Most of the metropolitan area lies on a broad, relatively flat plain. Mountains rise up to the northeast, stretching from the far southeastern tip of the Boise city limits to nearby Eagle. These mountains are known to locals as the Boise foothills and are sometimes described as the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. About southwest of Boise, and about southwest of Nampa, the Owyhee Mountains lie entirely in neighboring Owyhee County.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 64.0 mi² (165.7 km²). 63.8 mi² (165.2 km²) of it is land and 0.2 mi² (0.5 km²) of it (0.33%) is water.
Boise's climate is characterized as semi-arid with four distinct seasons. Boise experiences hot and dry summers where temperatures can often exceed , as well as cold winters with fair amounts of snowfall. Rainfall is usually infrequent and light, averaging per month. March is the wettest month with an average of . August is the driest month with of rain. Spring and fall are generally temperate.
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It is commonly accepted that the area was referred to as Boise long before the establishment of Fort Boise. However, the exact details of how the name came to be applied to the area differ in the available accounts.
Some credit a story told of Captain B.L.E. Bonneville of the U.S. Army as the source of the name. After trekking for weeks through dry and rough terrain, his exploration party reached an overlook with a view of the Boise River Valley. The place where they stood is called Bonneville Point, and is located on the Oregon Trail east of the city. According to the story, a French-speaking guide, overwhelmed by the sight of the verdant river, yelled "Les bois! Les bois!" giving the area the name.
But the name "Boise" may actually derive from earlier mountain man usage, which contributed their naming of the river that flows through it. In the 1820s, French Canadian fur trappers set trap lines in the vicinity where Boise now lies. In a high desert area, the tree-lined valley of the Boise River became a prominent landmark. They called this "La rivière boisée", which means "the wooded river."
The original Fort Boise was 40 miles (64 km) west, down the Boise River, near the confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This fort was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s, but massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863, during the U.S. Civil War. The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail and a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho City) and the Owyhee mining areas. Both areas were booming at the time. Idaho City was the largest city in the area, and as a staging area to Idaho City, Fort Boise grew rapidly. Boise was incorporated as a city in 1864. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewiston, but Boise replaced it in 1865.
As of the census of 2000, there were 185,787 people, 74,438 households, and 46,523 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,913.1/sq mi (1,124.7/km²). There were 77,850 housing units at an average density of 1,220.7/mi² (471.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.15% White, 0.77% African American, 0.70% Native American, 2.08% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 1.74% from other races, and 2.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.53% of the population.
There were 74,438 households out of which 32.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.7% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 11.7% from 18 to 24, 32.3% from 25 to 44, 20.6% from 45 to 64, and 10.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 98.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,432, and the median income for a family was $52,014. Males had a median income of $36,893 versus $26,173 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,696. About 5.9% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or older.
The area's largest private employer publicly traded and headquartered company in Boise is Micron Technology (). Others include IDACORP, Inc. the parent company of Idaho Power, Idaho Bancorp Boise, Inc. American Ecology Corp. PCS Edventures.com Inc. and Syringa Bancorp.
Technology investment and the high-tech industry have become increasingly important to the city, with businesses including Bodybuilding.com, Crucial.com, MobileDataForce, MarkMonitor, Sybase, Kayako, Balihoo.com and Microsoft. The call center industry is also a major sources of employment; there are over 20 call centers in the city employing more than 7,000 people, including Teleperformance, DIRECTV and T-Mobile..
The city is home to six public high schools: Boise High School, Borah High School, Capital High School, Timberline High School as well as the Meridian district's Centennial High School and the alternative Mountain Cove High School. Boise's private schools include Bishop Kelly High School (Catholic), Foothills School of Arts and Sciences and Baccalaureate accredited Riverstone International School.
Post-secondary educational options in Boise include Boise State University and George Fox University, as well as a wide range of technical schools. University of Idaho and Idaho State University each maintain a satellite campus in Boise. Boise is home to Boise Bible College, an undergraduate degree-granting college that exists to train leaders for churches as well as missionaries for the world. Nearby Meridian is home to a campus of the University of Phoenix and neighboring towns Nampa and Caldwell boast Northwest Nazarene University and The College of Idaho respectively.
Boise is one of the largest cities in the United States that does not have a community college. The issue has received a fair amount of attention from city and state officials in recent years. As of May 2007 a community college special district was formed, with the intention of starting a community college in Nampa, Idaho.
Boise is also a regional hub for jazz and theater. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival is hosted in Boise each spring. The city is also home to a number of museums, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Idaho Black History Museum, Boise WaterShed and the Discovery Center of Idaho. Several theater groups operate in the city, including the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise Little Theatre, Boise Contemporary Theater, and Prairie Dog Productions. On the first Thursday of each month, a gallery stroll is hosted in the city's core business district by the Downtown Boise Association. The city also has an Egyptian Theatre. In the Fall season, Downtown Boise hosts a film festival called Idaho International Film Festival.
The Boise Centre on the Grove is an convention center that hosts a variety of events, including international, national, and regional conventions,conferences, banquets, and consumer shows. It is located in the heart of downtown Boise and borders the Grove Plaza which hosts numerous outdoor functions throughout the year.
The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center offers water features and wildlife experiences just east of downtown. It is located adjacent to Municipal Park. It features live fish and wildlife exhibits, viewing areas into the water, bird and butterfly gardens, waterfalls, and a free visitor's center.
The Jewish community's Ahavath Beth Israel Temple, completed 1896, is the nation's oldest continually-used temple on the western side of the Mississippi.
Boise (along with Valley and Boise Counties) will host the Winter 2009 Special Olympics World Games. More than 2,500 athletes from over 85 countries will participate.
|Boise Hawks||Northwest League||Baseball||Memorial Stadium||1987||6|
|Idaho Steelheads||ECHL||Ice Hockey||Qwest Arena||1996||2|
|Boise Burn||af2||Arena Football||Qwest Arena||2007||0|
|Idaho Stampede||D-League||Basketball||Qwest Arena||1997||1|
A number of recreational opportunities are available in Boise, including extensive hiking and biking in the foothills to the immediate north of downtown. Much of this trail network is part of Hull's Gulch and can be accessed by 8th street. An extensive urban trail system called the Boise River Greenbelt that runs along the river. The Boise River itself is a common destination for fishing, swimming and rafting.
In Julia Davis Park is Zoo Boise, which has over 200 animals representing over 80 species from around the world. An Africa exhibit expected to include lions and giraffes is currently under construction, slated to open in late 2008.
Bogus Basin Mountain Resort hosts several winter activities, including cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing. “Bogus” is just 16 miles (26 km) outside city limits (less than an hour drive from downtown).
Minor professional sports teams in Boise include the short-season Class A Boise Hawks (Minor League Baseball), the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL, and the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League. An arenafootball2 franchise, the Boise Burn, began play in 2007.
The Boise State University campus is home to Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts local and national fine arts performances; Bronco Stadium, the 30,000 seat football stadium known for its blue Field Turf field; and Taco Bell Arena, a 12,000 seat basketball and entertainment venue which opened in 1982 as the BSU Pavilion. Boise State University is known primarily for the recent successes of its football team, although it is also a fairly well regarded commuter school for undergraduate students.
The Roady's Humanitarian Bowl football game (formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl and later the MPC Computers Bowl) is held in late December each year, and pairs a team from the Western Athletic Conference with an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
The World Center for Birds of Prey is located just outside city limits, and is a key part of the re-establishment of the Peregrine falcon and the subsequent removal from the Endangered Species list. The center is currently breeding the very rare California condor, among many other rare and endangered species.
The cornerstone mall in Boise, Boise Towne Square Mall, is also a major shopping attraction for Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, and surrounding areas and has recently been through an upgrade along with adding new retailers.
The greater-Boise area is served by two daily newspapers, The Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press-Tribune; a free weekly publication, the Boise Weekly; three city magazines, "Boise Metropolitan", "Boise Journal" and "Boise Home"; weekly business publications; 5 commercial TV stations, a PBS station; and a number of radio stations. For more see Media in Boise, Idaho.
Public transportation includes a series of bus lines operated by ValleyRide. Also, the Downtown Circulator, a streetcar, is in its planning stage.
Commercial air service is provided at the Boise Airport, recently renovated to accommodate the growing number of passengers flying in and out of Boise. Public bus transportation is provided by ValleyRide and the Boise Urban Stages (BUS).
Downtown Boise's economy was threatened in the late 1990s by extensive growth around the Boise Towne Square Mall (away from the city center) and an increasing number of shopping centers which have sprung up around new housing developments. Events such as Alive-after-Five and First Thursday have been created to combat this trend.
The name Boise comes from the French word boisé, which means "wooded". Many people assume that it means "tree", but the French word for "tree" is arbre, whereas the word bois means "wood". One legend claims that French-Canadian fur trappers of the early 1800s came over the mountains looked down upon the Boise River Valley and exclaimed "Les bois!" (the wood!), and that this is also how Boise gained its nickname 'The City of Trees'. In actuality, the name was apparently a translation of an earlier English name for the Boise River, the Wood River. Wood River was traditionally called Pine River, but was changed in 1867.
19th Century maps of the Boise River.