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State Submerged Resources > Idaho


Located in the northwest quadrant of the United States, Idaho is known for its beautiful scenery. The state's picturesque landscape includes over 2,000 lakes. Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake at 180 square miles. Lake Coeur d'Alene covers 39 square miles and is 23.5 miles long. In total, about 800 square miles of Idaho (1% of the state) are underwater.

What is Idaho's maritime history?

Idaho's waterways have played an important role in the state's development. In the early days of exploration, the Lewis and Clark Expedition traveled by canoe down the Clearwater River and the Snake River in Idaho to get to the Columbia River.

The state was even named after a steamship. The word "Idaho" is not a derivative of another word, but was coined and used as a name for a ship that sailed the Columbia River. In 1860, when prospectors discovered gold along the Clearwater River, the diggings undertaken were dubbed "Idaho mines" and soon the entire area became Idaho.

When designing the state seal, which is centered on the state flag, Idaho chose to highlight its main industries: mining, agriculture, and forestry. The very center of the seal is a shield picturing a river, which illustrates the importance of rivers in the state's commercial history. In addition to providing irrigation for crops, these waterways transported ore from the mines and wood from the forests.

What sites are underwater?

Archeological surveys of Idaho's waters are incomplete, but historical accounts indicate a number of wrecks lie in state waters. During the Idaho gold rush, steamships traversed the state's rivers bringing in people with dreams of riches and carrying out the precious ore those dreams were based on. Several steamboats are on the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

In addition to historical sites, Idaho's waters contain prehistoric vessels which provide a glimpse into the past that has no recorded history. In 2004, divers discovered a dugout canoe in Lake Pend Oreille. The first find of its kind in the state, the unusual canoe generated a great deal of interest in Idaho's underwater archeology.

Who takes care of Idaho's underwater archeological sites?

The Idaho State Historical Society, governed by its board of trustees, is charged with the responsibility of identifying historic, architectural, archeological, and cultural sites. The State Historic Preservation Officer is appointed by the governor and serves as Director of the Society. The Archaeological Survey of Idaho, an adjunct program of the Society, promotes archeological research, publication and education.

What permits do I need to study shipwrecks?

The State Historical Society is responsible for overseeing the permit applications for excavation of sites. Permits are only issued to applicants who are qualified by experience or professional training to conduct excavations.

What laws are there about underwater archeology sites in Idaho?

Laws relevant to archeological sites in the state are codified at Idaho Code 33-3901, et seq., 67-4113, et seq. and 67-4601, et seq. and emphasize that sites, monuments, and points of interest connected with the history and development of the state merit preservation and protection.

Related Websites:

Idaho Museum of Natural History
Lewis and Clark in Idaho