Idaho – The Gem State

Idaho is located in the Northwest of the United States of America. For a long time, mining was the most vital part of Idaho’s economy, since the state has many natural resources (silver, lead, cobalt, zinc, phosphates, mercury and gold). Those natural resources are the reason for Idaho’s nickname: the Gem State. Today, Idaho is primarily famous for its potatoes: a quarter of all potatoes in the U.S. is being grown here. The name “Idaho” is derived from a word of the Shoshone language, “Ee-dah-how,” which basically means “light on the mountains.” Some say, however, that this translation is simply been made up by the eccentric mining lobbyist George M. Willing.

Idaho is a state of contrasts – the Rocky Mountains, up to 10,000 feet; thick forests with rushing whitewater rivers; and the dry, steppe-like plains along the Snake River. The land that seemed indomitable for a long time managed to maintain a lot of its unspoiled nature. Above all it is known for its excellent skiing areas, but Idaho has even more to offer – crystal-clear lakes, impressive lava fields and the deepest canyon in the US. The latter is one of the most famous sights in Idaho – the Hells Canyon near the Oregon border. Over a stretch of more than 93 miles the Snake River has carved a deep canyon into the rock. On the walls of the canyon, several petroglyphs, carved by the Nez Percé Indians, can still be seen.

Boise, the capital of Idaho, is located in the Southern part of the state, near the border to Oregon. The city was once founded by French settlers. Today, it has a population of 152,700 and is the center of trade for Southwest Idaho. The State Capitol, the state’s seat of government, is absolutely worth seeing. Being the capital of the state, Boise is also the place where most of the state’s cultural life takes place. Museums for the state’s history and culture are in Boise, as well as the Idaho Opera.

At first, Idaho was part of the Oregon and Washington territories. It was the fur trade and missionary activities that brought the first settlers into the region. Thousands of people traveled through the region during the time of the California gold rush, but only few settled there. By the time it became a territory in 1863, the population was less than 17,000. When in 1866 gold was found in Idaho and the transcontinental railway was finished in 1869, high numbers of people came to Idaho, especially Chinese immigrants, who looked for work in the mines. President Benjamin Harrison signed the law that made Idaho the 43rd state of the US on July 3, 1890.

After Idaho had achieved statehood, mining and other industry became important for its economy. During the 1890s, Idaho exported more lead than any other state. Even though Idaho is less dependent on mining today, the state is still one of the most important producers of silver and lead. Real GDP per capita was $30,896 in 2006, which makes Idaho number 41 of all 50 states in the national ranking.