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Courtesy of Pro Photo Sun Valley

Idaho's official seal

Idaho State Symbols

Name: Originally suggested for Colorado, the name "Idaho" was used for a steamship which traveled the Columbia River. With the discovery of gold on the Clearwater River in 1860, the diggings began to be called the Idaho mines. "Idaho" is a coined or invented word, and is not a derivation of an Indian phrase "E Dah Hoe (How)" supposedly meaning "gem of the mountains."

Nickname: The "Gem State"
Motto: "Esto Perpetua" (Let it be perpetual)
Discovered by Europeans: 1805, the last of the 50 states to be sighted.
Organized as Territory: March 4, 1863, act signed by President Lincoln.
Entered Union: July 3, 1890, 43rd state to join the Union.



Land Area:
83,557 square miles, 13th in area size
Water Area: 880 square miles
Highest Point: 12,662 feet above sea level at the summit of Mt. Borah, Custer County in the Lost River Range
Lowest Point: 770 feet above sea level at the Snake River at Lewiston
Length: 479 Miles
Width: 305 miles at widest point
Geographic Center: Settlement of Custer on the Yankee Fork River, Custer County.
Number of Lakes: More than 2,000
Navigable Rivers: Snake, Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, St. Maries and Kootenai.
Largest Lake: Lake Pend Oreille, 180 square miles.
Temperature Extremes: Highest, 118 degrees at Orofino July 28, 1934; Lowest, -60 degrees at Island Park Dam, January 18, 1943.
2004 Population: 1,393,262, 39th among states. (U.S. Census Bureau)


The music for the Idaho state song, composed by Sallie Hume Douglas, was copyrighted on November 4, 1915, under the title "Garden of Paradise." In 1917, McKinley Helm, a student at the University of Idaho, wrote the verse which became the chorus of the Idaho State song, and Alice Bessee set the words to the music by Sallie Hume Douglas. The song was popular then, and Alice Bessee had no idea of its origin. This song won the annual University prize for that year, and eventually became the University alma mater. Albert J. Tompkins, Director of Music in the Boise Public Schools, wrote a set of verses for the song. In 1931, the Idaho legislature designated "Here We Have Idaho", previously known at the University of Idaho as "Our Idaho", as the Idaho state song.



The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was adopted as the state insect by the state legislature in 1992. The Monarch Butterfly is a unique insect. It is a great migrator, traveling many miles during its lifetime, which can be from a few weeks up to a year. Monarchs go through a complete metamorphosis in three to six weeks.


The Cutthroat trout was designated the state fish by the 1990 legislature. The Cutthroat, along with the Rainbow and Bull Trout, is native to Idaho. The body color varies with the back ranging from steel gray to olive green. The sides may be yellow brown with red or pink along the belly. The Cutthroat's name comes from the distinctive red to orange slash on the underside of its lower jaw.

Photo courtesy of:
Bill Mullins


The Mountain Bluebird (Sialia arctcia) was adopted as the state bird for Idaho by the state legislature in 1931. The Bluebird is about seven inches long, has an azure blue coat, and a blue vest with white underfeathers. The mother bird wears a quiet blue-gray dress and usually lays six or seven blue-white eggs. The Bluebird's nest is usually built in a hollow tree or in a crevice. The Bluebird is very neat about one's home and carries all refuse some distance from the nest.


The Appaloosa is an intelligent, fast and hard working breed. An easy going disposition and exceptional abilities give this horse a great deal of versatility that no doubt contributes to its rapidly rising popularity. Once the warhorses of the Nez Perce, today the Appaloosa serves as a racehorse, in parades, ranch work and youth programs. The coloring of the Appaloosa's coat is distinct in every individual horse and ranges from white blanketed hips to a full leopard. Adopted by the 1975 legislature.


The Western White Pine (Pinus Monticola pinaceae), our state tree, is probably most notable since the largest remaining volume of this timber in the United States grows in the northern part of Idaho. White Pine has many fine qualities such as straight grain and soft even texture. Adopted by the 1935 legislature.


Adopted by the 1967 Legislature, the Idaho Star Garnet is treasured throughout the world by collectors. This stone is considered more precious than either Star Rubies or Star Sapphires. Normally the star in the Idaho Garnet has four rays, but occasionally one has six rays as in a sapphire. The color is usually dark purple or plum and the star seems to glide or float across the dark surface.


The Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii) was designated the state flower of Idaho by the legislature in 1931. It is a branching shrub with clusters of white, fragrant flowers. The blossoms are similar to the mock orange, have four petals, and the flowers grow at the ends of short, leafy branches.


The 1988 legislature designated the Hagerman Horse Fossil (species Equus simplicidens originally described as Plesippus shoshonensis) as the official state fossil. A rich fossil bed 3.5 million years old, which has yielded over 130 complete horse skeletons, was discovered in the 1920s near Hagerman and is said to be the best known Pleistocene-epoch fossil site in the world.


A silk flag, with a blue field, 5 feet 6 inches fly, 4 feet 4 inches on pike is bordered by gilt fringe 2 1/2 inches wide, with the State Seal of Idaho in the center. The words "State of Idaho" are embroidered in gold block letters two inches high on a red band below the Great Seal. Adopted by the 1907 legislature.


The 1989 legislature designated the square dance as the American Folk Dance of Idaho. The square dance was first associated with the American people and recorded in history since 1651. Square dancing includes squares, rounds, clogging, contra, line and heritage dances.

Photo courtesy of:
Danny L. Barney, Ph.D.,
University of Idaho


Several huckleberry species are native to Idaho, all belonging to genus Vaccinium section Myrtillus. The most common and popular is the black or thin-leaved huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum). Plants grow slowly, taking up to 15 years to reach full maturity. Black huckleberries produce single plump, dark purple berries in the axils of leaves on new shoots. They depend on an insulating cover of snow for survival during winter and have not been successfully grown commercially. Black huckleberries grow at elevations between 2,000 and 11,000 feet with many productive colonies between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. Black huckleberries usually grow from 1 to 6 feet tall and produce berries up to 1/2 inch in diameter. Huckleberries are a favorite food of bears.



The Potato became the state vegetable by the 2002 Legislature.  The soil, water, clean air and climate in Idaho contribute to those consistently high-quality potatoes that have made Idaho famous for so many years. Idaho's rich volcanic soil is ideally suited for potatoes.  Warm, sunny days, cool nights and water from melting snow in nearby mountains make the perfect combination for growing the world's best potatoes.


The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was adopted as the state raptor for Idaho by the legislature in 2004.  The scientific name comes from the Latin words falco, meaning hook-shaped (falcate) and may refer to the beak or claws, and peregrinus, meaning to wander. Peregrines have also been called Duck Hawk, Great-footed Hawk, and Wandering Falcon. The Peregrine Falcon has a body length of 15 - 20 inches, a 3 1/2 foot wingspan, and weighs 1 1/4 - 2 3/4 pounds. The Peregrine Falcon has one of the most global distributions of any bird of prey. This falcon is found on every continent except Antarctica, and lives in a wide variety of habitats from tropics, deserts, and maritime to the tundra, and from a sea level to 12,000 feet. Peregrines are highly migratory in the northern part of their range. Boise is home to the World Center for Birds of Prey, The Peregrine Fund's world headquarters. Visit them on the web at or visit in person at the Velma Morrison Interpretive Center.