The motto of Idaho is “Esto Perpetua”, which is a Latin phrase meaning “It is perpetual”. It is a fitting phrase for a state that is not only enduringly beautiful, but also infinitely interesting. Because no matter how deep you dig, no matter how much you explore, there is always something new to learn about our 43rd state. For instance…
1. Wallace, Idaho is the Center of the Universe
That is, according to onetime Mayor Ron Garitone, who made the proclamation official back in 2004. The idea to bestow this designation upon the town – which is home to just over 700 residents – came about after one of its citizens happened across “Kilometer Zero” in Moscow’s Red Square, designated as such by a medallion implanted in the ground. A manhole cover champions the title in Wallace and features a miner surrounded by four separate sets of initials – a nod to its previous title of “Silver Capital of the World” and the four local mining companies that helped it achieve this feat. Other towns, such as Fremont, Washington, have previously laid claim to the title, but when challenged on their proclamation that they are the center of the universe Wallace residents have been known to shout the retort, “Prove it isn’t.”
2. It Supplies a Higher Percentage of the Nation’s Trout than its Potatoes
While Idaho is best known for its potato crops, the state actually supplies about 85% of the commercial trout sold in the United States (compared to roughly one-third of the potatoes consumed in the country). The credit for this achievement lies in Hagerman County, where some of the largest trout farms in the world can be found. Hagerman National Fish Hatchery boasts 28 vats for cultivating trout and salmon, and has been said to produce three to four million fish each year.
3. It’s Home to the Niagara of the West
Located along the Snake River in Twin Falls, Shoshone Falls is actually more than 40 feet higher than its northeastern counterpart. At 212 feet high, it is one of the tallest natural waterfalls in the country and comes up just shy of matching Niagara’s width, which stands at roughly 1,050 feet compared to Shoshone’s 900-foot span. The strength of the water flow at the falls is primarily dependent upon the season, peaking at about 10,000 to 12,000 cubic feet per second in the spring after the snows have melted. Unlike Niagara, Shoshone Falls has not received designation as a state park, though the city of Twin Falls maintains a park that overlooks the area.
4. The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster
While Bigfoot is the most well-known mythical creature to allegedly roam the Pacific Northwest, the area is also said to be home to the Bear Lake Monster. Conflicting reports describe the creature as serpent-like, incredibly fast, and more than fifty feet long with a head resembling either a walrus, crocodile, or cow. Initial sightings of the monster can be traced back to 1868, when a Desert News article detailed the local tribes’ traditions regarding a “strange, serpent-like creature”. No one has claimed to have seen the creature since 2002, though its legend lives on in local folklore.
5. You Can See Washington, Montana, and Oregon from Here!
At over 8,000 feet in elevation, Heavens Gate Lookout offers panoramic views of mountain peaks in three neighboring states. Located at the entrance to the Seven Devils Mountains on the Idaho/Oregon border, from this lofty perch one can see clear across the spud state to the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, more than 200 miles away. The lookout is only accessible from early summer through late fall due to its remote location and the 17 miles of gravelly, uneven road one must navigate while climbing the more than 5,000 feet in elevation between the start of the trail and its terminus.
6. It’s Home to the Only Known Dog-Shaped B&B in the World
This self-proclaimed “World’s Biggest Beagle” in Cottonwood, Idaho houses within it a quaint 2-bedroom bed and breakfast. The brainchild of Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin – a husband and wife duo that started out selling wooden carvings of dogs on QVC – the Dog Bark Park Inn has come to be known as “Sweet Willy” by area locals and offers affordable rates throughout the lodging season, which runs from April through October. Visitors will find a gift shop featuring over 60 breeds of dog, each hand-carved from Idaho ponderosa pine. And, naturally, pets are also welcome to stay at the Dog Bark Park Inn.
7. There’s a Town Where it’s Illegal Not to Smile
No, you won’t be arrested or even fined for a frown in Pocatello, Idaho. The 1948 edict making it illegal not to smile was enacted by Mayor George Phillips as a cheeky reaction to the harsh winter the area had just experienced and the effect it had on the townsfolk. It wasn’t until 1987 when a local reporter unearthed the ordinance that anyone even realized it had remained on the books. In the years since, Pocatello has embraced its status as the “U.S. Smile Capital” through its annual Smile Days event, a community-wide celebration featuring smile contests and phony arrests for those found to be packing a frown.
8. It’s Canyon is Deeper Than Yours
The Grand Canyon ain’t got nothin’ on this hellscape. At nearly 8,000 feet in depth, Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America, slicing almost 2,000 feet further into the earth than its southwestern counterpart. At roughly 10 miles wide and situated in the shadows of the Seven Devils Mountains, much of the area is largely inaccessible by road. However, there are a number of viewing spots which visitors can access along the rim of the gorge, providing for breathtaking views of the canyon and the Snake River below. Though its location may be remote, the Hells Canyon area remains a destination for activities such as hunting, fishing, and whitewater rafting, with private charters offering to help provide access to the area.