Emmett, Idaho is the county seat of Gem County and
boasts a population of 6,557 residents at the 2010 census.
The elevation in Emmett is about 2,400 feet which made
it a nice place for prospectors to winter when the snows
near Idaho City made gold mining impractical. During the
early years, established stage and pack train routes joined
at the Payette River near Emmett just north of the present
river bridge providing yet another reason for folks to be in
the area. It quickly became apparent that the fertile soil
and lower elevation of the Emmett area would grow all
manner of crops which were then transported to the gold
camps utilizing the established transportation routes.
Emmett soon became known as the “garden” for the
nearby mining camps. Fruit orchards were especially
successful in this area and continue to be an economic driving force today especially after the closure of the Boise Cascade manufacturing facility in 2001. The annual “Cherry Festival” celebrates the heritage and continued influence of fruit orchards in Emmett.
Early settlers in the Emmett Valley found it extremely difficult to enter the valley from the Southeast due to the steep terrain and most utilized the Overland Stage Route west of Emmett. A few brave souls tried taking their wagons over the steep terrain by locking or “freezing” their wagon wheels and sliding down the hill. If you wanted to go up the hill, the endeavor lasted all day and required the work of multiple teams of horses to pull a wagon up to the top. Local lore tells the story of early freighters fighting the bitter winter cold and almost freezing to death before they could get to the bottom of the hill safely. It didn’t take long for folks to refer to this steep hill as “Freezeout”. In 1919, a winding, switch-backed road was constructed making the Southeast entry to Emmett a little easier. The winding road also provided stunning views of the “Valley of Plenty” around each corner. Decades later, a new grade with no switch-backs was completed to accommodate increased traffic levels between Boise and Emmett. The new road also provided a large turnout to safely view the valley. Portions of the original 1919 road remain and it is affectionately called “Old Freezeout”. In recent years, a memorial to our nation’s veterans has been erected in the turnout providing another reason to stop and take a moment to look over the Emmett valley. When asked why they choose to call Emmett home, many residents reflect that it is this view overlooking the valley that influenced their choice – “I just look out over the valley and it looks like home to me.”