Boise - Idaho

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Idaho's capital city lies at the foot of the Boise Front of the Rockies -- a desert town close to the peaks and the treed slopes of the Boise National Forest. Lying on both sides of the Boise River, this city is a green space in sagebrush country with parks along the river and an enviable lifestyle. Boise's climate is so benign that it is possible to golf in the city and ski at the nearby ski hill on the same day.

The community was established in 1863 as a staging area and service center for the mining camps including Idaho City -- the largest of the gold and silver mining areas. The area previously had been home to several Indian tribes and the fur trade exploited the area during the 1820s. From the time of the first mineral discoveries in 1860, the region boomed, giving way to forestry as the gold and silver dwindled.

Boise Attractions

The city has many attractions which make a stay here pleasant and relaxing, including several fine parks and nature preserves. Kathryn Albertson Park is located in the heart of the city -- a walking park with ponds, fountains, islands and a wetlands area. Boise River Observatory with its Morris Knudsen Nature Center is a showcase for wildlife on the Boise River, with underwater viewing windows, displays on fish life and tours taking visitors to ponds, wetland areas and desert habitats.

South of Boise, near the Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Area, is the World Center for Birds of Prey. In this nature center, falcons, eagles and other raptors are studied and reared. It provides an ideal opportunity to see hawks and eagles much closer than you can in the wild. The Tropical Raptor Building displays birds from around the world.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is a series of nine theme gardens which include a hillside walking trail, rose and iris gardens, a Basque garden and the unique Chinese Scholar's Garden. This fine outdoor attraction is on the grounds of the old Idaho State Penitentiary. Boise has the largest Basque community outside of Europe, and the Basque Museum and Cultural Center is the nation's only Basque museum. It is a former boarding house, used to house immigrants from 1910 through the 1970s, and is located at 6th & Grove. More history is exhibited at Military Reserve Park, at Fort & Reserve streets. Included are the old Boise Barracks, hiking trails and the O'Farell Cabin, the city's first permanent home. The city's extensive park system includes Julia Davis Park, on the Boise River in the downtown area. The park contains the Idaho Historical Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the city zoo and the Memorial Rose Garden. The 90 acres of parkland includes playgrounds, tennis courts, boat rentals and a bandshell featuring entertainment throughout the summer. The Grove is Boise's public plaza with nearby shopping and a weekly program of music and other entertainment "Alive After Five".

Day Trips From Boise

Several jaunts from Boise provide great scenery, and a look into the rough and rowdy mining history of the area. An hour's drive northeast of town is Idaho City -- the region's first town -- where gold and silver were discovered in the 1860s. Surrounded by Boise National Forest, many of the original buildings from the 1860s remain today, complete with boardwalks and the Pioneer Cemetery with its tall headboards. There is overnight accommodation available, and places to eat and drink, (in the Miner's Exchange Saloon) with the ambience of a lusty mining camp. The Idaho City Hotel is one of the originals -- completely renovated and retaining the charm of a rustic old inn. Another great place to stay is the Miner's Inn, a former home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Warm Springs Resort is 1.5 miles from Idaho City, with hot pools, cabins and RV parking. In the winter, the area around Idaho City is a fine recreation area, with crosscountry ski trails and snowmobile roads leading through the forests. Fishing for rainbow and brook trout is good in the local streams.

To get to Idaho City from Boise, drive east on Interstate 84 and turn north onto Highway 21. The old mining town is 38 miles north of the Interstate exit. A backroad loop route to Boise takes a forest road west, near the old mining camps of Centerville and Pioneerville, then further west to another old town -- Placerville -- and returns to Garden City and Boise via Highway 55.

Silver City -- a ghost town -- provides another scenic day trip or overnight jaunt. To get there from the Boise area, drive south until you come to Highway 78 and drive southwest to a backroad five miles south of Murphy. The backroad is unpaved and can be rough in places, leading through desert, foothills and canyonland on the way to the old 1863 mining camp. You can also get there (from the west) by driving south on Highway 95 to Jordan Valley and then turning west to reach Silver City on a backroad (25 miles). For information on the road and accommodations at the old Idaho Hotel (the only functioning building) call the Idaho Hotel at (208) 495 2520.


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