In many ways, Idaho is considered by many to be one of the “safest” parts of the country, but that isn’t always the case. Danger is unavoidable, and with a state as wild and scenic as Idaho, you can bet that there are particular cities, landmarks, and local hangouts that have gained a reputation for fatalities, crimes, and disasters of every type. In fact, when it comes to highways in particular, Idaho’s smaller population doesn’t necessarily equal safety! These spots across the state are just some of the most deadly and dangerous places in Idaho for one reason or another.
1. Idaho Falls statistical area -- specifically, Arco.
Initial estimates to-date show that over 470 workers have died on the job at the Idaho National Laboratory near Arco due to chemical exposure and radiation. Unfortunately, direct contamination isn't the only factor -- Eastern Idaho's cancer rate soars above that of the rest of Idaho due to secondhand contamination, unmonitored air pollution from the INL, and millions of gallons of improperly buried and leaking radioactive waste.
2. Blue Lakes Blvd., Twin Falls
According to the Idaho Transportation Department, over 35,000 cars per day travel down this main drag in Twin Falls -- a huge number for a non-urban city. Many of these drivers are travelers on their way to Jackpot, others are tourists visiting the renowned Shoshone Falls and Perrine Bridge, but the majority are simply commuters, Regardless of the circumstance, multiple intersections with Blue Lakes have been named to the ITD's High Accident Locations report, including Blue Lakes/North College, Blue Lakes/Addison Ave., Blue Lakes/Falls Ave. The city is gradually making improvements, but no new numbers have been released yet; thus Twin Falls still has multiple entries on the Top 100 Worst Intersections in South-Central Idaho.
3. Boise River Greenbelt, Boise
For an urban center and Idaho's largest city, Boise has always been known as a relatively safe area. Unlit portions, heavy foliage, and shaded corners make this beautiful daytime stroll a little less safe come nightfall. Multiple assault reports have been filed over the years, despite increased patrols.
4. Hwy 34 to Grace
Repeatedly known as a site of "vehicular mayhem," this stretch of highway is a popular wildlife crossing after the sun goes down. Deer, elk, and more wander down from the nearby mountains and often wander unknowingly into the paths of oncoming cars -- who may not see them until it's too late. Local law enforcement officers say that multiple calls per day are common during peak grazing seasons. You can see the full list of Idaho's most dangerous wildlife crossings, compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
5. Lolo Pass/Hwy 12
Long, dizzying, steep, and occasionally lacking guardrails, this twisting mountain road to Montana is full of scenery (and no amenities), but can also be dangerous for out-of-staters who aren't expecting it. You might get a little vertigo up here, so be cautious of unexpectedly sharp corners and other motorists traveling a little too fast for comfort.
6. Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls
As the longest bridge in Idaho, hovering over the longest river in the state, and the first arc bridge to span an entire canyon in the country... as well as one of the few places in the US where base jumping is legal, Twin Falls' iconic bridge sees a great deal of pedestrian and tourist traffic... but not all of it is positive attention. At around 500 feet to the Snake River, the Perrine is the tallest bridge in the state, which presents extreme safety and suicide hazards, in addition to the dangers that come with base and bungee jumping themselves. Dozens of deaths -- both accidental and intentional -- have been reported over the years, but despite Idaho ranking 6th in the nation for suicides, there is no official tracking system.
If you remember our list of Idaho's
most dangerous cities
according to FBI crime reports, you'll recall that Sandpoint topped the list. However, our list only covered towns with populations over 5,000. Based on statistics alone, the tiny town of Ponderay is actually the most dangerous in the Gem State, at least in terms of property crime, for which this Northern city of only 1,200 residents had nearly double the rate of theft as other Idaho cities, due primarily to its hotbed as a tourist shopping mecca.
8. Soda Springs
The same underground processes that were tapped into to create the manmade Soda Springs Geyser are also a major seismic disaster waiting to happen. The Idaho Multi-Hazard Risk Portfolio published by the state every year shows the Soda Springs area as sitting on a major hotbed of potential activity; the same tectonic parabola, actually, that has made Yellowstone so active. While no major activity has been recorded yet, a variety of outside factors could trigger an event in the near future.
9. Washington County
According to the Idaho Multi-Hazard Risk Portfolio, Washington County and up into McCall are at the greatest wildfire risk in the state. While all of Southern Idaho is permanently at risk due to the drier climate, this area in particular is susceptible due to a low watershed, and proximity to Oregon's own fire zones, which have been known to jump across the border.
10. Elk City
This year alone, Elk City has been the site of two massive landslides so devastating to town access that a new way into the city is being built entirely. Governor Otter even declared the event a formal disaster. A variety of factors contributed to these slides, including water levels and recent wildfires -- making this town (or at least its roads) a dangerous place to be.
Did anything on this list surprise you? Have you ever had any scary or close encounters at any of these locations?