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Idaho panhandle

Idaho panhandle
Red: The ten counties of the Idaho panhandle
Red: The ten counties of the Idaho panhandle
CountryUnited States
Largest cityCoeur d'Alene
 • Total21,012.64 sq mi (54,422.5 km2)
Historical population
2019 (est.)355,63811.9%

The Idaho panhandle—locally known as North Idaho, Northern Idaho, or simply the Panhandle—is a salient region of the U.S. state of Idaho encompassing the state's 10 northernmost counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce, and Shoshone (though the southern part of the region is sometimes referred to as North Central Idaho). The panhandle is bordered by the state of Washington to the west, Montana to the east, and the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north. The Idaho panhandle, along with Eastern Washington, makes up the region known as the Inland Northwest, headed by its largest city, Spokane, Washington.

Coeur d'Alene is the largest city within the Idaho panhandle. Spokane is around 30 miles (50 km) west of Coeur d'Alene, and its Spokane International Airport is the region's main air hub. Other important cities in the region include Lewiston, Moscow, Post Falls, Hayden, Sandpoint, and the smaller towns of St. Maries and Bonners Ferry. East of Coeur d'Alene is the Silver Valley, which follows Interstate 90 to the Montana border at Lookout Pass.

The region has a land area of 21,012.64 square miles (54,422 km2), around 25.4% of the state's total land area; there is also 323.95 square miles (839 km2) of water area. As of the 2010 Census, the population of the Idaho panhandle was 317,751, around 20.3% of the state's total population of 1,567,582.[2]

The town of Bonners Ferry has two Canada–US border crossings: Porthill-Rykerts Border Crossing connects with Creston, British Columbia; Eastport–Kingsgate Border Crossing connects with Yahk, British Columbia.


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2022)

The eastern border of Idaho follows the Bitterroot Range, producing the narrow northern border.[3]


No resident of North Idaho has been elected governor since the re-election of Cecil Andrus (D) in 1974. An Oregon native raised in Eugene, Andrus had lived at Orofino and was a resident of Lewiston when first elected in 1970. (Boise was his residence during his later campaigns of 1986 and 1990). The most recent member of the U.S. Congress from the panhandle is Compton I. White Jr. (D) of Clark Fork, last elected 60 years ago in 1964.

North Idaho leans Republican, as does the state as a whole. Latah County, home of the University of Idaho in Moscow, is the only one of the region's 10 counties that does not. While Bonner County is also strongly Republican, the tourist town of Sandpoint located in the county is somewhat more centrist.

Recent presidential election results[4]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2020 68.0% 130,215 29.3% 56,221 2.7% 5,128
2016 64.0% 96,440 26.7% 40,261 9.3% 14,018
2012 61.6% 86,372 34.2% 47,910 4.2% 5,871
2008 59.0% 86,309 37.8% 55,301 3.2% 4,621
2004 63.3% 85,537 34.9% 47,132 1.8% 2,461
2000 64.1% 74,113 30.1% 34,777 5.9% 6,783
1996 43.7% 49,515 38.9% 43,976 17.4% 19,721
1992 33.2% 36,383 36.9% 40,478 29.9% 32,861
1988 50.9% 45,778 47.4% 42,573 1.7% 1,516

The panhandle has traditionally been one of the strongest areas for Democrats in statewide elections, largely because of its unionized miners and a smaller Mormon population than Southern Idaho. However, it largely changed in the 1980s with the drop in silver prices, slump of metal markets, mine closures and passage of a right-to-work law. Additionally, the influx of conservatives from Southern California beginning in the 1970s, many of whom were retired LAPD officers who chose to move to Coeur d'Alene, also shifted the politics of the region. This intensified during the 2010s, with Democrats nationwide being perceived as too liberal.[5][6][7]

In the 1990 gubernatorial election, all counties were won by the incumbent Andrus, a popular moderate who easily won a fourth term. The Democratic nominee for Governor outperformed their statewide result in Northern Idaho in all elections from 1982 through 2006; Keith Allred received 30.9% in Northern Idaho vs. 32.9% statewide in 2010, A.J. Balukoff received 36.5% in Northern Idaho vs. 38.6% statewide in 2014, and Paulette Jordan received 34.6% in Northern Idaho vs. 38.2% statewide in 2018.

Recent gubernatorial election results[8]
Year Republican Democratic Third parties
2018 63.6% 82,474 34.6% 44,914 1.8% 2,272
2014 54.1% 49,700 36.5% 33,517 9.4% 8,589
2010 62.1% 63,563 30.9% 31,600 7.0% 7,127
2006 50.1% 48,204 46.8% 45,065 3.1% 2,945
2002 53.8% 47,722 44.1% 39,120 2.2% 1,909
1998 64.0% 54,829 32.7% 28,064 3.3% 2,830
1994 48.0% 43,397 46.6% 42,189 5.4% 4,872
1990 29.7% 20,616 70.3% 48,880 0.0% 0
1986 36.1% 29,365 62.4% 50,764 1.6% 1,287
1982 42.4% 30,423 57.6% 41,412 0.0% 0


Geography and climate

The Idaho panhandle observes Pacific Time north of the western-flowing Salmon River in the southern part of Idaho County. The rest of the state to the south observes Mountain Time, which begins at Riggins. Though the Idaho panhandle is at the same longitude as southwestern Idaho, they have different time zones because (1) Spokane is the commercial and transportation center for the region, and (2) there are many cross-border towns and cities that are connected, including Spokane with Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls; Pullman (home of Washington State University) with Moscow (home of the University of Idaho); and Clarkston with Lewiston.

The panhandle is isolated from southern Idaho by distance and the east–west mountain ranges that divide the state. The passage by vehicle was arduous until significant highway improvements were made on U.S. Route 95 in North Central Idaho, specifically at Lapwai Canyon (1960), White Bird Hill (1975), the Lewiston grade (1977), and Lawyer's Canyon (1991).

Köppen climate types in northern Idaho

Regional agriculture

The North Idaho region is most noted for silvaculture, the growing of trees and the production of lumber through the region's 12 lumber mills.[9] The production of grass seeds and hops[10] for beer production are also significant in the region. Nine microbreweries have operations in the area, making North Idaho highly characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. There are also many cattle ranches.

Notable crops from the Palouse region include wheat, lentils, peas, and canola.

Indian reservations

Major communities


  1. ^ Idaho population by county, 1900-90 - accessed 2011-12-07
  2. ^ "Census 2010: Idaho - The Spokesman-Review". Archived from the original on February 10, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  3. ^ Rees, John E. (1918). Idaho Chronology, Nomenclature, Bibliography. W.B. Conkey Company. p. 100.
  4. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved June 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Crane-Murdoch, Sierra (May 20, 2013). "How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho". Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  6. ^ "Many Ex-California Cops Retire To Idaho | The Spokesman-Review". Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Freed, David (December 14, 1986). "Trouble in Paradise : White Supremacists in Idaho Mar LAPD Retirees' Tranquillity". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  8. ^ "Our Campaigns - United States - Idaho - Governor".
  9. ^ "Inland Forest Management, Consulting Foresters". Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  10. ^ "Idaho Hop Commission". Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.

47°N 116°W / 47°N 116°W / 47; -116

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Idaho panhandle
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