What is Idaho known for?

Potatoes, Potatoes, and more potatoes is what many people instantly associate with Idaho, but what is Idaho known for besides Potatoes?

Located in Northwest USA, Idaho shares internal borders with Washington and Oregon to the west, Nevada and Utah to the south, and Montana and Wyoming to the east. Idaho also has a small international border to the north with British Columbia, Canada.

Idaho has two popular nicknames, “the gem state” and “the potato state” – both are pretty self-explanatory, but we will explore them below. In 1890, it was the 43rd state to join the union. Despite being one of the largest states (13th) with 82,751 square miles, it only has a population of about 2 million, making it only the 38th most populated.

But here, we will only explore what is Idaho famous for!

Ten things Idaho is known for


Ok, let’s start with the obvious. Idaho is famous worldwide for producing potatoes, lots of potatoes. In fact, with a total production of more than 130 000 cwt, it is said to produce about one-third of all the potatoes in the USA.

The combination of rich volcanic soils, plenty of sunshine, dry weather, and easy access to water through the many rivers create a perfect place to produce this crop. More than 300 000 acres of land are used to cultivate potatoes, resulting in high solid count potatoes, including the famous Russet and Burbanks, the best-known Idaho Potato varieties.

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Did you know?

Despite the potato being prevalent in Idaho, it is native to the area. It was domesticated in the Andes (South America) and eventually brought to Europe and the USA.

Potato production in Idaho started long ago, and at the beginning of the 20th century, it was already a fundamental product of the state. As early as 1912, producers created “potato day” and marketed it as the best potato in the USA.

So, it’s no wonder that Idaho became known as the potato state, as besides producing lots of potatoes, it also produces quality ones.

What is Idaho known for
Potato fields in Idaho | photo by alexmisu via Depositphotos


The agricultural sector is fundamental to Idaho’s economy as it is responsible for many thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue. Agriculture and food processing industries generate about 20% of Idaho’s economy.

So, in addition to potatoes, what is Idaho famous for producing? Livestock and dairy products are hugely important for the state. For example, Idaho is the USA’s third largest milk and cheese producer.

Other popular agricultural products in Idaho include wheat, barley, hay, and sugar beets. As well as specialty crops such as hops, lentils, and peas.

This large tradition and natural conditions for agriculture created a rich heritage celebrated annually in county fairs, festivals, and farm tours.


Despite being primarily known for the potatoes, the official nickname of Idaho is, in fact, the Gem State, which is a figurative expression referencing Idaho’s natural beauty.

However, it is the most fitting name because the state produces more than 200 different minerals and is home to 72 precious and semi-precious gemstones.

Some of the most prevalent and well-known include aquamarine, zinc, lead, copper, cobalt, opal topaz, and jasper. It is a vast and rare variety. No other state has so many different gemstones.

The star Garnet is the official state gem despite being relatively rare. However, it is the only place in the USA where it was found, and there is only one other place in the world that has it: India. So, it is a truly special gemstone.

What is Idaho famous for
Idaho is known as the “gem state” | photo by PixelsAway via Depositphotos

Silver and Gold

Historically, Idaho has also been famous for mining gold and silver. Both have been a significant part of the state’s industry and economy since the 1800s. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, and silver later in the century.

Like other states in the West, Idaho had a gold rush for a few decades, becoming one of the leading gold producers in the US. The gold rush terminated as fast as it came, and real mining started for gold and silver.

The largest gold region was Boise Basin, while most of the silver was mined in the famous Coeur d’Alene Mining District. In fact, Coeur d’Alene is considered one of the three largest silver mining districts globally.

Today, gold and silver mining in Idaho is still significant but declined during the 20th century. Nevertheless, one-fifth of the US silver is mined in Idaho.

Fly fishing

The whole Pacific Northwest is a popular fly fishing region in the US. However, Idaho stands out even among its neighbors, particularly when it comes to trouts.

People from all over the USA go to Idaho to fish the blue-ribbon trout and, at the same time, enjoy Idaho’s stunning landscapes of mountains, rivers, and wildlife.

Idaho’s rivers and streams offer excellent angling opportunities. Some of the most popular spots include Henry’s Fork and South Fork at Snake River, Salmon River, and Clearwater River.

Idaho has been a fly fishing destination for a long time, as the sport has been popular for over a century now. However, it is crucial to remember that the state’s commitment to preserving natural resources also helps, as many rivers are protected and have strict regulations ensuring their sustainability.

Combining all these factors makes Idaho a paradise for anglers and a world-renowned destination for fly fishing.

Well known things about Idaho
One of the best spots to do Fly fishing in Iado in Salmon River | photo by kwiktor via Depositphotos

Natural Parks and Wilderness

One of the most famous things about Idaho is the vast protected and unprotected wilderness renowned for its natural beauty, outdoor activities, and ecological significance. Hiking, whitewater rafting, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives attract visitors from all over the USA (and the rest of the world).

Visiting Idaho is having the opportunity to experience some of the unique natural landmarks and American wonders. Some of the most well-known and popular parks include:

  • Yellowstone National Park – the most famous national park in Idaho. However, only a small part of it is the state. Most of the park is located in Wyoming.
  • Hells Canyon National Recreation Area – Beautiful recreation area. More about it is below.
  • Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve – the vast expanse of volcanic features, including lava fields, cinder cones, and lava tubes.
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park– has a lovely landscape, particularly the sand dunes.
  • City of Rocks National Reserve – reserve with beautiful scenery, giant boulders, and wonderful formations
  • Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument – famous for the fascinating array of fossil sites
  • Farragut State Park – home to the Coeur d’Alene Mountains and lots of outdoor activities

Hells Canyon

Carved for 6 million years by the Snake River, Hells Canyon is the deepest canyon in North America. Yes, even deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Nevada. The deepest part of Hells Canyon is 7 993 feet (2 436 meters).

Located on the border between Oregon and Idaho, the Canyon contains a variety of landscapes and ecosystems, including dense forests, scenic overlooks, mountain peaks, and even deserts at the bottom of the canyon.

A large portion of the Canyon is protected by the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. It offers several recreational opportunities and fun activities, including whitewater rafting, jet boating, fishing, and hiking.

The massive altitude differences the Snake River creates make up a beautiful destination featuring dramatic terrain, vegetation, and wildlife changes. It is one of the most fascinating natural wonders in the US.

Facts about Idaho
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in Idaho | photo by zrfphoto via Depositphotos

Shoshone falls

Shoshone Falls is the other amazing and popular American natural wonder in Idaho. Sometimes dubbed as the Niagara of the West, they are considered one of the largest waterfalls in the USA (but also one of the most beautiful).

Located near Twin Falls along the Snake River, Shoshone Falls is 212 feet tall – 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls – and 900 feet wide. They are naturally one of Idaho’s most famous landmarks and popular destinations.

Shoshone Falls were created by the outburst of flooding of Lake Bonneville about 14 000 years ago. In the 20th century, the Snake River waters were diverged for irrigation, diminishing the water levels on the waterfall. So, seeing the falls during the spring is advisable for a better scenic flow. Unfortunately, the river flow may be small and less impressive in Summer and Fall.

Interesting things about Idaho
Shoshone Falls – famous American natural wonder in Idaho | photo by bennymarty via Depositphotos


One thing Idaho is famous for, but it is really unfortunate, is wildfires, as the state suffers from a high risk of wildfires because of its hot, dry summers and early falls. Lightning strikes, and humans typically spark many fires during this season.

While the spark is problematic, the fuel of the wildfires is the key. And Idaho has lots of fuel to burn as it is rich in trees, grass, and other flammable natural resources. The beautiful forests and wild nature that we love are also the ones that burn during summer and fall.

Wildfires are a natural occurrence in the west of the USA, and they can be beneficial to nature but are also notoriously dangerous to public safety and the environment. Unfortunately, Idaho has suffered many large and destructive wildfires in the last decades, causing significant destruction and damage.

Famous fun facts and curiosities about Idaho

What is Idaho known for? A lot of cool things, as we have seen above, but it is also home to some fun facts, curiosities, and fascinating records. Some of them are pretty well-known. Let’s examine some of them:

  • Idaho is probably a made-up word by lobbyist George Willing, who claimed it meant “gem of the mountains.”
  • Idaho is home to about 107,000 miles of Rivers. Snake River is the largest, with 1078 miles.
  • There are 240 hot springs in Idaho. That’s the largest number among any US state.
  • The huckleberry is Idaho’s state fruit.
  • Finger’s stakes are probably the most famous dish in Idaho.
  • Arco, Idaho, was the first town to use atomic energy.
  • The whole town of American Falls was moved when the American Falls Dam was constructed.
  • Boise, Idaho, is home to a lively Basque Culture (yes, as in Basque Country in Spain) with the largest Basque population in the USA.
  • Idaho produces more trouts than any other state in the USA.
  • Sun Valley Ski Resort was the first ski resort to be built in the USA.
  • It’s also home to the first ski lift in the country.
  • It is illegal to sweep leaves in the streets. The fine is 2,500 USD.
  • The population in Idaho is one of the fastest increasing in the country.
Idaho well known things
Perrine Bridge over the Snake River Canyon Idaho | photo by theadaptive via Depositphotos

* Cover photo by Bennymarty via Depositphotos

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