Boise, Idaho

Boise is the capital of the US state of Idaho. It originally began in the early 19th century as a trading post, then grew into a city, thanks to gold discoveries in the area. The city became the territorial capital and eventually became the state capital when Idaho was admitted into the Union in 1864. When the gold boom went bust, the people of Boise turned to agriculture, and their city continued to grow. Today, Boise is a thriving, outdoor-friendly city of more than 200,000 residents. 

Geography Of Boise

 Boise Idaho
The Boise River flowing through Boise.

Boise is located in an area of southwestern Idaho known as Treasure Valley. The city is 68 km east of the border with Oregon and 177 km north of the border with Nevada. Boise's metropolitan area lies on a broad, flat plain descending to the west. Mountains rise to the northeast, stretching from the far southeastern tip of the Boise city limits to the nearby town of Eagle. Locals call these mountains the Boise Foothills, and they are sometimes described as the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The smaller towns of Eagle and Meridian border Boise to the west. The Boise River bisects Boise. Most of the city is on the western side of this river. A series of canals also runs through the city, as do several smaller rivers, including Crane Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and Freestone Creek, all of which flow through the city's eastern part. The total area of Boise is 207.33 sq. km, of which 205.54 sq. km is land, and 1.79 sq. km is water.

Population Of Boise

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise, Idaho.

Boise has a total population of 229,993, making it the largest city in Idaho. More than 89% of the city's population is white, of which 83.2% are non-Hispanic, and 6.07% are Hispanic. Asians comprise the next most populous group at 2.81% of Boise's total population, while people of mixed racial backgrounds comprise 2.67%, Other Hispanics 1.75%, and African Americans 1.75%. Boise also boasts the largest Basque community in the entire United States, numbering about 15,000. About 90% of Boise residents speak only English, while 4.7% speak Spanish. More than 93% of the city's population was born in the United States, and 44.89% were born in the city itself.

Economy Of Boise

The average household income in Boise is $82,424, and the city's poverty rate is 13.75%. Boise's unemployment rate is 4.5 %. The largest industries in the city, in terms of number of employees, are healthcare & social assistance, retail trade, and manufacturing. Boise hosts the headquarters of several major companies as well as major manufacturing facilities. The city also boasts a sizeable hi-tech sector. The top 5 employers in Boise are St. Luke's Health Systems, Micron Technology, Saint Alphonsus Health System, Albertsons, and Walmart.

History Of Boise

Before the Europeans arrived, the area in which Boise now sits was the domain of Native Americans from the Shoshone and Bannock peoples, who lived in the area for thousands of years. Europeans began exploring the region in the early 19th century. Among them were French Canadian fur trappers, who came upon the Boise River Valley after traveling through desert terrain for a long time and exclaimed, "Les bois! Les bois! (The woods! The woods!)." Boise, pronounced in French, Boisé, literally means "wooded." In fact, to this day, Boise is known as the City of Trees.

In 1834, the Hudson's Bay Company established a trade post northwest of present-day Boise, along the Oregon Trail on the Snake River. They called the outpost "Les Bois," referencing the words used by the fur-trappers to describe the area. Thousands of people passed through this area on their way to Oregon. About 30 years later, gold was discovered in the area, bringing many prospectors. The Hudson's Bay trade post proved to be a convenient supply point for the mining camps. In 1864, Boise was incorporated as a city and made the territorial capital. Its prosperity continued to be fueled by continuing gold discoveries.

Old Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho.

Eventually, however, the gold boom did end, and the city's population began to decline. To halt their city's decline, Boise's residents turned to farming. They planted crops, developed irrigation systems, and mapped out a town with shady green streets along the Boise River. The growth of irrigated agriculture in southwestern Idaho ultimately led to the tripling of the population in Boise between 1900 and 1910. In 1925, the first railroad to run through the area was built. Before World War II, several dams and reservoirs were constructed to improve agriculture in the city. Boise became an important city for the US military during WWII. The military established the Gowen Field in the area for flying and training.

Elevated view of an earthen Dam on the Boise River
Elevated view of an earthen Dam on the Boise River.

The 1960s was another boom time for Boise. Whereas the city's population was 34,481 in 1960, it more than doubled ten years later to 74,990. The 1960s was also the decade that saw the birth of what would become Boise State University. It began in 1965, when Boise Junior College expanded from a two-year to a four-year college, ultimately becoming Boise State University in 1974. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the growth of a high-tech sector in Boise, as Hewlett-Packard built facilities in the city and Micron Technologies was founded. Between 1990 and 2012, Boise's population increased from around 82,000 to almost 208,000. 

Attractions In And Around Boise

Arguably, Boise's best attraction is its natural environment. The Boise River, for example, is well-used by locals and visitors who enjoy being on the water. The Boise area also hosts 199 trails on which people can hike or bike. Several nature reserves are located in and around Boise, including the 734-acre military reserve, which has an archery range and is expected to open a new bike park and dog park soon. Other reserves and recreational areas include Oregon Trail Reserve, Polecat Reserve, Shafer Butte Area, and Table Rock Area.

the Capital building in Boise Idaho
The Capital building in Boise, Idaho.

Boise's other sites or landmarks include the Idaho State Capital Building, which was completed in 1920, following 15 years of construction. The building contains 50,000 square feet of marble and is a great place to learn about the history of the state of Idaho. Another important landmark in Boise is the Old State Penitentiary, home to some of the West's most notorious criminals beginning in 1872. Visitors to the prison can see old cell blocks and gallows.

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