Michael Bryan

Written by Michael Bryan

Modified & Updated: 01 Jun 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

idaho, idaho facts

How the U.S. state Idaho got its name is still a mystery. Regardless of how that name came to be, you most likely know it as the “Gem State.” Now, here’s another question. Why the “Gem State?” This is perhaps the most fitting name for Idaho since the state produces over 240 different forms of minerals. Included in that list are semi-precious gems like aquamarine, cerussite, vivianite, and pyromorphite. Within the mountains of Idaho are gold veins, zinc, silver, copper, and cobalt deposits.

Idaho is a truly precious and special state! It is famous not only for its stone and gems, but also for its amazing history, and always cheerful locals. If you’re in a bad mood, you better stay away from Pocatello, Idaho, because it’s illegal to frown there! You may think that bit of info doesn’t belong in any list of Idaho facts, but it is 100 percent true!

When it comes to potato-producing states, everyone knows Idaho is the cream of the crop. Despite the fact that potatoes are a major agricultural product in more than 30 states, the Idaho potato industry has led the United States the extensive potato production for more than 60 years. Idaho is the home of quality potatoes, and the state continues to be inventive in preparing its most staple food.

Did you like what you just read? Well, guess what, there is more where that came from! Our comprehensive list of the 50 most interesting Idaho facts will definitely surprise you and make you appreciate this amazing state even more!

  1. Idaho is the 14th largest state in the United States.
  2. Idaho borders six U.S. states and one Canadian province.
  3. Idaho has a land area of 83,570 square miles or (216,400 square kilometers).
  4. Idaho is the 12th least populous US state.
  5. Idaho became a US state on July 3, 1890.
  1. Boise is the capital and largest city in Idaho.
  2. Idaho’s official state nickname is “Gem State.”
  3. Its nickname symbolizes Idaho’s natural beauty.
  4. Potato is the best-known crop in Idaho.
  5. Since 1919, Idaho has 44 counties.
  6. Idaho’s state motto is “Esto perpetual” which means “Let it be forever.”
  7. Numerous fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals live in Idaho.
  8. Idaho’s mountainous location creates various weather patterns.
  9. It only has one main roadway that connects the northern and southern parts of the state.
  10. Idaho has various gemstones, particularly opal and garnet.
  1. Huckleberry became the state fruit of Idaho in 2000.
  2. The Shoshone Falls in Idaho is called “Niagara of the West.” It is 45 meters higher than Niagara Falls.
  3. Snake River is the most essential river in Idaho.
  4. Idaho has approximately 2,000 lakes.
  5. Silver City and Burke are the two known ghost towns in the state.
Table of Contents

The Borah Peak earthquake had a magnitude of 6.9.

One of the most historical earthquakes in Idaho was the Borah Peak earthquake. It was the largest earthquake, not only in magnitude but also in damage to properties. It occurred on October 28, at around 8:00 a.m. MDT. Borah Peak was hit with a magnitude 6.9 earthquake and was under intensity IX.

Idaho's population is rapidly increasing.

The population in Idaho is growing rapidly. As of 2020, the state’s population is approximately 1,826,913, a 2.12% increase compared to 2019. It’s higher than Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, with only 1.7%. Between 2018 and 2019, an average of 36,529 people was added to Idaho, the majority of these immigrants are from California.

Boise is the most populous city in Idaho.

boise, idaho
Source: Unsplash

The most heavily populated city in Idaho is Boise. It has a population of 240,380 in 2020. In the USA, Boise takes the 80th spot as the most populous metropolitan area. It is located on the Boise River in the Southwestern portion of Idaho. The city has a land area of  80.05 square miles (or 207.33 square kilometers).

Idaho State University's first name is Academy of Idaho.

On March 11, 1901, the fifth governor of Idaho from 1901 to 1903, Frank W. Hunt legalized the establishment of the Academy of Idaho and the use of donated land as the site for the academy. On May 1, 1901, the Academy of Idaho was officially opened, but classes began only a year after.

In 1963, the Academy was renamed ISU or Idaho State University. It is now considered the public research university in Pocatello, Idaho. It currently offers more than 250 courses and has a principal campus in Twin Falls, Meridian, and Idaho Falls.

George Willing suggested the name Idaho.

The American physician and politician, George Maurice “Doc” Willing, Jr. suggested the name Idaho. Willing said that the term Idaho was from a Shoshone term that means “gem of the mountains.” But later on, he admitted that it is coined from a girl’s name Ida.

Emma Green designed the state official seal.

American painter and designer Emma Edwards Green created the official seal of Idaho, the only woman to do so.

The seal illustrates a woman implying justice and a miner, which symbolizes the main industry of the state. It also has the words, “Great Seal of the State of Idaho” and the state motto. The state adopted Green’s design as the official state seal in 1891.

Idaho covers two time zones.

Idaho is one of the U.S. states that has two time zones. Cities in north Idaho observe Pacific Time Zone (UTC 08:00, DST UTC 07:00) while the rest of the state is under the Mountain Time Zone (UTC 07:00, DST UTC 06:00).

Ice cream potato is one of the most iconic desserts in Idaho.

Idaho is the home of quality potatoes, so it’s no wonder that the state continues to be inventive in preparing its most staple food.

Idaho ice cream potato, idaho facts
Image from The Today Show

Local chef Lou Aaron spent about 40 years completing his iconic dessert, the Idaho Ice Cream Potato. The dessert is a big potato-shaped ball with vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with cocoa powder and topped with Oreo cookies, nuts, and whipped cream.

Shoshone Falls is one of the most visited places in Idaho.

shosone falls
Source: Unsplash

Shoshone Falls is on the Snake River in the Southern part of Idaho. It is 212 feet tall and 900 feet wide. It is also considered one of the largest waterfalls in the United States, and a must-see tourist spot. The best time to see the falls is during spring when snow begins to thaw.

Shoshone falls is not only iconic. It is also historical because it has a great impact on the advancement of the region. The falls is a famous fishing spot for Native Americans and an essential site for the mining of gold.

Pocatello is the smile capital of Idaho.

This may sound like fake news, but it is true that it is illegal to frown in Pocatello. In 1948, the city of Pocatello suffered from severe winter which caused the city employees and the residents to despair. To cheer up the town, George Phillips, who was the city mayor during that time, passed a smile ordinance law.

Idaho Human Rights Day is a state holiday.

The most distinguished holiday in the state of Idaho is Idaho Human Rights Day. The former United States Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne created the holiday on January 16, 2006. Idahoans observe this holiday along with Martin Luther King Jr. Day which falls on the same day. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the US.

Sun Valley is the first ski resort in Blaine County.

Sun Valley is the first ski resort in Blaine County, Idaho. It was opened in 1936. There are two mountains in the Sun Valley Area, the Bald Mountain, and the Dollar Mountain.

The Bald Mountain or “Baldy” is the main ski mountain. It has a vertical drop of  3,400 feet or 1,035 meters and a peak of 9,150 feet or  2,790 meters.

On the other hand, Dollar Mountain has a vertical plunge of 628 feet or 191 meters and a height of  28 feet or 191 meters. This mountain is good for beginners and intermediate skiers.

Sun Valley Resort installed one of the first chairlifts in the world.

The freight-hauling railroad company in Nebraska, the Union Pacific Railroad (UP), opened Sun Valley as a winter holiday destination. To ease their guest’s trip up the mountain, UP thought of a new to transport skiers. UP designed a single chairlift in Omaha in 1936. In December 1936, Sun Valley opened a ski resort that has the first chairlift. The fee is 25 cents per ride.

Idaho Potato Museum is dedicated to the famous Idaho crop.

Idaho Museum is a unique museum that features Idaho’s famous potatoes and is located in Blackfoot City. The museum provides information about the potato industry, potato trivia, and nutrition from the root vegetable. It also features the world’s biggest potato chip, which Pringles created in 1991. (Click here for the video).

Star Garnet is the state gem of Idaho.

A massive variety of gems are found in Idaho, and one of these gems is the star garnet. Star garnet is a rare gem. There are only two places where this gem can be found: India and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Moreover, it more valuable than rubies or sapphires. This garnet is color purple and has rays like a star.

Cataldo Mission is the oldest building in Idaho.

Constructed between 1850 to 1853, The Mission of the Sacred Heart or Cataldo Mission is the oldest and one of the most impressive buildings in Idaho. In 1850, the Italian Jesuit Missionary, Antonio Ravalli faced the overwhelming undertaking of creating the new mission structure.

Eastern Idaho State Fair is an annual state fair held in Blackfoot.

state fair
Source: Unsplash

The Eastern Idaho State Fair originated in a livestock show in 1902. The fair has become the favorite annual celebration attended by young, old, and families who want to have a memorable and fun experience. It is held every first week of September in Blackfoot, Idaho, and lasts for nine days. In 2017, the fair held its 115th anniversary and 239,103 people attended.

Bruneau Dunes State Park has the tallest single-structured sand dune.

Bruneau Dunes State Park is a public recreation park that highlights large sand dunes and small lakes. It is situated northeast of Bruneau, and 15 miles south of Mountain Home, Idaho. The park is the home of the tallest single-structured sand dune. The dune is around 470 feet or 140 meters high. Aside from this, it also has the Bruneau Dunes Observatory, where guests can enjoy stargazing using telescopes.

Idaho license plates has the slogan, "Famous Potatoes."

Idaho was one of the first states to add a slogan to license plates. Though most of the states chose to add their state slogan or motto, Idaho did not use “Esto Perpetua,” but instead used “Famous Potatoes.” This slogan was first used in 1928.

A newly elected Idaho governor was once kidnapped.

Here’s one unforgettable event in Idaho. Back in 1929, four armed men kidnapped the newly elected Lieutenant-Governor, William Barker Kinne. Kinne was driving from Lewiston to Orofino when men abducted him and stole his car.

They took Kinne and two other victims and fastened them to a tree before disappearing. A manhunt to find the perpetrators came after. Two days later, the Sheriff at that time found the criminals hiding in Potlatch River.

Idaho has maintained the same flag for 64 years.

The state legislature officially adopted the flag on November 2, 1957. The flag has six main colors; black, red ribbon, bright sun, royal blue, gold, and royal blue.

The standard size of the flag is 3 feet x 3.9 feet. In addition, the banner has the official state seal and words, “State of Idaho.”

Idaho is the main producer of potatoes in the USA.

Source: Unsplash

America’s main source of potatoes is Idaho as it produces nearly 33% of U.S. potatoes. Annually, growers produce over 100 million potatoes. The most known potato in Idaho is the Russet potato.

Simplot is one of the biggest French fries companies in Idaho.

In 1929, American entrepreneur and businessman, John Richard founded J.R. Simplot or Simplot in south-central Idaho. Simplot made billions of commercialized frozen French fries. At the beginning of 1970, McDonald’s main supplier of frozen French fries was Simplot, but by 2005 it became the supplier of half of all French fries for the fast-food chain.

Nez Perce and Shoshone were the earliest tribes in Idaho.

Humans have inhabited the land of Idaho for thousands of years. When Europeans came to Idaho, there were already two tribes in the area: the Shoshone tribe to the South, and Nez Perce tribe to the North. Both tribes have the same way of living.

Albion State Normal University was a public institution in Albion, Idaho.

In 1893, Idaho Legislature established Albion State University, one of the two normal teacher-training schools in Idaho. It offered a two-year teacher training course until 1947. Unfortunately, in 1951, the state officially closed the university due to low enrollment and lack of funding.

Albion State Normal University became Haunted Mansions of Albion.

Spooky Idaho facts! If you are a scare fanatic, a must-see place in Idaho is the former Albion State University. The mansions have become a favorite destination of paranormal experts.

In 2008, the building was opened again to the public. but this time its patrons were thrill enthusiasts. Every year, the haunted mansion organizers convert the former university into the eeriest mansion in Idaho. The ticket fee is $20.00 per guest.

In Idaho, it's illegal to sweep leaves in the streets.

Source: Unsplash

Under the criminal law of Idaho, blowing or sweeping leaves that may be regarded as trash on roadways, in drains, streets, or any public transportation is illegal. It is punishable by up to $2,500 and six months of imprisonment.

National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest is held in Weiser, Idaho.

The National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest is an old-school music competition held every third week of June in Weiser, Idaho. The contest began way back in 1853. The competition captivates musicians all over the country. This event is attended by almost 7,000 participants and about 350 fiddlers. The competition has eight divisions.

"Napoleon Dynamite" was filmed in Idaho.

The 2004 American comedy film Napoleon Dynamite directed by Jared Hess had its scenes film in Idaho. The school scenes, in particular, were shot in Preston High School.

The movie was about a gawky teenage boy, Napoleon Dynamite (John Heder), who is having trouble fitting into his family. After befriending Pedro, a student from Mexico, he launched a campaign to run for class president.

Idaho's Big Burn killed 78 firefighters.

The Great Fire of 1910 or Big Burn was a massive fire that burned a million acres, 4,700 square miles, or 12,100 square kilometers in North Idaho and Western Montana. The fire burned for over two days on August 20 to 21, after strong wind caused small fires to scatter. It killed 87 people, most of them were firefighters.

The fire also destroyed a billion dollars worth of lumber. The Big Burn was the worst, though not the most dangerous, fire in the history of the United States.

Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.