Idaho officially became a state on July 3, 1890, and is the 13th largest state in the United States. The earliest European settlers were French – Canadian trappers, whose influence can be seen in many of the state’s city and town names, such as Coeur d’Alene and Boise, the state capital.
The famous Lewis and Clark Expedition crossed Idaho in 1805 as it traveled west on its way to the Pacific Ocean, and again in 1806 on its return, following the Clearwater River both directions. The earliest outpost on record was set up by Donald Mackenzie, working for the Pacific Fur Company, on the lower Clearwater River near present-day Lewiston in 1812. This post operated until the Pacific Fur Company was bought out by the North West Company in 1813, and was then abandoned. The first large settlements were established in 1860, and the first permanent incorporated community was established 1861, known as Lewiston.
During the Great Depression, Idaho was one of the hardest hit states in the Pacific Northwest. The cost of Idaho’s main agricultural product, potatoes, plummeted to only 10 cents per bushel, as compared to $1.51 per bushel in 1919. More recently, the state’s commercial base has expanded to include tourism as well as science and technology.
Idaho has several geographic regions, most notably the panhandle, which uses the Pacific Time Zone, unlike the rest of the state which uses the Mountain Time Zone. Most of the state’s population lives in the southern part of the state known as the Snake River Plain. This area also includes most of the arable agricultural land, where Idaho’s famous potato crop is grown. The remainder of the state is very mountainous, cutting through several ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Thirty-eight percent of the land in Idaho is held by the United States Forest Service, which is the most of any state in the union.
Clearly, Idaho is an important agricultural state, producing nearly a third of the potatoes grown in the United States. It’s also known as a top producer of three varieties of wheat: dark northern spring, hard red and soft white.
Other Important industries are food processing, lumber and wood products, machinery, chemical products, paper products, electronics manufacturing, silver and other mining, and tourism. Idaho is home to the world’s largest factory for barrel cheese, the raw product for processed cheese, in Gooding. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the largest United States Department of Energy facility in the country by area. Idaho also is home to three Anheuser-Busch facilities, which provide a large part of the malt for breweries across the nation.
Tourism and outdoor recreation are also large industries in Idaho, with many snowmobile ski areas open in the winter. There are also numerous award-winning boutique wineries and microbreweries in the northern part of the state.
The largest industry in Idaho today is the science and technology sector, accounting for more than 25% of the state’s revenue and over 70% of the state’s exports. Headquartered in Boise, Micron Technology is the only U.S. manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips.