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Tourism & Travel Guides: Idaho



IDAHO , sandwiched in between Washington, Oregon and Montana, was the last of the states to be penetrated by whites, and rivals Alaska in the sheer scale of its barely explored wilderness areas. Though much of its scenery amply deserves national park status, its citizens have long been suspicious of encroachment by federal government and tourism alike, and only now is its potential for adventurous travel being appreciated.

With a marked absence of urban centers (the pleasant state capital Boise , in the south, being the only real exception), Idaho is very much a destination for the outdoors enthusiast. Natural wonders in its five-hundred-mile stretch include Hell's Canyon , America's deepest river gorge, the dramatic Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the black, barren Craters of the Moon . Beyond these, hikers and backpackers have the choice of no fewer than 81 mountain ranges, interspersed with virgin forest and lava plateau, while the mighty Snake and Salmon rivers offer endless scope for fishing and whitewater rafting .

In 1805, Lewis and Clark declared central Idaho's bewildering labyrinth of razor-edge peaks and wild waterways to be the most difficult leg of their mammoth journey from St Louis to the Pacific. Only their Shoshone guides enabled them to get through; to this day, there is no east-west road across the heart of the state. Reports of game animals tripping over each other in their profusion attracted the usual legions of itinerant trappers, but the Gold Rush of the 1860s and white pressure for land hastened the violent end of traditional life: four hundred Shoshone men, women and children were killed along the Bear River in 1863, the Nez Percé were driven out, and by the end of the 1870s the "Indian problem" had been eradicated. The name "Idaho," incidentally, was invented by a mining lobbyist, who felt it sounded Indian; it was originally proposed for what is now Colorado.

The central wilderness still divides the state into two distinct halves. The heavily forested north , interspersed with glacial lakes now fronted by resorts like Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene , has always had strong trading links with Spokane in Washington; in the south , irrigation programs begun in the 1880s - partly instigated by Mormons - have transformed the scrubland to either side of the Snake River into the fertile fields responsible for the state's license-plate tag of "Famous Potatoes."

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