Idaho is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It borders the state of Montana to the east and northeast, Wyoming to the east, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Washington and Oregon to the west. To the north, it shares a small portion of the Canadian border with the province of British Columbia. With a population of approximately 1.8 million and an area of 83,570 square miles (216,400 km2), Idaho is the 14th largest, the 13th least populous and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 U.S. states. The state’s capital and largest city is Boise.
The name’s origin remains a mystery. In the early 1860s, when the U.S. Congress was considering organizing a new territory in the Rocky Mountains, the name “Idaho” was suggested by George M. Willing, a politician posing as an unrecognized delegate from the unofficial Jefferson Territory. Willing claimed that the name was derived from a Shoshone term meaning “the sun comes from the mountains” or “gem of the mountains”, but it was revealed later that there was no such term and Willing claimed that he had been inspired to coin the name when he met a little girl named “Ida”. Since the name appeared to be fabricated, the U.S. Congress ultimately decided to name the area Colorado Territory instead when it was created in February 1861, but by the time this decision was made, the town of Idaho Springs, Colorado had already been named after Willing’s proposal.
“Idaho” is a Shoshoni Indian exclamation. The word consists of three parts. The first is “Ee”, which in English conveys the idea of “coming down”. The second is “dah” which is the Shoshoni stem or root for both “sun” and “mountain”. The third syllable, “how”, denotes the exclamation and stands for the same thing in Shoshoni that the exclamation mark (!) does in English. The Shoshoni word is “Ee-dah-how”, and the Indian thought thus conveyed when translated into English means, “Behold! The sun coming down the mountain”.
Idaho borders six U.S. states and one Canadian province. The states of Washington and Oregon are to the west, Nevada and Utah are to the south, and Montana and Wyoming are to the east. Idaho also shares a short border with the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north.
The landscape is rugged, with some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States. For example, at 2.3 million acres (930,000 ha), the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is the largest contiguous area of protected wilderness in the continental United States. Idaho is a Rocky Mountain state with abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons. The waters of the Snake River run through Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States. Shoshone Falls falls down cliffs from a height greater than Niagara Falls.
Idaho’s climate varies widely. Although the state’s western border is about 330 miles (530 km) from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in Idaho; especially, in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at their maximum extent. This influence has a moderating effect in the winter where temperatures are not as low as would otherwise be expected for a northern state with predominantly high elevations. In the panhandle, moist air masses from the coast are released as precipitation over the North Central Rockies forests, creating the North American inland temperate rainforest. The maritime influence is least prominent in the state’s eastern part where the precipitation patterns are often reversed, with wetter summers and drier winters, and seasonal temperature differences are more extreme, showing a more semi-arid continental climate.
Idaho can be hot, although extended periods over 98 °F (37 °C) are rare, except for the lowest point in elevation, Lewiston, which correspondingly sees little snow. Hot summer days are tempered by the low relative humidity and cooler evenings during summer months since, for most of the state, the highest diurnal difference in temperature is often in the summer. Winters can be cold, although extended periods of bitter cold weather below zero are unusual. Idaho’s all-time highest temperature of 118 °F (48 °C) was recorded at Orofino on July 28, 1934; the all-time lowest temperature of −60 °F (−51 °C) was recorded at Island Park Dam on January 18, 1943.
Idaho had an estimated population of 1,754,208 in 2018, which was an increase of 37,265, from the prior year and an increase of 186,626, or 11.91%, since 2010. This included a natural increase since the last census of 58,884 (111,131 births minus 52,247 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 75,795 people into the state. There are large numbers of Americans of English and German ancestry in Idaho. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 14,522 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 61,273 people.
This made Idaho the ninth fastest-growing state after Utah (+14.37%), Texas (+14.14%), Florida (+13.29%), Colorado (+13.25%), North Dakota (+13.01%), Nevada (+12.36%), Arizona (+12.20%) and Washington. From 2017 to 2018, Idaho grew the second-fastest, surpassed only by Nevada.
According to the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life, the self-identified religious affiliations of Idahoans over the age of 18 in 2008 and 2014 were: According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the largest denominations by number of members in 2010 were The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 409,265; the Catholic Church with 123,400; the non-denominational Evangelical Protestant with 62,637; and the Assemblies of God with 22,183.
English is the state’s predominant language. Minority languages include Spanish and various Native American languages.
As of 2016, the state’s total employment was 562,282, and the total employer establishments were 45,826. Gross state product for 2015 was $64.9 billion, and the per capita income based on 2015 GDP and 2015 population estimates was $39,100. Idaho is an important agricultural state, producing nearly one-third of the potatoes grown in the United States. All three varieties of wheat—dark northern spring, hard red, and soft white—are grown in the state. Nez Perce County is considered a premier soft white growing locale.
Important industries in Idaho are food processing, lumber and wood products, machinery, chemical products, paper products, electronics manufacturing, silver and other mining, and tourism. The world’s largest factory for barrel cheese, the raw product for processed cheese, is in Gooding, Idaho. It has a capacity of 120,000 metric tons per year of barrel cheese and belongs to the Glanbia group. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the largest Department of Energy facility in the country by area. INL is an important part of the eastern Idaho economy. Idaho is also home to three facilities of Anheuser-Busch, which provide a large part of the malt for breweries across the nation.
The Idaho Transportation Department is the government agency responsible for Idaho’s transportation infrastructure, including operations and maintenance, as well as planning for future needs. The agency is also responsible for overseeing the disbursement of federal, state, and grant funding for the transportation programs of the state.
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