Tuesday, August 5, 2008

US20 in Idaho: Boise

There is a lot of open space in Idaho through which US Route 20 runs. But US 20 gets some company as it travels through Boise, Idaho, running parallel and/or concurrently on two roadways with US Route 26, US Route 95, Interstate 84/184 and US 30. It is located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, along the Boise River, and it is the capital and largest city in Idaho. Wikipedia gives a brief history of the city:

It is commonly accepted that the area was referred to as Boise long before the establishment of Fort Boise. However, the exact details of how the name came to be applied to the area differ in the available accounts.

Some credit a story told of Captain B.L.E. Bonneville of the US Army as the source of the name. After trekking for weeks through dry and rough terrain, his exploration party reached an overlook with a view of the Boise River Valley. The place where they stood is called Bonneville Point, and is located on the Oregon Trail east of the city. According to the story, a French-speaking guide, overwhelmed by the sight of the verdant river, yelled "Les Bois! Les Bois!" giving the area the name.

But the name "Boise" may actually derive from earlier mountain man usage, which contributed their naming of the river that flows through it. In the 1820s, French Canadian fur trappers set trap lines in the vicinity where Boise now lies. In a high desert area, the tree-lined valley of the Boise River became a prominent landmark. They called this "La Rivière Boisée", which means "the wooded river."

The original Fort Boise was 40 miles (64 km) west, down the Boise River, near the confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This fort was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s, but massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863, during the U.S. Civil War. The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail and a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho City) and the Owyhee mining areas. Both areas were booming at the time. Idaho City was the largest city in the area, and as a staging area to Idaho City, Fort Boise grew rapidly. Boise was incorporated as a city in 1864. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewiston, but Boise replaced it in 1865.

Nearby US 20 and I-184 is the National Historic Landmark Assay office, which served an important role in the mining industry in Idaho. Early in the 1860’s, Idaho’s boasted the third largest gold production in the United States. But, as it was hard to transport the weighty gold and other ores to the nearest U.S. Mint in San Francisco, the Idaho Assay Office was born, which placed a value on the ores.

The City of Boise web site can be found here.

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

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