Guest Opinions

Idaho Day: a time to reflect on our beautiful and bountiful surroundings

Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette River.
Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette River.

Beautiful Idaho: Her name conjures up images of wide-open spaces, lovely winding rivers and mountain skies fading into sunset. That is the theme of this year’s Idaho Day observances Friday and Saturday, which commemorate the founding of the Idaho Territory by President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1863.

Idaho has a diversity of landscapes that expands the boundaries of our imagination. She has more wilderness areas than any state except Alaska. Drive a couple of hours and you may see jagged snowcapped peaks, lava formations like the surface of the moon, sagebrush desert, a turquoise-colored lake like no other in America, a waterfall higher than Niagara, lush green farmlands, and colorful towns reflecting geographic and cultural diversity and filled with unpretentious, hardworking and friendly people. Idaho has 3,100 miles of rivers, more than any other state, and the deepest river gorge on the North American continent at Hells Canyon. The city of Lewiston has the farthest inland sea port on the Pacific Coast.

Beautiful farms produce more potatoes and barley than any other state. About 85 percent of America’s commercial trout are raised in Idaho, and the Gem State produces 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones.

Idaho has unsurpassed opportunities for solitude, like the late October day I spent fishing alone on the south bank of Henry’s Lake many years ago. It snowed lightly the entire day. The only sounds came from waves lapping at my feet on the shore, until at about 3 p.m. I began to hear faint wistful cries, gradually becoming louder. Then suddenly a flock of trumpeter swans appeared, low and directly over my head, gliding ghostlike forms that quickly vanished into the clouds, followed by their fading, haunting primeval cries. Then again silence, only the lapping of water at my feet. It all seems now like a dream within a dream; one of the most beautiful days of my life.

Idaho is the place to have surprising encounters with birds. It is remarkable that the largest nesting area in the world for eagles, hawks and falcons is located within a short distance from Boise. Years ago, again on a snowy winter day, I was walking along Capital Boulevard on my way to the Capitol and was about to cross the Boise River; to my amazement, I looked up and saw an American bald eagle flying very low. What was a bald eagle doing in downtown Boise? For a split second I thought he might have escaped from the zoo at Julia Davis Park, but upon reaching the Statehouse, I phoned a Fish and Game official, who informed me that eagles sometimes winter along the Boise River and do indeed occasionally fly into the city center. Surely, only in a place like Idaho could a bald eagle be seen flying near the Capitol building.

We love Idaho. From the serenity of Lake Coeur d’Alene to the thousand shades of green along the Lochsa, Salmon and Clearwater, from the mighty roar of Shoshone Falls to the turquoise blue of Bear Lake, there is no place like Idaho. “Esto Perpetua,” may she endure forever.

Linden B. Bateman, of Idaho Falls, is a former member of the Idaho House of Representatives.

Sample an Idaho Day event

Noon to 1 p.m. Friday, March 3, at the Idaho Statehouse: speakers, performances and proclamations.

Throughout the day there will be displays on the first- and second-floor rotunda areas.

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