Idaho has more wilderness than any state outside of Alaska. And Blaine County is richly endowed with public lands where ancient lava flows and high desert sagebrush country rise to magnificent mountain ranges with beautiful alpine forests, lakes and streams. Each geological zone hosts abundant wildlife. The skies are clear and the views are amazing!
The Big and Little Wood Rivers flow through the valley where most residents live. The area’s history of settlement mirrors that of the intermountain West: Native Americans were succeeded by fur trappers, the first miners arrived in the 1860s and were largely gone by the mid-1890s, early ranchers settled in the 1870s, and the sheep industry flourished in the early1900s. Averell Harriman charted a new course for Blaine County when he founded the Sun Valley Resort in 1936, installed the first chair lift, and gave rise to the skiing industry. Ranching and agriculture are still important, but Blaine County now has well-developed tourist facilities that celebrate its natural beauty, and the Union Pacific rails have been converted to miles of trails for a bike/ski path that connects the whole Wood River Valley.
Blaine County is a year-round paradise for outdoor recreation of all kinds, whether self-propelled or motorized, independent or guided. In every season one can enjoy plenty of open space, varied terrain, and developed facilities for downhill and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, climbing, water sports, fishing and hunting. The Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Craters of the Moon National Monument, and the Nature Conservancy’s Silver Creek Preserve protect some of the most spectacular regions, but areas outside their boundaries are equally worth exploring.
Blaine County is also much more than a world-class recreation and resort destination. Its diverse and lively towns are progressive communities striving to balance growth and preserve open space and natural resources. A regional bus system has expanded to meet transportation needs. Affordable housing programs have been instituted. The area has an excellent public school system, a new hospital facility, well-stacked public libraries, museums and art galleries, good restaurants and pubs. A great variety of programs for people of all ages and interests are offered through the schools and libraries, College of Southern Idaho, Blaine County Recreation District, Senior Center, Sun Valley Center for the Arts, numerous nonprofit groups, and the YMCA, to name just a few. Music and theater thrive here. Our hard-working Hispanic community enriches the culture of the place. The list of weekly activities in local newspapers is extensive.
Blaine County’s beautiful environment, energetic communities, and quality of life will reward anyone who chooses to visit or consider making it home.
Bellevue is the gateway town to the Wood River Valley and Idaho’s only charter city, established in 1882. Many working families call it home, and its population of 1,900 is growing. Bellevue has an elementary school, and local businesses have been relocating to its light industrial park. Everyone can enjoy its beautiful canyons and gorgeous stretch of the Big Wood River, now protected and enhanced by the creation of the Howard Preserve. Labor Day is celebrated in grand style by the citizens of Bellevue. It is a proud community working hard to plan and prepare for new development.
Carey is a thriving, close-knit rural community of over 600 people along the Little Wood River. Carey has an elementary and new high school for its children. It preserves its strong ranching heritage and is diversifying its economic base with light industry, as the town prepares for new residents. The nearby reservoirs and Carey Lake are popular with fishermen and birdwatchers alike. It’s a short drive to Craters of the Moon National Monument or the small ranching community of Picabo on the shores of Silver Creek, a world famous trout fishing stream restored and preserved by the Nature Conservancy and neighboring landowners. Carey welcomes people each summer to the Pioneer Days celebration and County Fair.
Hailey is centrally located in the Wood River Valley and is the County's population center, with 7,000 industrious residents. It is the county seat and hosts the regional airport and two elementary schools, a middle school, and high school. Founded in 1881, Hailey was a big beneficiary of the 1880s mining boom. In 1883 the community had Idaho's first telephone exchange, and in 1889 it installed the state's first electric light system.
Old Hailey preserves the character of a 19th century town with tree-lined streets and attractive old houses. The Blaine County Historical Museum informs both visitors and residents about the area's past. Hailey celebrates the 4th of July in a big way with a parade, rodeo and fireworks. The annual Northern Rockies Folk Festival is a very popular, family-friendly outdoor concert in a city park near the river. The Liberty Theater presents plays and concerts throughout the year. The Hailey Cultural Center and Trailing of the Sheep Festival are recent additions to Hailey's vibrant community.
Ketchum is now best known as a ski and resort town, but it was named for a trapper and founded in 1880 as a mining town. Isaac Lewis brought in assay equipment, built roads, and founded a stage line to supply the far-flung mines and haul ore to Ketchum's smelter. The boom ended in the mid-1890s, but Ketchum celebrates its colorful past every Labor Day when the old ore wagons once again roll through the streets at the end of the Wagon Days parade.
The railroad came to town during the heyday of the mines. By 1920, those tracks enabled the sheep industry to make Ketchum the largest sheep/lamb shipping station in the U.S. And the Union Pacific Railroad brought Averell Harriman to the valley to build ski runs near Ketchum and found the Sun Valley Resort. Today, Ketchum is a tourist center with numerous restaurants, shops and art galleries; but it is also hosts local businesses and nonprofit organizations that employ many valley residents. Ketchum has an elementary school, and the Community Library and Sun Valley Center for the Arts are great resources open to all. The population has changed as the area's beauty has attracted more affluent second home owners. City government supports affordable housing initiatives and is making the downtown core a more pedestrian-friendly gathering place. Ketchum will remain a lively town with a lot of character.
Sun Valley was once a cattle ranch. Now it is famous as the area Averell Harriman's Austrian scouts selected for the first American ski resort. Founded in 1936, the classic Sun Valley Lodge anchors this wealthy community. It has been celebrated in song and movies. You can still skate under the stars, and the Lodge shares its indoor rink with the local hockey team and figure skating club. It continues to expand and improve its facilities and attracts visitors (and employees) from all over the world. Many special events are held at the Lodge, including the summer symphony, arts and crafts festival, writer's conference, ice shows, and a traditional Christmas celebration. After mining and sheep, the ski boom has reshaped the Wood River Valley and created an enduring legacy.