 29
Idaho has a wealth of historic pioneer trails, including, most notably, the Lewis and Clark Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the Nez Perce Trail. Wagon ruts are still visible all along these National Historic trails.
Interesting Facts About Idaho
There is a treasure trove of exciting things about Idaho that even long-time Idahoanas probably don’t know. Here are some of our favorites.
IDAHO FACT 30
Idaho has more river length than any state in the US, with over 107,000 miles flowing through the state.
IDAHO FACT 31
Idaho is one the top places to go whitewater rafting because there are more miles of runnable whitewater than anywhere else in the US. To put it in perspective, Idaho has 3500 whitewater miles while California has the second most at 1800 miles.
IDAHO FACT 32
In East Central Idaho, Mt. Borah is Idaho’s highest point at 12,622 feet.
IDAHO FACT 33
Idaho is home to the tallest freestanding dune in the US. Bruneau Dunes stands tall at 470 feet and is a popular spot for sand surfing.
READ NEXT: Learn more about Bruneau Sand Dunes in our post about 12 amazing day trips from Boise, Idaho.
IDAHO FACT 34
Idaho is home to one of the largest waterfalls in the US, Shoshone Falls. Dubbed the Niagara of the West, Shoshone is 900 feet wide and 212 feet tall, making it 52 feet taller than Niagara Falls.
IDAHO FACT 35
Idaho is home to the largest wilderness area in the continental US. Spanning over 2.3 million acres, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is located in Central Idaho and encompasses a rugged area of mountains, rivers, and canyons.
IDAHO FACT 36
Idaho has more soakable hot springs than anywhere else in the US. This natural phenomenon occurs because Idaho sits on top of hundreds of dormant, ancient volcanos.
IDAHO FACT 37
Hells’s Canyon in Southern Idaho is the deepest river gorge in North America. If fact, it’s deeper than the Grand Canyon by 2000 feet. Its widest point is 10 miles wide, and its deepest point is 7900 feet deep.
IDAHO FACT 38
The name of Hell’s Canyon isn’t just for its severe vertical drop and raging waters below, but most likely (or also) due to its dark cliffs and complete lack of sunlight.
IDAHO FACT 39
Idaho has several volcanoes, including one dormant volcano that could erupt at any point at Crater of the Moon in south-central Idaho.
IDAHO FACT 40
The world’s first chairlift was built by Union Pacific Railroad for the Sun Valley Resort in 1936.
IDAHO FACT 41
Boise is the only state capitol building in the USA to be warmed with renewable energy. It’s heated from hot springs located 3000 feet under the ground. This forward-thinking plan cost over 2.1 million dollars and was built from 1905 to 1920.
IDAHO FACT 42
The Fosbury Flop, a popular jumping style still used in the high jump, was invented by Dick Fosbury, a Ketchum, Idaho resident.
IDAHO FACT 43
Idaho has a wine region! While not sought after as a prime wine destination, Southern Idaho is picking up steam as a burgeoning wine area. The Sunnyslope Wine Trail in Caldwell, Idaho, produces most of the vineyards in the state.
IDAHO FACT 44
While Idaho may not be the hub for moviemaking, its stunning landscape has been the backdrop for many feature films. Most notably, Napolean Dynamite, Dante’s Peak, Bronco Billy, Smoke Signals, and Northwest Passage.
IDAHO FACT 45
The most famous actors from Idaho are Aaron Paul and Lana Turner.
IDAHO FACT 46
In the 1950s, Arco, Idaho, was the first city in the world to be powered by nuclear energy.
IDAHO FACT 47
One of the largest diamonds ever found was discovered near McCall, Idaho. At a whopping 20 carats, the diamond would be worth over a million dollars.
Funny Facts About Idaho
IDAHO FACT 48
In 2004, The mayor of Wallace, Idaho, proclaimed their 800-person town as the center of the universe and had a manhole painted to mark the declaration.
IDAHO FACT 49
In 1948, the mayor of Pocatello, Idaho, passed an ordinance making it illegal to frown. It was a silly law that came about when the mayor was trying to cheer up residents after a particularly rough winter. If “convicted,” you had to go to a Smileage Station and smile for a certain amount of time.
IDAHO FACT 50
Idaho has the most expensive bull transaction in the world. In 2013, a 13-month-old Hereford bull sold for $600,0000 at auction.
IDAHO FACT 51
If you’re visiting Wallace, Idaho, make sure not to sleep in a dog kennel! It’s illegal to sleep in one unless you’re a dog.
IDAHO FACT 52
Located at the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho is the world’s largest potato chip. Made in 1990, the chip measures 23 inches by 14.5 inches.
IDAHO FACT 53
Bear Lake, on the border of Utah and Idaho, has an intimidating lake monster that has become the stuff of urban legend. Originating with a Native American tale that a serpent-like monster lived in the lake, the story was revitalized in the late 1800s when white settlers claimed to see the creature. They said it was up to 90 feet in length, and one person claimed they “never saw a locomotive travel faster.” The legend is still active to this day, with people who still refuse to night fish on the lake.
IDAHO FACT 54
Idaho has an area nicknamed “the zone of death” because of its seeming lawlessness. Located in an uninhabited 50-mile area of Yellowstone National Park, a loophole in the law creates ambiguity on how and where a person should be tried in the event of a federal crime. Wyoming has complete federal jurisdiction over the park, but the Sixth Amendment says that a federal crime must be prosecuted in the state and district where the crime was committed. With no one living in that area of Yellowstone National Park, you would be unable to pull a jury of your peers. It’s shady but unlikely to hold up…so don’t get any ideas.
IDAHO FACT 55
Boise State made waves when it installed the first non-green turf in the world. In 1986, blue turf was installed and affectionately dubbed “the smurf turf.” The NCAA now has an official rule named the Boise State Rule that does not ban non-traditional field colors.
IDAHO FACT 56
Idaho’s capital city, Boise, is often pronounced wrong by non-locals. If you want to sound like you’re from Boise, you’ll pronounce it how it’s spelled…Boy-See, as opposed to Boy-Zee.
IDAHO FACT 57
The term “my own private Idaho” is a saying made famous by the 1991 Gus Van Sant movie of the same name. The movie title was inspired by the 1980 single “Private Idaho” from the B-52s. The term’s meaning is fluid and up for interpretation, but it is commonly used to say “living in your own made-up world.”
Did you learn anything new in our round-up of fun and interesting facts about Idaho?
Ready for more trivia? Check out our sister article on Idaho’s capital city, 40 Fun Facts About Boise that might just surprise the pants off of you!
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