We all know that long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Native Americans were already settled on these lands for thousands of years. But when did they all get here and how? The answer may lie here in Idaho.

For the longest time, it's been believed that the first people to arrive in North America was by way of the Bering Strait - a land bridge that connected Asia and North America during the end of the last ice age. That's what most all scientists thought up until a couple of years ago, when in 2019 archaeologists made a revolutionary discovery right here in western Idaho.

At the Cooper's Ferry excavation site, archeologists uncovered almost 200 artifacts of tools, stones, and bone fragments from large mammals that date back some 16,000 years ago. According to Sciencemag.org, these artifacts are the oldest radiocarbon-dated record of human presence in North America! These findings reveal that people were here settled in present-day Idaho more than a thousand years earlier than what scientists previously believed. Furthermore, this was before the Bering Strait even existed which also means the first people to arrive in the Americas probably migrated here by sea on a boat rather than on foot.

You have to keep in mind that the geography of the land looked much different thousands of years ago. Since Idaho is inland today, it's hard to even imagine this. However, the Salmon, Snake, and Columbia rivers do link to the sea. “As people come down the coast, the first left-hand turn to get south of the ice comes up the Columbia River Basin,”  says Loren Davis, an archaeologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis who led the excavations to Science Mag. “It’s the first off-ramp.”

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