Usually when people think of Idaho, they think potatoes not sparkly, pretty gems. While Idaho may produce one-third of the nation’s potatoes, they are also home to over 72 different gemstones. Some of which rare and found hardly anywhere else. Idaho has notable amounts of jade, topaz, tourmaline and zircon. They also have small deposits of jasper, agate and petrified wood that are found in many different colors and patterns. However, Idaho is most known for their garnets and opals. In fact, they are home to a rare member of the garnet family, the Star Garnet. It is only found in small quantities around the world, that is except for India and Idaho.
Idaho is home in many ghost towns like Silver City and Burke, but one of the more interesting ones is Atomic City. In a post-World War II era and the start of the Cold War the nation was trying to figure out this whole atomic energy thing in what would become the Atomic Age. So, in a desolate part of Idaho, near a town called Midway the sprawling Idaho National Laboratory nuclear complex was built. This inspired the booming town of Midway to change their name to Atomic City. The world’s first functional nuclear power plant, the Experimental Breeder Reactor-1, was built there. There were many breakthroughs but in 1955, EBR-1 was the site of the world’s first nuclear meltdown. In fact, you can visit the site in Atomic city and view “the hot cell’ on a self-guided tour. Also, in 1955 nearby Arco became the first town lit by atomic energy. Then in 1961, the SL-1 reactor blew killing a few people. Another world’s first. They had to be buried in lead coffins. More disasters coupled with the highway being rerouted led to more and more people moving away. Now the town only has around 29 people, a store and a gas station that is also the post office and bar. It gets the occasional visitor interested in its atomic history but soon there’ll be no one left.
Idaho is home to many scenic wonders and beauty. There’s the Shoshone Falls, also known as the Niagara Falls of the West. Then there’s Hells Canyon a beautiful river gorge carved by the Snake River. It lies in western Idaho on the borders of Oregon and Washington. It is around 10 miles wide. There are no roads across Hells Canyon and only 3 access roads. So, why is it called Hells Canyon? Is it perhaps a gate to Hell? No, it is the deepest river gorge in North America at 7,900 feet deep. That is deeper than the world-famous Grand Canyon which is around 6,000 feet deep. It is also home to the Seven Devils Mountain Range. High above the canyon is Heaven’s Gate Lookout where you can gaze at the entire state of Idaho plus the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana.
So, when you think of Idaho, I doubt a sea port comes to mind. Idaho is most definitely a landlocked state, so how in the world does it have a sea port? The Port of Lewiston is located in Lewiston, Idaho. You can sail from the Pacific Ocean to Idaho via the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The Port of Lewiston is 465 miles inland from the nearest ocean. It is the farthest inland port in the Western United States. Lewiston is a major transportation hub with access to rail, airport, road and river routes.
The Brundage Bra Tree in McCall Idaho might be Idaho’s most unusual landmark. So, what is a Bra tree? Well, there’s a tradition at the Brundage Mountain Ski Resort in McCall that when you ride the Centennial Chair Lift, you toss your bra at the tree. It’s officially called the Centennial Tree but everyone just calls it the Bra Tree. So, how did this weird little tradition get started? The legend is that it got started with panties back in the 60s with women stripping off their underwear and bras but it evolved to be just bras. Why though? There are a few answers. One is that it was some sort of sign of the woman’s conquest the night before. Another is that it was an act of rebellion. Now, it is just tradition. There had been talks to cut the tree down but the locals rallied to the tree’s defense. They are proud of their weird little tradition.