Man at irrigation headgate, early 20th century: Federal Bureau of Reclamation engineers transformed the arid Snake River plain into fertile land with dams and reservoirs.
Idaho - Land of Contrasts
The origin and character of Idaho's people and
their folkways are reflected in the state's spectacular but harsh
landscape. From Mount Borah's 12,662-foot heights to Hells Canyon's
736-foot depths, from Panhandle lakes to Owyhee deserts, the 43rd
state is a study in geographic contrasts. Survival by European
settlers to Idaho required stamina and skill, as well as a curious
mixture of rugged independence and willingness to help
The state's geology helped shape human interaction,
for example, a huge, ancient intrusion called the Idaho Batholith
formed an almost impenetrable barrier to transportation,
communication and settlement during the 1800s. Curving around the
Batholith to the south is the Snake River Plane, formed over the
last 17 million years. North of the Batholith lie large lakes
gouged by glaciers and dammed by gravel pits 100,000 years ago.
Even in the 21st century, only one paved highway crosses the
Batholith from east to west, following the Clearwater River between
Oregon and Montana, and only one highway links north and south,
skirting the Batholith's western edge.
In 1805, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William
Clark were guided through the Batholith by a native tribe member,
Scajawea of the Lemhi people. A hundred years later, gold was
discovered on land that had been set aside for the Lemhis. After
statehood, Idaho's economy expanded, based on the state's abundant
natural resources. Silver Valley in the Coeur d'Alenes and Silver
City near the Nevada border were named for hard rock deposits
nearby. Gold dredges and placer mining transformed the landscape in
numerous watersheds. Timber was harvested to build towns, mine
shafts and railroads. During the 1900s, Federal Bureau of
Reclamation engineers arrived to build dams, reservoirs, and
irrigation systems, transforming the arid Snake River plain into
the fertile Magic and Treasure valleys. Newcomers prospered but
their settlements disrupted the ecosystem, especially the
In the 21st century, Idaho's varied geological land
forms are matched by a flourishing multidimensional cultural
landscape. New technologies and industries have fostered cultural
changes, and new residents from abroad.
Documentation includes two video tapes about the Nez
Perce family and tipi traditions,
Tipi Tale, the Nez Perce
National Historical Park;the Trailing the Sheep video tape, about
the cultural aspects of sheep ranching; 28 slides and a script that
describe the slides and this legacy project; and two cassette
Originally submitted by: Larry E. Craig, Senator Mike Crapo,Senator Helen Chenoweth-Hage, Representative (1st District) & Mike Simpson, Representative (2nd District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.