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Updated November 30, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
Idaho flag


Idaho State Information

Capital: Boise

Official Name: State of Idaho

Organized as a territory/republic: March 3, 1863

Entered Union (rank): July 3, 1890 (43rd state)

Present constitution adopted: 1890

State abbreviation/Postal code: Idaho/ID

State Area Code: 208

Fun Facts About Idaho

Nickname: The Gem State

Origin of name: The name "Idaho" is a made-up one, coming from the 1800s.

Motto: “Esto perpetua” (“It is forever”)

Slogan: "Famous Potatoes"

State symbols

Flower: Syringa (1931)

Tree: Western white pine (1935)

Fruit: Huckleberry 

Vegetable: Potato

Bird: Mountain bluebird (1931)

State raptor: Peregrine Falcon (2004)

Insect: Monarch butterfly (1992)

Horse: Appaloosa (1975)

Gem: star garnet (1967)

Song: “Here We Have Idaho”

Folk dance: Square dance

Fish: Cutthroat trout (1990)

Amphibian: Idaho Giant Salamander 

Fossil: Hagerman horse fossil (1988)


Governor: Brad Little, R (to Jan. 2026)

Lieut. Governor: Scott Bedke, R (to Jan. 2026)

Secretary of State: Phil McGrane, R (to Jan. 2026)

Attorney General: Raúl Labrador, R (to Jan. 2026)

Treasurer: Julie A. Ellsworth, R (to Jan. 2026)

U.S. Representatives: 2

Senators: Mike Crapo, R (to Jan. 2026); Jim Risch, R (to Jan. 2023)

Historical biographies of Congressional members

State website:


Residents: Idahoan

2020 resident population: 1,839,092 (14th largest state)

10 largest cities (2020): Boise, 235,829;  Meridian, 119,729; Nampa, 101,124; Caldwell 60,482; Idaho Falls, 65,657; Pocatello, 56,282; Coeur d'Alene, 54,770; Twin Falls 51,816; Post Falls, 39,209; Rexburg 34,894.[1]

Race/Ethnicity: White: 1,702,999 (92.6%); Black: 18,391 (1.0%); American Indian & Alaskan Native: 31,264 (1.7%); Asian: 31,264 (1.7%); Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 368 (.02%); Two or more races: 51,494 (2.8%); Hispanic/Latino: 248,277 (13.5%).[2]

Religion: Protestantism (41%); Catholicism (21%); Unaffiliated (30%); Judaism (5%); Unitarian/Universalist (1%); New Age (1%); Others (1%).

Sex: Male: 785,324 (50.1%); Female: 782,258 (49.9%).

Age: Under 18: 22.8%; 18-64: 980,236 (53.3%); 65 and over: 312,645 (17.0%). Median Age: 36.6.


GDP: 83.2 billion dollars (44th in U.S., 2023)

Unemployment: 3.1% (2023)


Land area: 82,747 sq mi. (214,315 sq km)

Geographic center: In Custer Co., at Custer, SW of Challis

Number of counties: 44, plus a small part of Yellowstone National Park

Largest county by population and area: Ada, 518,907 (2022); Idaho, 8,485 sq mi.

State forests: 881,000 ac.

State parks: 30 (43,000+ ac.)

See additional census data

Tourism office


Idaho is a state located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, and is the 14th most populous state in the United States. The capital and largest city are both Boise.

The Gem State is home to many diverse landscapes ranging from mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, and deserts. In addition to being known for its natural beauty, Idaho has become increasingly popular among outdoor enthusiasts due to its wide range of activities including skiing, hiking, biking, and fishing. Despite its reputation for being a ruggedly beautiful outdoorsy paradise, it has still managed to maintain a strong agricultural presence.

Idaho Geography

Idaho is in the northwestern United States. It is bordered on the west by Washington and Oregon, on the south by Nevada and Utah, on the east by Wyoming and Montana, and on the north by Canada. This state includes various landforms and ecosystems, including mountains, lakes, rivers, grasslands, deserts, forests, the deepest gorge in the United States, and a barren landscape, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, where astronauts trained for Moon missions.[3]

Mountains, lakes, and forests dominate the northern parts of Idaho. Moving south, the central regions of Idaho have rolling hills, farms, and lovely meadows. Central Idaho boasts dramatic mountain peaks, whitewater rivers, and a Dark Sky Reserve dedicated to stargazing. The eastern part of the state shares geographical qualities with Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Southern Idaho is home to the Snake River Plain. The southern region also had unique geological features like lava flows, deep canyons, rock formations, and even sand dunes.[3]

Idaho People and Population

Most of the population lives in the Snake River Plain. Ada County is home to 25% of the state's population. Major cities in this region are the state capitol, Boise and Meridian (in Ada County), Twin Falls (Twin Falls County), and Idaho Falls (in Bonneville County). This region is home to high desert and robust agricultural areas.

Native Americans in Idaho are classified into five groups: the Kutenai (Kootenai), Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Shoshoni, and Northern Paiute.[4]

Immigrants to Idaho in the 1800s included French Canadians, British Islanders, Chinese railroad workers, Mormons, Scandanavians, other Europeans, African-Americans, and Hispanic or Latino people.[5]

According to census data, Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states in terms of population growth. Professor Jaap Vos at the University of Idaho explains that the census data needs to paint a clearer picture. When he compares the demographics of people entering Idaho to those leaving Idaho, Vos notes rapid demographic changes that can "influence political views, resident income sources, and financial interest in the state from national real estate developers, manufacturing, and other industries."[6] 

Most people entering Idaho are in their 20s, 30s, and 50s, and may hail from large California cities or from Utah.[6]

Idaho Government

Idaho became a state when the Idaho Territory was created from parts of neighboring territories in 1863: the Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming territories. The size of the state was reduced in 1864 and 1868 when the Montana and Wyoming Territories were formally established. Idaho became the 43rd state in 1890.[7] 

Idaho crafted its state government after the United States Federal Government, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The Executive Branch, led by the governor, handles issues dealing with the military, public safety, human health and welfare, education, economic development, licensing, and the state's natural resources. The Judicial Branch oversees Idaho law and legal documents. Idaho has a Supreme Court, District Courts, a Court of Appeals, and a Public Defense Commission. The Legislative Branch creates laws and policies, collects taxes, and oversees state agencies.[8]

Idaho Economy

Idaho has a diverse economic foundation with investments in advanced manufacturing, aerospace, technology and innovation, food production, outdoor recreation, back office and shared services, tourism, and energy. 

Advanced manufacturing is an industry that specializes in products made-to-order for businesses. These businesses may need medical equipment, computer parts, chemicals, or fabricated metal parts. Three dozen aerospace companies have established businesses in northern Idaho, bringing jobs and other business partners to the area.[9]

Although Idaho is known for potato production, the state is now a leader in agriculture. Farming practices in Idaho use the least amount of power in the country. Idaho is home to AgriBeef, Chiobani, Cliff Bar, and more household names.[9]

Idaho's tourism industry brings in $3.7 billion per year. It employs over 45,000 people and brings in $457 million in tax revenues.[9]

Idaho Interesting Facts

As we delve further into some fascinating state-based tidbits, prepare to discover the unique blend of nature and culture that makes Idaho a truly remarkable state. Stay tuned as we explore more captivating details about this hidden gem.

Women for the Win!

The Idaho State Seal and Flag were designed by Emma Edwards Green. It is the only state seal created by a woman. She also wrote a book about the state’s history and geography, entitled “Idaho: Its Meaning and Romance."

Ski Idaho!

The first ski chairlift was installed at Sun Valley Resort in Ketchum, Idaho in 1936. It was designed by James Curran, a Union Pacific engineer. Since then, Idaho has become a premier skiing destination. From world-class ski resorts like Sun Valley and Schweitzer Mountain to backcountry skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling for adventure seekers, there is something for everyone in the Gem State!

We’re Going to Hell’s Canyon!

Hell’s Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America. It measures 7,900 feet (2,407 meters) deep and was carved by the Snake River. Here you’ll find hiking trails, whitewater rafting, and camping spots for the perfect outdoor adventure. There are also several historic sites along the rim of the canyon – perfect for history buffs.

Visit World-Famous Craters of the Moon!

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a great place to explore volcanic rock formations and learn about Idaho's fascinating geologic history. The vast lava fields were formed during eight major eruptions between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago. Take a hike on one of the many trails, or go caving in an underground lava tube!

Idaho History

The history of Idaho is complex and fascinating, with some of the oldest human artifacts in North America found near Salmon, Idaho. The region was also home to large Native American civilizations such as the Nez Perce and Shoshone, expanding as the United States became more defined as a country through wars and milestones.

Pre-Colonial History

The lives of Native Americans living in the Northwestern United States involved preparing food during the summer to sustain them through the winter. Big game like antelope and buffalo and small game like rabbits were common protein sources for these tribes. The roots of the camas lily, sego, and bitterroot and an assortment of berries were mashed and dried.[4]

Some early pottery remains from the Shoshone groups, but soft-woven baskets made from corn husks by the Nez Perce are some of the most beautiful artifacts. The northern tribes built longhouses with mat roofs that housed multiple families, while the southern tribes tended to have smaller, round homes.[4]

Colonial History

Due to its distance from the Atlantic, the western parts of the North American continent were the last to be settled by white colonists. President Thomas Jefferson tasked the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase and find a practical pathway to the West. French Canadians came to Idaho with and following the Lewis and Clark Expedition and remained to mine gold or establish homesteads.[5]

Idaho was largely unsettled before 1850. Over the next 30 years, various immigrants traveled to or through Idaho, significantly reshaping the population. British settlers also came as early fur traders, though the more significant portion arrived during the gold rush years in the 1860s.[5]

Hispanic people arrived along with the 1860s gold rush. They worked as miners and as packers and outfitters for other miners. Some Hispanics also worked as cowboys, and others laid railway tracks.

A sizeable Chinese contingent followed the gold rush to Idaho. Some records show that almost 60% of the miners in 1870 were Chinese.[5] Chinese immigrants established whole communities with farmers, shopkeepers, blacksmiths, and other needed services and products. Many other Chinese immigrants worked on the construction of the railroads. They tended to pass through with the railroad rather than settle. The number of Chinese people in Idaho decreased sharply after 1890 when the state legislature restricted them from mining. They also faced a great deal of prejudice and discrimination.[5]

Another significant group of settlers in Idaho was the Mormons. It is essential to consider these people as not just one religious group but as ethnic groups as well. There were three Mormon groups in Idaho: American, British, and Scandinavian.[5] 

Civil War History

When the Civil War began in the U.S., Idaho was not even a territory. Despite that status, the war impacted the state. The Union established Fort Boise the day after Gettysburg. President Lincoln wanted the Union and capitalism to control the new Western Territories. However, many Confederate sympathizers also journeyed to Idaho and the surrounding Territories to escape the war in the South.[10]

Post-Civil War

The gold rush was going strong in the 1860s, with many people arriving in the territory. Naturally, people who wanted to mine for gold arrived, but others came to build towns and sell services to the miners. Many towns sprung up almost overnight and disappeared almost as quickly when mines closed. Idaho City is one of these "ghost towns." In the 1870s, it had over 7,000 residents but now has only about 500.

Idaho applied for statehood and was accepted into the Union in 1890. 

In 1893, the U.S. Government required that the Treasury purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver monthly. This encouraged more production of silver, which flooded the market. Despite the intent to be to support the mining and banking economies, the act drove down the value of gold, leading to the panic of '93.[11]

Another significant event in Idaho's history is the development of laws for public water use. This legislation is an essential piece in the construction of multiple dams built over the years. Dams were constructed for various purposes, such as irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and flood control. Idaho's landscape includes over 100 dams of varying sizes and functions, including the Milner Dam, Brownlee Dam, Oxbow Dam, Lucky Peak Dam, and the Hell's Canyon Dam.[12]

Modern History

In 1910 a devastating fire burned through the forests of North Idaho. The year was particularly dry, with no rain and rivers and streams drying up. In June of 1910, multiple forest fires were burning in the woods. Some were started accidentally by homesteaders or campers. Others were likely started by sparks from coal-fired locomotives. July 15th, an electrical storm started even more fires. The fire exploded through August 20 and 21, 1910, burning 3 million acres of forest in Idaho and Montana. This disaster changed the way that the Forest Service managed fires moving forward.[13]

Throughout the 1900s, Idaho made education a priority. In 1901, the Academy of Idaho (now Idaho State University) opened. In 1910, the State Board of Education was established to oversee the public education of students through high school. Other educational institutions opened, including a School for the Deaf and Blind in Gooding, the University of Idaho, and Boise State University.[12][14]

As Idaho grew, state parks were established to protect natural resources. The Craters of the Moon National Monument was established in 1924, and the Nez Perce Historic Park was founded in 1965.[12][14]

Idaho felt the impact of World War II just as the rest of the country. In 1942, the U.S. Military created a naval training station at Lake Pend Oreille. This lake was deep enough to practice submarine maneuvers. Unfortunately, Idaho also placed Japanese Americans in internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.[12]

In 1980, Mount St. Helens in Washington State erupted. This volcanic eruption deposited two inches of ash across Idaho, and ashfall extended as far south as New Mexico and north into Canada.[15]

An infamous event in 1992 made Idaho the center of attention for 11 days. The Ruby Ridge standoff occurred when federal agents attempted to arrest Randy Weaver, a white separatist, on weapons charges. The standoff resulted in an eleven-day siege, the deaths of Weaver's son and wife, and sparked controversy over the use of force by law enforcement.[16]

Idaho, along with many other parts of the United States, is experiencing the results of climate change, including widespread drought. In heavily forested areas, wildfires are a concern, and in 2000, 2007, and 2009 Idaho had severe fire seasons.[17]

In the 2023 State of the State address, Gov. Brad Little spoke about the successes of income tax relief and investments in education. He outlined plans to further support teachers and schools. He announced a scholarship for Idaho high school students to attend further education at an Idaho community college, technical school, or university. 

People Also Ask...

If you are interested in more information about the state of Idaho, then keep reading — we have compiled answers to the most common FAQs below. Plus, test your newfound state knowledge by taking our quiz on The Oldest U.S. States, find out more about forest fires and wildfires, and learn about the Gold Rush!

Is Idaho a Good Place To Live?

Idaho has an affordable cost of living and plenty of outdoor activities. It is limited in cultural entertainment options. It also has long, cold winters which can be difficult in some of the more remote areas. However, if winter sports are appealing, there are several ski resorts in the northern part of the state.

What Is the State of Idaho Known For?

Many people associate Idaho with potatoes. Idaho’s soil is uniquely suited to potato farming due to its volcanic soil components. But, Idaho is also home to beautiful landscapes, rivers and waterfalls, and outdoor sports. The state is also a source of gemstones and precious metals like gold and silver.

What Are the Most Common Jobs in Idaho?

The most common jobs in Idaho according to the Idaho Department of Labor are health care and social assistance, retail trade, accommodation and food service, manufacturing, construction, administrative support, and waste management.

See more on Idaho:
Encyclopedia: Idaho
Encyclopedia: Geography
Encyclopedia: Economy
Encyclopedia: Government
Encyclopedia: History
Monthly Temperature Extremes

Selected famous natives and residents:


The 50 States of America | U.S. State Information
Sources +

[1] 10 largest cities in Idaho. Cities in Idaho by Population (2023). (2023). 

[2] QuickFacts: Idaho. United States Census Bureau. (2022b). 

[3] Regional Map. Visit Idaho. (2023, June 7). 

[4] The Indians of Idaho. Idaho State Historical Society. (n.d.). 

[5] Idaho State University. (n.d.). Immigration and Emmigration. Digital Atlas of Idaho.

[6] Idaho’s demographics changing at unprecedented rates, U of I analysis finds. University of Idaho News. (2022, August 18). 

[7] Stats for stories: Idaho 130th Anniversary of Statehood (1890): July 3, 2020. United States Census Bureau. (2021, December 16).

[8] Idaho Government. The Official Website of the State of Idaho. (2018, December 21). 

[9] Key industries. Idaho Commerce. (2022, January 19). 

[10] Barnhill, F. (2017, October 6). Legacy of hate: Mapping the Confederate and union footprint in Idaho. Boise State Public Radio. 

[11] Caldbick, J. (2019, October 1). Panic of 1893 and its aftermath. Panic of 1893 and Its Aftermath. 

[12] Idaho State University. (n.d.-a). Idaho History Timeline 1900-1949. Digital Atlas of Idaho. 

[13] The Great Fire of 1910 . U.S. Forest Service. (n.d.). 

[14] Idaho State University. (n.d.-b). Idaho History Timeline 1950-1999. Digital Atlas of Idaho. 

[15] 1980 Mount St. Helens. Idaho Office of Emergency Management. (2019, May 22). 

[16] Kiner, D. (2022, August 21). Bloody Standoff at ruby ridge that left 3 people dead started 30 Years Ago Today. pennlive. 

[17] Ferguson, J. (n.d.). Idaho history timeline. Idaho History Timeline: Idaho Important Dates and Events. 

See also: