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Idaho (ID) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Idaho is state in the Pacific Northwest that lies directly to the east of Oregon and Washington, with its northern point touching Canada. Most of Idaho’s terrain is made up of a series of mountain ranges, supporting thick forests and clean rivers.
Counties and Regions: There are 44 counties in Idaho, which tend to be larger through the middle and southwestern portions of the state, which are the agricultural areas. A few more general regions of Idaho can be delineated as follows:
- Central Idaho
- Eastern Idaho
- Idaho Panhandle (northwestern part)
- Magic Valley
- North Idaho
- Southern Idaho
- Treasure Valley
Population: Idaho, with over 1.5 million people, is one of the bottom ten most densely populated states in the nation. Its population has been growing rather quickly over the past several decades, however.
Major Cities: Idaho’s capital, Boise, is also its largest city. Boise has a population of more than 200,000 people, with roughly three times that number living within its metropolitan area. The state’s second-largest city, Nampa, is growing at an even faster rate.
Story Behind the Name: The name “Idaho” is generally admitted to have been completely made up by a nineteenth-century lobbyist named George Willing. He claimed, and some still believe, that it came from a Native American phrase meaning “the sun comes down the mountain,” but whether there is any truth to this is unknown.
History and Colonization: Present-day Idaho was the last of the 50 states to be encountered by white explorers. Due its incredibly rugged terrain and distance from most European or American bases of operation, it was not charted until the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark passed through it in the early nineteenth century. The first white settlements were little more than trading posts for fur trappers, and none of them resulted in the creation of permanent communities.
Up until the 1860s, Native Americans were the main inhabitants of Idaho, and so there was little urgency to turn it into a state. The Idaho Territory was mostly what was left over after other chunks of the former Oregon Country were carved out to become more incorporated territories or states. American settlers did not begin to arrive in larger numbers until the end of the Civil War, after the railroads snaked far into the West. It became a destination for Christian missionaries and for miners looking to take advantage of the mineral wealth in the mountains, and the Native American population eventually became marginalized.
Mining was the most important industry in Idaho throughout the nineteenth century, and many towns grew around veins of metal or precious stones in the mountains. Chinese laborers who were brought to the territory to work in the mines still have many descendants living in the area today. Disenfranchised Mormons and former Confederates, along with disputes over unionized mining labor, created some political and even physical conflict in Idaho, but these issues settled down by the early twentieth century.
Modern Idaho has mostly reinvented itself as a tourist destination. It has some of the largest unspoiled areas in the United States, with beautiful waterfalls and pristine forests. Many of the former mining towns are now tourist resorts, contributing greatly to Idaho’s economy. Agriculture has cropped up in the state as well, becoming a profitable pastime in its flatter southern areas.