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History & Statistics
Blaine County is a unique area offering exciting tourist destinations, wilderness adventures, a "business-friendly" environment, and supportive, flourishing communities. Our website covers a wide range of material from photos and history to current, detailed information from each of our departments. Stop by our links page for other interesting sites about Idaho and our beautiful Blaine County. We encourage you to visit our site often for updated county information.
Some County Information
Blaine County's history is as varied as its topography. Prospectors entered the Wood River area soon after the beginning of the 1862 Boise Basin mining boom.
The County's first permanent settlers were farmers who arrived in 1879. The 1880 Wood River mining boom brought the first large population influx, including a significant number of Irish, Welsh, German and Chinese immigrants. Towns like Bellevue and Hailey grew overnight in the frantic scramble for gold, silver and lead. The Wood River area had gained renown as the Idaho Territory's most progressive area.
The main reason was through the prosperity brought in by mining. The first electric light plant in the Idaho Territory was installed by the Philadelphia Mining and Smelting Company just west of Ketchum. The first telephone system was installed in Hailey in 1883.
Although not as prominent as the mining industry, a parallel economic force in the early years, starting in 1880, was the feeding and shipping of sheep. By 1900, more than 2 million sheep had been raised or trailed through the Wood River Valley. Between 1910 and 1920, more than one million head of sheep a year were trailed through the area, making Ketchum one of the largest sheep shipping centers in the United States.
The area's sheep industry has substantially diminished in recent years, but continuing signs of this once important sheep migration route can still be found in the Annual Trailing of the Sheep throughout Blaine County in the Fall.
Sun Valley Resort
With the construction of Sun Valley Resort in 1936, Blaine County experienced a second boom. Avenuerell Harriman, Chairman of the Board of the Union Pacific Railroad, conceived the idea of establishing, near Ketchum, a first-class resort for skiers, the first in the United States. Harriman sent Count Felix Schaffgotsch to the Ketchum area after Schaffgotsch had researched the western United States looking for appropriate terrain.
The name "Sun Valley" was coined by UPRR publicist, Steve Hannagan, a warm weather fan who decided one of the Resort's outstanding features was its ample supply of sun. Amid the flurry of publicity Hannagan created, celebrities from Hollywood and other areas began to pour into the Wood River Valley.
Blaine County's topography, geographic location and seasonal variation in climate create a unique and varied natural environment, ranging from the scenic, high alpine country in the north to the desolate lava plains and high-desert mountains in the south. As a recreational area, Blaine County is known throughout the world for the quality and beauty of its natural environment and recreational opportunities.
Renowned as a winter haven, Sun Valley's addition of Elkhorn Resort in 1970 brought a new perspective to Blaine County - year-round recreation.
Summer's slower pace disappeared in the wave of enthusiasm for activities like kayaking, backpacking, ice skating, hiking, golf, swimming, water-skiing, jogging, horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, sailing and fishing. These pursuits- including the world-class fly fishing both on the Big Wood River and on legendary spring-fed Silver Creek-attract recreation lovers from around the world.
Rivers & Mountains
The Salmon River, also known as the River of No Return, with its headwaters in the north and the Snake River in the south offer solitude and spectacular white water rafting. Bald Mountain, due to its great variety of terrain and snow conditions, has been consistently rated as one of the finest ski facilities in the United States.
The Sawtooth, Boulder, Smokey, and Pioneer Mountain ranges provide high alpine country as beautiful and inspiring as any to be found in the United States and breathtaking heli-ski opportunities. The Great Rift area in the southeast portion of the County is a unique land form with lava formations similar to a lunar landscape. It is this diversity of environment, recreational opportunity and quality of life that has attracted many people to Blaine County to live on a full-time basis.
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