Located in Southeast Idaho, Pocatello rests at the western foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 4,400 feet. Home to Idaho State University, Pocatello has more than 51,000 residents and is the fourth-largest city in the state. The name of the city comes from an Indian chief of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. An interesting fact: Pocatello is often referred to as the "Smile Capital" of the United States.
The city of Pocatello has a mostly urban population of more than 55,000. Neighborhoods and districts of Pocatello accommodate around 21,000 houses, out of which more than 19,000 are occupied. Of the occupied houses, more than 60 percent are owner-occupied, while renters occupy the remainder. The neighborhoods of Pocatello have a housing density of around 730 houses or condos per square mile. The most expensive homes are near the downtown area, right off Interstate 15, located off Bannock Highway and Gibson Jack Road. The least expensive homes are in the heart of downtown at Fifth and Fourth Avenues.
Pocatello has an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent. The average salary for jobs in Pocatello is around $28,000 and the median income of households is around $34,000. The leading industries in Pocatello are educational, health and social services, retail trade and manufacturing. Some of the large employers in Pocatello include Varsity Contractors Inc., ON Seminconductor and Idaho State University.
In 1877, the rail lines were extended into the Pocatello area through the Utah and Northern Railway. The stop was named Pocatello Junction and served as a stop in this city for people who were in search of gold. Today, the Union Pacific Railroad still serves the Pocatello area. Amtrak used to provide the Pocatello area with a route that connected residents with Seattle or Chicago, but the Pioneer route was terminated in 1997 because of low ridership. Interstate 15 runs north and south through the city, while Interstate 86 runs east and west. These two interstates connect outside the downtown area. With public roadway transportation, Pocatello Urban Transit has several bus routes in and around the city. On average, there is very little traffic in Pocatello, and residents have an average commute time of just 15 minutes. Pocatello Regional Airport is a public airport located seven miles west of the city. The airport was built over a former World War II Army base, and several hangars from that era remain. As an added bonus to air travelers, the airport offers free parking.
Idaho Museum of Natural History: Visitors can learn about Idaho's natural and cultural heritage by exploring the museum. Situated on the campus of Idaho State University, this museum features collections in anthropology, vertebrate paleontology, earth science and life sciences.
Pocatello Zoo: Dating back to 1932, this zoo is located on South Second Avenue at Ross Park. All of the animals at the zoo came there because they had injuries or were born in captivity and could not have survived in the wild.
Holt Arena: The first covered football stadium on any campus, the arena is on Memorial Drive on the Idaho State University campus. The stadium features indoor turf and plays host to the Real Dairy Bowl, which is a junior college football bowl game. On the third weekend in February, it also features the Simplot Games, which is the nation's largest indoor high school track-and-field event.
Portneuf Greenway Trail System: This 13-mile stretch of trails runs along the Portneuf River and along the city of Pocatello. Visitors can walk, jog, hike or bike along the trails or perhaps participate in the scheduled 5K, 10K or marathon runs that are held Labor Day weekend. Some of the more challenging trails can be found along the west bench, which allows visitors to climb further up the mountains.
Smile Fest: In 1948, during a very rough winter, the then-mayor of Pocatello passed an ordinance making it illegal not to smile in the city. The ordinance was passed to help raise the morale of the residents, and it has stayed in effect ever since. It wasn't until the 1980s that the American Bankers Association found the law and decided to use it for a national marketing campaign to convince Congress to modernize outdated banking laws. As a result, Pocatello acquired the moniker "Smile Capital" of the United States, and residents remember the law with their annual Smile Fest celebration every December.
Bannock County Bluegrass Festival: Held over a three-day weekend in August, the festival features several bluegrass bands, a square dance workshop and an open mic. The festival is held on the Bannock County Fairgrounds off Olympus Drive.
Idaho State University is a four-year state university with an enrollment of around 14,000 students. ISU has seven colleges and more than 280 undergraduate programs. Its College of Pharmacy is regarded as one of the best in the western United States. Its athletic teams compete in NCAA Division I sports in the Big Sky Conference.
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