New York City drops the ball in Times Square on New Year's Eve. In Boise, it's the giant Idaho Potato Drop. The Gem State's license plates say it all: Famous Potatoes.
Eastern Idaho bills itself as the Potato Capital of the World. Almost one-third of the United States' potatoes come from the Snake River Plain, and Fremont County is the world's largest seed potato producer.
That's a lot of tubers.
By the way, potato plants are gorgeous when in bloom, which is happening right about now. See above. I made that photograph in Fremont County last weekend.
ASCENDINGMonsoonal energy creates spectacular towering clouds in the shadow of the Teton Range
Agriculture is an important part of the local economy. In addition to potatoes you'll find wheat, alfalfa, malt barley, sugar beets, grain and quinoa growing in Eastern Idaho.
Many first-time visitors are surprised to see so much acreage under production, but the climate and soil are ideal, especially for potatoes.
The land is rich in nutrients, thanks to the injection of volcanic materials into the ground. Remember, there's a massive hot spot next door: you know, that supervolcano sitting underneath Yellowstone National Park.
Water sources are more abundant than you might think due to the Snake and Teton Rivers, runoff from snowpack, and some site-specific weather.
The high altitude creates warm days followed by cool nights during the growing season. That makes potatoes happy. The long, cold winters are especially conducive to seed potato farming. Those conditions kill mold spores and pests: enemies of the crop.
Drive from Jackson over the Teton Pass into Idaho and you'll quickly find yourself in the middle of farmland.
Photographically speaking, there's no shortage of subject matter. Granted, it's getting more difficult to find old barns and farmhouses in various stages of disrepair. When I first visited the area in the late 1990s it seemed like old barns with sagging roofs were everywhere. Spectacular. Eventually they collapse, though, and one by one a little bit of character exits along with them.
There are still some interesting structures if you're willing to search, though, and no shortage of rolling fields, many of which are situated within sight of the Teton Range. You might get lucky and catch some harvesting action.
Get creative with fence lines. Irrigation canals. Crop patterns. Grain silos. Dramatic, "big" skies.
Especially in Fremont County near Ashton, you can get a little taste of the Palouse due to the area's unique and unusual microclimate: farms on lovely hilly terrain with no irrigation equipment to interrupt your view of acres and acres of crops. Some areas just north and east of town receive as much as 30 inches of precipitation annually. Around here that's like a rainforest. Rolling hills, dry-land farming, and the mountains. Now there's a scenic combination.
Check out the Teton Valley. Swan Valley. The Teton River. Henry's Fork. The South Fork.
There's more to this area than the parks. Have some fun puttering around Eastern Idaho with your camera.
In Local News
The carnage continues. Four bears were hit by cars last week in the north end of Grand Teton National Park. Three of them died; the fourth was badly injured but managed to limp away. On the other end of the park at Moose-Wilson Road, a two-year-old female mountain lion was hit by a car and killed. The driver fled the scene.
Yellowstone hosted just under 848,000 visitors in June. I haven't seen numbers for GTNP.
Fuel prices have been climbing. You'll pay roughly $4.00/gallon both in Jackson and Eastern Idaho. As always, it's more expensive in the parks.
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