50 States in 50 Days: Discover Idaho

Posted by: Laura Smiley, Department of Energy

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I have lived abroad for a while, so I’m used to being asked where I’m from in the United States. When I say, “My family is from Idaho,” usually I get a response that includes mention of the potato for which Idaho is famous!  But Idaho is so much more to me than potatoes. Idaho is the native land of my father and of my grandparents, and I still have many relatives who live there. With mountains and prairies and rivers and deserts, I think it’s the most beautiful state in the union. Some day, I want to return and settle down there.

Redfish Lake in central Idaho
Redfish Lake in central Idaho

Idaho is considered to be one of the Rocky Mountain states, and it has a wide range of geological features.  My very favorite road trip is to drive from Pocatello, in the south-eastern part of the state, to Boise, in the western part of the state, and then up to Coeur d’Alene, in the “pan handle” of the state.

Sunset in Coeur d'Alene
Sunset in Coeur d’Alene

If you follow my route, you’ll pass through sage brush and lava rock-covered mountainous foothills into a desert that looks as dead and cratered as the surface of the moon. Soon after that, you will find yourself winding your way up through the lush panhandle. During that road trip, you will have passed three of Idaho’s Native American reservations. You will have seen the deepest gorge in the United States, as well as some of the highest, snow-capped mountains. You will have had the choice to go whitewater rafting, or take it easy soaking in one of the many famous lava-heated hot springs. Or maybe you will have chosen to go skiing in one of the United States’ most famous resorts, Sun Valley. If you’re like my father, you will have taken advantage of the salmon and trout fishing, or deer and elk hunting opportunities (Idaho recently filled 3 of the top 5 spots in Outdoor Life Magazine’s best towns for sportsmen).  However, if you want big crowded cities and sprawling suburbs, Idaho is not for you! Its wild beauty is accentuated by the fact that it is one of the least populous states in the country.

Sun Valley Idaho Bald Mountain
Sun Valley Idaho Bald Mountain

By the way, Idahoans are smart! Idaho is home to one of my agency’s (Department of Energy’s) leading research facilities, the Idaho National Laboratory.  Idaho National Lab is an active participant in several joint U.S.-Ukraine nuclear research projects, and was the technical lead for the U.S. government in planning the return of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine to Russia this past March – a project that was highlighted at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit by our two presidents.


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