Discovering Idaho: Geography, History, and Notable Attractions

Idaho is a state that often gets overlooked when compared to other popular destinations in the United States. Located in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho is known as the “Gem State” because of its abundance of natural resources, including precious stones and minerals. Despite being the 14th largest state in the US, many people are not aware of where Idaho is located or what makes it unique. In this article, we will dive into the geography, history, and notable attractions of Idaho to give you a comprehensive guide to this hidden gem of a state.


Idaho is a landlocked state located in the northwestern region of the United States. Known as the “Gem State” due to its abundance of natural resources, Idaho has a unique geography that includes everything from rugged mountains and vast forests to rolling plains and deep canyons.

At its northern boundary, Idaho shares a border with Canada’s British Columbia province. To the west lies Washington, while Oregon borders the state to the southwest. Nevada and Utah are located to the south, with Montana to the east.

Idaho’s location and varied topography have a significant impact on the state’s climate. The northern regions of the state experience colder temperatures and more precipitation than the southern areas.

The state’s highest point is Borah Peak, which rises to an elevation of over 12,000 feet. The Rocky Mountains run through Idaho, forming the eastern border of the state and providing breathtaking scenery and outdoor recreation opportunities.

In addition to its stunning natural beauty, Idaho is also home to several major rivers, including the Snake River, which runs through Hells Canyon – the deepest river gorge in North America.

Overall, Idaho’s location and geography make it a unique and fascinating place to explore and learn about. Whether you’re interested in outdoor recreation, history, or culture, there’s something for everyone in this gem of a state.

Geography of Idaho

Location and Borders

Location and Borders

Idaho is located in the northwestern region of the United States. It is bordered by six states, including Montana to the east, Wyoming to the northeast, Utah to the south, Nevada to the southwest, Oregon to the west, and Washington to the northwest.

The state’s borders are defined by natural boundaries, such as rivers and mountain ranges. The Snake River forms much of the southern border between Idaho and Oregon, while the Salmon River separates Idaho from Montana to the east. The rugged Rocky Mountains dominate much of the eastern part of the state, forming a natural boundary with Wyoming.

Idaho’s location has played a significant role in its history and development. Its proximity to the Pacific Northwest and the Great Plains made it an important hub for trade and transportation. The state’s position on the Continental Divide also contributes to its diverse topography and climate.

Despite having large neighboring states, Idaho is the 14th largest state in terms of land area, covering over 83,000 square miles. As the country’s least populous state, Idaho offers vast expanses of untouched wilderness and stunning natural landscapes that attract millions of tourists every year.

Overall, Idaho’s strategic location and unique geographic features make it a fascinating state to explore and learn about. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or culture, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful gem state.

Topography and Climate

Topography and Climate

Idaho is a state of diverse landscapes and climates, from rugged mountains to rolling hills, and from dry deserts to lush forests. Idaho’s topography varies greatly throughout the state, with elevations ranging from just above sea level to over 12,000 feet. This variation in elevation results in a wide range of climate zones across the state.

Idaho Terrain

The state of Idaho can be divided into three main regions based on its terrain: the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Plateau, and the Basin and Range region. The Rocky Mountains are located in the eastern part of the state and cover about two-thirds of Idaho’s land area. This region is characterized by rugged peaks, deep river valleys, and vast forests. It includes some of Idaho’s most famous landmarks such as the Sawtooth Mountains, the Bitterroot Mountains, and the Teton Range.

The Columbia Plateau covers the northern and western parts of the state and is characterized by gently rolling hills, fertile farmland, and numerous rivers and lakes. This region is home to many of Idaho’s largest cities, including Boise, Nampa, and Coeur d’Alene.

The Basin and Range region covers the southwestern part of the state and is characterized by steep, isolated mountain ranges separated by broad desert valleys. This region includes some of Idaho’s most remote and rugged terrain, including the Owyhee Mountains and the Bruneau Canyon.

Idaho Climate Zones

The state of Idaho has several distinct climate zones due to its varied topography. The western part of Idaho is generally milder and wetter than the rest of the state, with cool summers and mild winters. The central part of the state has a semi-arid climate, with hot, dry summers and cold winters. The eastern part of Idaho has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters.

The high elevations in Idaho also contribute to the state’s varied climate zones. The higher elevations have a cooler and wetter climate, while lower elevations have a drier and warmer climate.

In conclusion, Idaho’s topography and climate are as varied as they are beautiful. From the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the fertile farmland of the Columbia Plateau, and from the cool forests of the north to the hot deserts of the south, there is something for everyone in this gem state.

History of Idaho

Native American Presence

Idaho has a rich and complex history that spans thousands of years, beginning long before European explorers arrived. One of the earliest groups to call this land home were the Native American tribes. From the Shoshone-Bannock to the Nez Perce, numerous indigenous communities have lived in Idaho for generations.

The Shoshone-Bannock tribe is one of the largest Native American communities in Idaho today. Their traditional lands encompassed much of the Snake River Plain and surrounding mountain ranges. The tribe’s name combines two distinct groups, the Western Shoshone and the Bannock, who came together in the late 19th century. Today, the Shoshone-Bannock people continue to maintain their cultural heritage while also engaging with modern society.

Another prominent tribe in Idaho is the Nez Perce. They have a deep connection to the land, having lived in the region for over 10,000 years. The Nez Perce were renowned for their horsemanship and hunting skills, which allowed them to thrive in the rugged terrain of central Idaho. Their traditional territory stretched from the Cascade Range to the Bitterroot Mountains, and they had close ties to other tribes in the area.

Native Americans in Idaho faced many challenges throughout history, particularly after the arrival of European settlers. The U.S. government signed treaties with various tribes in the mid-19th century, but these agreements were often disregarded or broken. Many Native Americans were forced onto reservations, where they struggled to maintain their way of life amidst difficult conditions and limited resources.

Despite these hardships, Native American communities in Idaho have persevered and continue to play an important role in the state’s cultural identity. From powwows to language revitalization efforts, many initiatives are underway to preserve and celebrate the diverse traditions of Idaho’s indigenous peoples.

Exploration and Settlement

Exploration and Settlement

Idaho’s history is filled with stories of exploration and settlement, from the earliest Native American tribes to the modern-day pioneers who call the state home. One of the most famous expeditions in Idaho was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who explored the region as part of their famous Corps of Discovery journey.

Lewis and Clark arrived in the Idaho area in 1805, as they made their way westward along the Missouri River. Their journey took them through the rugged terrain of the Bitterroot Mountains, where they encountered the Nez Perce tribe. The Nez Perce provided the expedition with horses and guidance as they continued their journey across Idaho.

After Lewis and Clark’s expedition, Idaho became a popular destination for fur traders and trappers who were looking to capitalize on the area’s abundant wildlife. These early settlers established trading posts and forts throughout the region, including Fort Boise and Fort Hall, which played important roles in the development of the Oregon Trail.

In the mid-19th century, the discovery of gold in Idaho brought a new wave of settlers to the area, eager to strike it rich. These pioneers faced numerous challenges as they traversed the rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions of the Idaho wilderness. However, their perseverance and determination helped to build the foundations of modern-day Idaho.

Today, the legacy of these early explorers and settlers can be seen throughout the state, from historic landmarks like Fort Boise to museums that showcase the rich history and culture of Idaho. Whether you’re interested in learning more about Lewis and Clark’s journey or exploring the pioneering spirit that built Idaho, there’s no shortage of fascinating stories to discover.

Statehood and Beyond

Idaho became the 43rd state of the United States on July 3, 1890, marking a significant milestone in its history. The road to statehood was long and controversial, and it took several attempts before Congress finally approved Idaho’s admission as a state.

Before becoming a state, Idaho was a territory governed by a territorial government appointed by the President of the United States. This arrangement proved to be challenging for the citizens of Idaho, who felt that their interests were not adequately represented. Therefore, they lobbied for statehood, hoping to gain more autonomy and decision-making power.

In 1889, the Idaho Constitutional Convention was held to draft a constitution for the proposed state. The constitution was then submitted to Congress for approval, but it faced several obstacles, including opposition from certain political factions and concerns over the population size of Idaho.

However, Idaho persevered, and on July 3, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison signed the bill admitting Idaho as a state. The event was celebrated with great fanfare throughout the territory, and Idahoans finally gained the right to elect their own officials and govern themselves.

Today, Idaho is governed by a state government composed of three branches: the executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch. The governor heads the executive branch, and he or she is responsible for implementing laws and policies. The legislative branch is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which are collectively known as the Idaho Legislature. They are responsible for creating and passing laws. Lastly, the judicial branch includes the Idaho Supreme Court, which interprets the state’s laws and resolves disputes.

In conclusion, Idaho statehood marked a pivotal moment in the state’s history, allowing its citizens to take control of their own destiny and shape their future. Today, Idaho’s government continues to work hard to represent the interests of its citizens and ensure their well-being.

Notable Places to Visit in Idaho

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Idaho. It’s a vast wilderness area located mainly in Wyoming, but it also extends into Montana and Idaho. The park covers an area of 2.2 million acres and is home to a diverse range of wildlife and geological features, including geysers, hot springs, mountains, and forests.

One of the main reasons why Yellowstone is such a popular destination is its unique thermal features. The park has over 10,000 geothermal features, including hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles, and geysers. The most famous of these is Old Faithful, which erupts every 90 minutes or so, shooting water up to 180 feet into the air. Visitors can also explore other geysers and hot springs, such as the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is the largest hot spring in the US.

In addition to its thermal features, Yellowstone National Park is also home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can spot animals such as bison, elk, wolves, bears, and coyotes, as well as many bird species. The park also offers many outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife watching.

Overall, Yellowstone National Park is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in exploring the natural beauty of Idaho. Its unique thermal features, diverse wildlife, and stunning landscape make it a truly unforgettable experience. As one of Idaho’s national parks, Yellowstone is a shining example of the state’s commitment to preserving and showcasing its natural treasures.

Sun Valley Resort

Sun Valley Resort: The Ultimate Winter Adventure in Idaho

If you’re looking for an unforgettable winter experience in Idaho, look no further than Sun Valley Resort. Nestled in the stunning Sawtooth Mountains, this world-class resort has been attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the globe since it opened in 1936.

But skiing and snowboarding are just the beginning of the activities you can enjoy at Sun Valley. Here are some of the many ways to make the most of your time at this iconic resort:

Skiing and Snowboarding

With over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Sun Valley offers something for every level of skier or snowboarder. From gentle groomers to challenging bowls and glades, you’ll find plenty of runs to keep you entertained. And with 19 lifts, you won’t waste any time getting back up the mountain for another run.

The resort also offers a range of ski and snowboard lessons, led by highly trained instructors who will help you improve your technique and confidence on the slopes.

Other Winter Activities

If skiing or snowboarding aren’t your thing, don’t worry – there’s still plenty to do at Sun Valley. You can take a scenic snowshoe tour, try your hand at ice skating on the resort’s outdoor rink, or take a thrilling ride on the mountain coaster.

For a more relaxing experience, head to the luxurious spa for a massage or other treatment, or simply unwind in the heated outdoor pools while taking in the breathtaking mountain views.

Dining and Après-Ski

After a day on the mountain, you’ll have plenty of dining options to choose from at Sun Valley. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual meal or a fine dining experience, you’ll find delicious options that cater to all tastes and budgets.

And when the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop. Après-ski is a beloved tradition at Sun Valley, with live music, drinks, and good company to be found at several venues around the resort.


If you’re planning a trip to Idaho and love winter sports or just want to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, Sun Valley Resort is an excellent choice. With its stunning location, top-notch facilities, and endless activities for all ages and interests, it’s no wonder Sun Valley has been a favorite destination for generations of visitors.

Snake River Canyon

Snake River Canyon

Idaho is home to one of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the United States – Snake River Canyon. This 50-mile-long canyon, carved by the Snake River over millions of years, offers visitors a unique glimpse into the geological history of the state.

Idaho Geological Formations

The Snake River Canyon was formed during the last ice age when the Bonneville Floods swept through the region, carving out the canyon walls and shaping the landscape we see today. The canyon walls are made up of layers of volcanic rock and sedimentary deposits, some of which date back over 11 million years.

One of the most striking features of the canyon is the “Pillar Falls,” which are located near the center of the canyon and drop down more than 100 feet into the river below. These falls were formed by a combination of volcanic activity and erosion, creating a stunning display of nature’s power.

Snake River Attractions

Visitors to Snake River Canyon can enjoy a variety of activities that showcase the beauty and diversity of the canyon. From hiking and camping to kayaking and fishing, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the canyon is also home to the “Evel Knievel Jump Site,” where the legendary motorcycle daredevil attempted to jump the canyon in 1974. Although he failed to make the jump, his attempt has become a part of the canyon’s rich history and continues to attract thrill-seekers from around the world.

Overall, Snake River Canyon is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Idaho. Its unique blend of geology and natural beauty make it a true gem of the American West.



In conclusion, Idaho is a fascinating state with much to offer in terms of its geography, history, and attractions. From its stunning landscape of mountains, rivers, and canyons to its rich Native American heritage and pioneering past, Idaho is a true gem state in the US.

This overview of Idaho should inspire you to explore the state further and discover all that it has to offer. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or adventure seeker, Idaho provides ample opportunities for exploration and discovery.

So why not plan a trip to visit Yellowstone National Park, take a ski trip to Sun Valley Resort, or witness the breathtaking Snake River Canyon? With so much to see and do in Idaho, you won’t be disappointed.

In summary, Idaho is a state that truly captures the essence of America’s natural beauty, fascinating history, and adventurous spirit.
In conclusion, Idaho is more than just another state in the US. It boasts of a unique landscape that includes vast plains, mountains, canyons, and rivers, making it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Its rich history, from Native American presence to statehood, offers a fascinating insight into the American West. Furthermore, its notable attractions such as Yellowstone National Park, Sun Valley Resort, and Snake River Canyon make it a must-visit place. Whether you are seeking adventure or relaxation, Idaho has something for everyone. So if you haven’t considered visiting Idaho yet, now is the perfect time to explore the Gem State and experience all it has to offer.

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