Boise County was the last county in Idaho to have a railroad; the Union Pacific built its. Oregon Short Line in 1912, following the line of the Payette River up to Lakeport, on Payette lakes. Next to Franklin County, it was the first to be permanently settled. Gold was discovered there in 1861, and in an incredibly short time the mountains and valleys were filled with active, enterprising prospectors. It is estimated that, from the Boise basin in Boise County, close to $400,000,000 of placer gold was mined within a few years after the first yellow metal was discovered.
There is still considerable mining, some placer and more lode mining, though livestock and agriculture have come to be of much greater importance. All along the Payette River, through the "Long Valley," as it is known, there is magnificent upland farming sections. Irrigation is used wherever possible, but there is a large acreage of non-irrigated land being farmed, and some yet open for entry. The normal precipitation will produce grain crops quite successfully. There is some magnificent timber tributary to the Payette River, part of it privately owned and part in the Payette Forest reserve. The reserves are open for mining or farm prospecting, and one who finds mineral, or land, that is truly agricultural in character, on the reserve can have it set aside for his use. The timber on the reserve can be secured by application to the forestry superintendent, under the customary regulations, as can also the range be secured for grazing purposes.
Many of the old mining camps are still standing, with their deserted log houses and evidences of former prosperity. The mining industry may someday be revived and will make a fine local market for all kinds of farm products.
Idaho City, the county seat, is the principal town. It has no railroad service, but is reached by stage from Boise. On all the small streams, there is some good farm land, which is being cultivated and made into homes.
There are a number of small towns and post offices along the Union Pacific Oregon Short Line branch to Payette Lake--Montour, Horseshoe Bend, Waverly, Eldorado, Hawthorne, Smith's Ferry, Donnelly and some others--in which some business is done. Long valley is a wonderful section for timothy hay, and thousands of cattle graze in the forest reserve and are fed through the winter on the hay cut in the valley. Dairying is becoming the leading industry, even excelling the production of beef.
Payette Lake, at an elevation of 6,000 feet, is becoming one of the most famous summer resorts in the Middle West. The State has reserved a portion of the land around the lake to insure its being open to all comers; other portions have been developed by private companies and associations into the most delightful camp grounds. Steam launches ply upon the lake, the fishing is exceptionally good, there is good hunting of all kinds of game in the hills and forests surrounding, and in every way it is a credit to, and an asset of, the State of Idaho.
Bonneville County was cut off from Bingham County in 1911, and Idaho Falls was made the county seat. The county is served by the Union Pacific System line from Salt Lake to Butte; also by the Yellowstone Park Line and the "Beet Loop" branch. The State highway from Pocatello to Yellowstone Park, also passes through the county.
Two national forests (the Caribou and the Palisade) have an area of 467,352 acres in Bonneville County. They furnish the grazing in the eastern end of the county and fuel and lumber are there available for those who can reach them. There is some farming along the upper Snake River, in the east end of the county. The total county area is 1,238,000 acres. The general elevation is high--from 4,600 feet up to almost 10,000 feet above sea level.
Dairying and grain farming, beet raising and hog-growing are the important industries of the county. Seed peas and beans, and some of the clovers for seed, are important side lines for the farmer. Little fruit is grown, though it could be grown successfully. In general, lands range from $75 per acre upwards within reach of Idaho Falls, and only a little less for good irrigated lands in other communities. Unimproved land, with water rights, may be had as low as $50 per acre. A considerable area of dry land that is being taken up for grain farming. Water for domestic use is usually found at a depth of from 150 feet to 500 feet, as one gets away from the rivers to the dry farms. Bonneville County was second only to Twin Falls in the acreage yield and in the total yield of potatoes in 1912; Idaho Falls has been the greatest potato growing center of the West for years past.
Idaho Falls has a population of 7,000; a beet sugar factory, two mills, pressed brick plant, a city-owned hydro-electric plant now developing 3,000 horespower, another private plant of about equal capacity, a federal building, three newspapers (one of them daily), schools with 1,800 pupils, paved streets, a business college, four banks with resources of approximately $1,000,000, a creamery, public parks, three elevators, city library, and paid fire department. More than 7,000 cars of produce were shipped from Idaho Falls and from Lincoln, (the sugar factory station adjoining Idaho Falls,) in 1914. Many thousands of dollars worth of honey is produced in the vicinity of Idaho Falls, the center of the bee business of the State.
There are good roads all through the county. Heise Hot Springs, a famous resort, is 25 miles out from Idaho Falls, on the Snake River. Idaho Falls is the division point of the Yellowstone National Park travel, and fine hunting and fishing can be had within a few hours of any point in the county. A great annual "War-Bonnet Roundup" of western sports is held each year at Idaho Falls, that attracts thousands of people from outside.
Ucon, Iona and Ammon are important smaller towns, each with a population of from 500 to 800 inhabitants. The general industrial and agricultural conditions are much the same as around Idaho Falls. Ueon is on the railroad, and ships much grain, livestock, flour, and potatoes; the other towns are inland. A number of smaller post offices are found farther inland, away from the railroad.
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