Every state has their fair share of laughable city names — Why, Arizona; Boring, Oregon; Hygiene, Colorado… It seems Americans have enjoyed assigning strange labels to new cities for centuries now. Idaho is no different, boasting oddities like Zaza, Squirrel, Mace, and Last Chance to name a few. Sadly, many of Idaho’s most notable and oddly-named towns have faded into ghostly obscurity, along with the origins of their monikers — although we have a feeling that most of them were chosen by facetious miners with a hankering to shake things up above-ground.
Regardless of their history, from the strange and kitschy, to the aptly but oddly named, here are 10 of our favorite bizarre town names in Idaho that still have village populations above 2 according to the last census.
1. Shells Lick
Just remember the five second rule, first.
The lack of an apostrophe in this town's name indicates that there were Idahoans doing the licking, and that the shells themselves were not licking back (thank goodness). According to the vast internets, Shells Lick, Idaho exists somewhere in the Lewiston/Moscow area where there is, in fact, a beach of sorts for shells to be found; hence, the first part of the name. The second part sounds like a dare gone wrong.
"Aww man, these shoes are brand new..."
Like the educated reader you are, you can probably take a few guesses as to where this odd Idaho town name came from. But this unincorporated city in Lewis County is actually named after Josiah Slickpoo, who helped Idaho's infamous Father Cataldo expand his Jesuit mission across Southern Idaho by providing a building site for Cataldo's new church. That's what our research says, anyways - but both explanations seem perfectly reasonable.
An unincorporated community in the southwest corner of Idaho, Riddle is supposedly run by Riddle Ranch, but the closest ranch by that name is in Oregon. A business called Riddle Ranches is in Idaho, however, but it's located near Bruneau, making the namesake of this town a riddle as well.
Folklore has it that Dingle was given its name by Brigham Young, possibly after the sound of trains passing by, or after the sound of cowbells in the fields.
The air is a little fresher in this rural town just outside of Ammon. Ozone was originally a stage coach stop, primarily used as a resting point on the way to Idaho Falls via Bone Road. Thought to be a name chosen by the original stage company, Ozone is situated in a high area just below the crest of the nearby hills, which also made ideal shelter for travelers.
6. Beer Bottle Crossing
Probably the only Idaho town named from lawn chairs on someone's front porch. We just don't know whose porch.
Santa, Idaho is located up north, but nowhere near North Pole, Idaho. This unincorporated community likely borrowed its name from nearby Santa Anna Creek but grew into a town of firsts: the first town in Idaho to be started by a woman, and the home of Benewah County's first printed newspaper. Needless to say, the post office is a pretty popular place come December.
Like many of Idaho's cities and towns, Bone is named after its own original founder, Orin Bone, and his family. It is also one of the largest towns on this list with two dozen or so seasonal residents. Bone's only general store was torn down piece by piece by questionable persons looking for treasure years ago and was rebuilt soon after. The store now boasts a ceiling full of signed dollar bills from visitors across the country, as well as billiards to keep things lively.
If you look on a detailed map of Idaho, you will see the city of Cabinet, Idaho tucked away ever-so-neatly in Bonner County. Once a thriving logging community, the town was named after the Cabinet Gorge and Cabinet Mountains, which trappers would paddle through via Clark Fork. With the landscape rising on either side of the gorge, the corridor was much like that of sailing between two cabinet rows. After the Big Burn of 1910, however, little remains other than a cemetery and a few foundations.
10. Fish Haven
Founded by Mormon settlers in 1864, Fish Haven sits just short of the Utah-Idaho border near Bear Lake. Since the lake's unique limestone deposits give the water a vivid Caribbean-blue color and enable it to house dozens of unique fish species, no doubt Fish Haven was named for the bounty of aquatic life and small, hidden marinas that make for ideal fish hideouts.
11. Paul, Idaho
What a ridiculous name for a town... Paul! Unlike other towns that weren't so lucky, Paul is a respectable, well-earned moniker for this small town in Eastern Idaho, which was established in 1910.
Even when the origins aren’t known, it’s still fun to speculate and poke a little fun at the founders of these strangely named towns. With so many to choose from, picking the best was a challenge, so please share your favorite in the comments or let us know if you have any updated historical information!