With an abundance of scenic mountains, lakes, rivers and outdoor attractions, the state draws more than 20 million tourists each year. Idaho produces more potatoes and trout than any other state in the nation, and is known as the “Gem State” for the 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones it produces—some of which are exclusive to the state. Its state capital, Boise, is also its largest city with more than 200,000 residents. Idaho gained its statehood on July 3, 1890.
Bordered by the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north and the U.S. states of Montana and Wyoming to the east, Utah and Nevada to the south, and Oregon and Washington to the west, Idaho is twice as large as the six New England states combined.
The state flower is Syringa and the Mountain Bluebird is reckoned as the state bird. Esto perpetua (“Let it be perpetual”)’- is the state motto.
Idaho is served by three transcontinental railroads. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) connects the Idaho Panhandle with Seattle, Portland, and Spokane to the west, and Minneapolis and Chicago to the east. The BNSF travels through Kootenai, Bonner, and Boundary counties. The Union Pacific Railroad crosses North Idaho entering from Canada through Boundary and Bonner, and proceeding to Spokane. Canadian Pacific Railway uses Union Pacific Railroad tracks in North Idaho carrying products from Alberta to Spokane and Portland, Oregon. Amtrak’s Empire Builder crosses northern Idaho, with its only stop being in Sandpoint. Montana Rail Link also operates between Billings, Montana and Sandpoint, Idaho
The Union Pacific Railroad also crosses southern Idaho traveling between Portland, Oregon, Green River, Wyoming, and Ogden, Utah and serves Boise, Nampa, Twin Falls, and Pocatello.
Idaho is among the few states in the nation without a major freeway linking its two largest metropolitan areas, Boise in the south and Coeur d’Alene in the north. US-95 links the two ends of the state, but like many other highways in Idaho, it is badly in need of repair and upgrade. In 2007, the Idaho Transportation Department stated the state’s highway infrastructure faces a $200 million per year shortfall in maintenance and upgrades. I-84 is the main highway linking the southeast and southwest portions of the state, along with I-86 and I-15. Major federal aid highways in Idaho:
North/South West/East Interstates
US-2 US-89 I-15
US-12 US-91 I-84
US-20 US-93 I-86
Major airports include the Boise International Airport which serves the southwest region of Idaho and the Spokane International Airport (in Spokane, Washington) which serves northern Idaho. Other airports with scheduled service are the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport serving the Palouse; the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Airport, serving the Lewis-Clark Valley and north-central and west-central Idaho; The Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls; the Idaho Falls Regional Airport; and the Pocatello Regional Airport.
The Port of Lewiston is the farthest inland Pacific port on the west coast. A series of dams and locks on the Snake River and Columbia River facilitate barge travel from Lewiston to Portland, where goods are loaded on ocean-going vessels.