If there’s one thing Idaho doesn’t have a lot of, it’s towering architecture and man-made structures that top national lists. There’s no Mount Rushmore carved into our rugged mountains, nor any towers, monoliths, or skyscrapers to clutter our panoramic natural landscape. Nevertheless, Idaho is first and foremost
home, which means that our beautiful state has some remarkable man-made creations that are uniquely enchanting and visually striking in their own way, though they all too often go unnoticed. Here are just a few:
1. Soda Springs Geyser, Soda Springs
Created purely by accident less than a century ago, the Soda Springs Geyser in eastern Idaho is the only man-made, captive geyser in the world. Spewing sparkling water 70 feet into the sky every hour on the hour, this unique man-made "fountain" is a sight to see. The town of the same name was originally an Oregon Trail stop, and the point where the trail first crossed into Idaho.
2. University of Idaho Campus, Moscow
As Idaho's oldest university (dating all the way back to 1892) and perfectly located in tree-filled Moscow on the sweeping Palouse, it seems fitting that U of I's campus would have some incredible beauty to go with its setting. Architecturally modeled after the historic schools found on the east coast, the school's collegiate-gothic brick and white pinnacle style detail on every building makes it a unique Idaho treasure.
3. Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls
When the highway to Twin Falls from the north got its makeover in the 70s, the I.B. Perrine Bridge over the Snake River Canyon instantly became one of the most beloved spots in all of Idaho, starting with the first Ford Model T to cross the bridge in 1976. This past July marked the 40th anniversary of its opening, and even today it remains a photographer favorite.
The Perrine is known internationally for its BASE jumping opportunities, but this 486-foot-high (1,500-foot-long) bridge should be remembered for its incredible and sturdy design as well; over 32.000 cars cross over this wonder on a daily basis.
4. Dworshak Dam, Ahsahka
Water is central to everything that makes Idaho... well, Idaho. This towering dam just outside of Orofino is not only the tallest dam in the state, it's also the third-tallest dam in the US and the tallest "straight-axis" concrete gravity dam in the Western Hemisphere. It looms over the Clearwater Rver at 717 feet, and has since 1973. Talk about impressive architecture!
5. Mission of the Sacred Heart, Cataldo
With a history that dates back long before its completion in the 1850s, the Mission of the Sacred Heart is not only the oldest building in Idaho; it's also the oldest standing mission in the entire Pacific Northwest. Northern Idaho's beloved 'Cataldo Mission' is also one of those gems that is historic, monumental, and architecturally stunning all at once - especially once you learn that everything inside and outside was created by hand with primitive tools (and no nails) to be modeled after the intricate grandeur of cathedrals in Europe. And it's found in humble Idaho.
6. Long Bridge, Sandpoint
Once the longest wooden bridge in the world, Sandpoint's stunning (now-concrete) "Long Bridge" connects it to Sagle over the Pend Oreille River. It stretches 2 miles across the water, meandering along with the landscape and alongside the older 1934 bridge, creating a visually flawless place for a sunset drive (or bike) along the water.
7. Idaho State Capitol Building, Boise
Few buildings in the state get as much love or attention as Boise's crowning jewel in the heart of downtown, let alone have as much history, despite not being completed until 30 years after Idaho's official statehood.
Modeled after the style of America's own White House building in our nation's capital, the Idaho State Capitol Building is a stunning piece of architecture both inside and out. The interior is a lavish spectacle of white marble while the sandstone exterior was quarried locally and built by Idahoan hands. The design was also inspired by the grand St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul's Cathedral in London, so you know that every last detail is magnificent, even down to the five-foot bronze eagle crowning the central dome. Walking tours are available for an in-depth look!
8. Rainbow Bridge, Smith's Ferry
This historic concrete bridge across the North Fork of the Payette River is always a welcome sight, but its design was also a tribute to modern architecture and intentionally designed to blend in with nature. This well-traveled bridge was built in 1933 and is the longest single-span arch bridge in the state.
9. Cascade Lake, Cascade
Idaho is home to many,
many reservoirs, which make perfect playgrounds during the summer months. But few people realize that Cascade Lake is one of them -- and isn't actually a lake at all, although it was given an official name change in 1999. But for a man-made body of water, it's rather spectacular, wouldn't you say? With 47 miles of surface area, it's the 4th largest "lake" in the state, which is impressive as well. But if you're too antsy to wait for summer to play in Cascade, ice fishing is a definite option here.
10. St. John's Cathedral
Finished in 1921 after construction was suspended during WWI, this Romanesque church has 3-foot thick walls to support its heavy slate roof. Intricately painted ceilings, looping corbels, and an impressive pipe-lined balcony beneath the rose window all make St.John's one of Boise's grandest architectural beauties.
The creativity, engineering, and manpower that went into these unique pieces of Idaho’s landscape is a true testament to the Gem State’s culture. Whether man-made or formed by nature’s hand, Idaho’s wonders are something to be marveled at!
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