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The Gem State
The desolate yet starkly beautiful Craters of the Moon National Monument and Thousand Springs Scenic Route are fascinating neighbors to the stunning mountains of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the lushly forested northern Idaho glaciatedlakes.
A spectacular and impressive state, Idaho offers Hells Canyon-deeper than the Grand Canyon; Shoshone Falls-higher than Niagara Falls; and the Bruneau Sand Dunes-larger than the dunes of Death Valley. Idaho has themostdesignated wilderness area outside of Alaska, and withmore than3,100 whitewater river miles (5000 km), no otherstate can claim as many diverse recreational rivers.
In all this wilderness, luxury can be found in the resort settings of Coeur d'Alene, Sun Valley and McCall, at a dude ranch, or on a river rafting trip complete with fine wine and gourmet food.
Idaho is half-way between the Equator and the North Pole on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, with an abundance of sunshine and deep blue skies, even in the midst of winter. Idaho changes with the seasons. Expect fresh snow in the winter, wildflower and wildlife viewing in the spring, ideal water sports and camping in the summer, and perfect traveling weather with gorgeous fall colors in September and October.
The northern part of Idaho, called 'The Panhandle,' borders Canada to the north, Washington to the west, and Montana to the east. This four-season wonderland is filled with crystal-clear lakes like Pend Oreille, Coeur d'Alene and Priest. Rivers, glacial valleys and pristine forests are all gently placed in a panoramic mountainous setting.
In the midst of all this natural beauty are wonderful resort towns like Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint with experienced, congenial hosts capable of offering the ultimate experience in dining, shopping and a variety of cultural activities.
Historic towns such as Wallace and Kellogg offer authentic touring opportunities of these colorful mining boomtowns, with a wealth of charming architecture and fascinating museums. These two towns are also the gateway to the Route of the Hiawatha bike trail and part of the 73 mile Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes.
Traveling south, you'll find the land considered 'paradise' by Lewis and Clark, the first EuroAmerican explorers to visit the area. This is a land renowned for the roaring white waters of the Lochsa, the Snake, the Clearwater, and the Salmon 'River of No Return.' The Seven Devils Mountain Range towers high enough to overlook four states. Hells Canyon plunges to the deepest depths in North America. From the rolling flowered hills of the Palouse Range to the dense green of the Bitterroot forests, history and hospitality invite exploration. North-central Idaho is the home of the Nez Perce Indian Nation. Several sites across the countryside commemorate the rich history of the Nez Perce. It is also the home of the famous Appaloosa horse, as well as the new 'Nez Perce' breed developed by the tribe.
Southwestern Idaho is a land rich in culture, history and recreation of infinite variety. It begins with agricultural valleys of corn, mint and alfalfa fields. Wineries and fruit orchards lead to the state's dynamic capital city of Boise. An hour's drive in any direction changes your world. To the south is a rugged high mountain desert of the Owyhees, ancient Indian rock drawings, and the World Center for Birds of Prey. 100km to the north, lush forest, cascading white water, and serene mountain lakes come alive in the Cascade and McCall area. Winter enthusiasts are drawn to southwestern Idaho's two ski areas, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain and the new four season Tamarack Resort, all with family orientated alpine and nordic skiing facilities.
Moving east, one discovers Bruneau Dunes State Park, where North America's tallest sand dunes are found. Continuing east is Glenns Ferry, site of the annual wagon train crossing of the Oregon Trail at Three Island Crossing State Park, which houses the National Oregon/California Trail Center. Farther east, the scenic Hagerman Valley is home to the mysterious Thousand Springs, Hagerman Fossil Beds and Buhl, the 'Trout Capital of the World.' Hagerman Fossil Beds feature fossils of exotic predecessors to the horse, camel and other prehistoric animals. East from there, one finds Twin Falls and Perrine Bridge, the site of Evil Knievel's unsuccessful attempt to jump the Snake River. Nearby, Shoshone Falls plunges over 212 feet (70m), which is 52 feet (15m) higher than America's famous Niagara Falls.
Many of the ruts of the Oregon Trail can still be found throughout southern Idaho. Relive pioneer life in Montpelier at the National Oregon/California Trail Center and at the replica of Fort Hall in the city of Pocatello. Enjoy the taste of the carbonated spring water so popular with the Oregon Trail emigrants, right at the source. Then be sure not to miss the sight of a geyser's spout in Soda Springs, the only captive geyser in the world. Nearby, complete your day with a soak in the hot mineral pools of Lava Hot Springs or enjoy traditional and modern Indian culture with the Shoshone and Bannock tribal enterprises at Fort Hall Reservation.
Eastern Idaho is rich with farm and ranch recreational opportunities. The lovely and cultural town of Idaho Falls, on the Snake River is a natural when planning Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park tours. On the way to the parks, visitors should seek out St. Anthony Sand Dunes, which is 35 miles long and five miles wide, and see Upper Mesa Falls just off of U.S. 20 where water plunges 114 feet (35m).
The Continental Divide surrounds Henry's Lake where fishing is a passion. Henry's Lake drains into the world-famous fly-fishing haven, Henry's Fork of the Snake River. More superlative fly fishing is to be found heading back west toward the Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek.
As you travel into central Idaho, be sure to visit the strange and eerie Craters of the Moon National Monument. This desolate moonscape reveals the region's violent age of volcanoes. In central Idaho, we find Sun Valley, site of the first destination ski resort in North America. Sun Valley and Ketchum delight visitors throughout the world with a multitude of year-round activities.
Sun Valley is the gateway to the spectacular Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which is the heart of Idaho's Central Rockies. There are over 300 high-alpine lakes in this region, popular for fishing, swimming and camping. Thirty-six campgrounds are nestled into this pristine recreation area, so crowds are not a problem. Lodging from Stanley to Salmon ranges from first-rate guest ranches to secluded rustic cabins on the banks of the mighty Salmon River. Licensed outfitters and guides offer half-day to multi-day whitewater adventure trips or trail rides and horsepack trips into the wilderness.
This country has molded a unique Idaho persona: a combination of the western cowboy, spiritual Native American, industrious pioneer, hearty mountain man, and environmentally sensitive river runner. Idahoans are proud, hospitable and innovative. It is to their credit that a state can offer dramatic scenic diversity and limitless outdoor recreation for the enjoyment of discerning travelers.
© 2006 Rocky Mountain International