Banana Belt In the Pacific Northwest

We live in Idaho’s Treasure Valley, more specifically, Boise. Len flies out of the Nampa Municipal Airport—just a hop, skip, and a jump from home. So it was with eye-popping interest that I read an article stating the following:

The Treasure Valley area around Nampa is known as Idaho’s Banana Belt.

The article defined a banana belt as, “Any segment of a larger geographic region that enjoys warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole, especially in the wintertime.” That’s certainly true for the area we live in.

Kari Prassack, a paleontologist at Hagerman Fossil Beds, elaborated: “It’s called a “banana belt” because it is an area that receives warmer weather and less snowfall than the areas surrounding it—like a belt of the ‘tropics’ in Idaho. 

“This happens because warm air lifts upwards over the mountains, expands and cools, producing rain. And then, as drier air, it descends along the other side—in this case into the valley here where the air compresses and warms.”

I was surprised to learn that we live in the banana belt of the Pacific Northwest. Furthering my flummox, I learned that we live relatively close to a fossiliferous Pliocene-aged site!

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about your geographic location?


55 thoughts on “Banana Belt In the Pacific Northwest

  1. When I was a teenager driving on the back roads of the Ottawa Valley, Canada, I saw a small, hand-printed sign pointing to something called “Wilderness Tours.” I scoffed. “What is that? What kind of tour can they give here?” I’d grown up in the area and never given a thought to the rapids on the Ottawa River. Growing up near there, my mother had always been warned to “stay away from the river.” That was the conventional wisdom. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Wilderness Tours whitewater rafting company grew exponentially. Instead of telling people to stay away from the river, they asked people to come to the river. They recognized those rapids as an entertainment resource that the locals had never considered. That was a surprise!

  2. What a timely topic because just last night I was reading a new book about Wisconsin’s state parks and the geology of them. I didn’t realize that most of Wisconsin was under a salty sea at one point many thousands of years ago. We also had a volcano in the northwest corner of our state. I’m doing research on geology so that I can relate it to characters with a “rocky” relationship in one of my Fudge Shop mystery novels set in Door County. That county that juts into Lake Michigan is on the west end of the Niagra escarpment, which is a ridge that goes from Wisconsin to Niagra Falls.

  3. The Canadian Shield, which encompasses most of the Arrowhead region of NE Minnesota along Lake Superior, is reportedly the oldest rock on Earth, about 4 billion years old in some places. Four BILLION years! Puts a normal human life into perspective. We are but microdust in the grand scheme of time and place.

  4. Wisconsin Dells is noted for Cambrian sandstone formations and canyons carved out by raging waters at the end of the ice age. It is a beautiful area. At one time woolly mammoths roamed the area.

  5. Didn’t know you lived in Nampa area. I live in Kuna. Been there for about 16 years. My summer job is out in Montana but I’ll be back this fall. I work at the Boise Depot and also volunteer at the Nampa Depot museum. Maybe one day we will run into each other.

  6. Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge (IL-WI Bi-State Refuge) was founded, after years of advocacy efforts by local conservation groups, by the USFWS in 2012 (under the Obama administration). Hackmatack is the Algonquin Indian name for the Tamarack tree, The American Tamarack tree also known as Larch tree, a native con- bearing tree, was frequently found here (along with the Oak trees). Now it is primarily found in a wide portion of the northern U.S.. I’ve been active with Friends of Hackmatack NWR since well before our founding, and a board member for almost ten years now. Learning about the Tamarack and how it was an amazing resource to early American Indian tribes and later pioneers in our area, was just the beginning of my wildlife education. I grew up in the prairies of northern Illinois’ lakes region, so love for the area can long before my expanding knowledge of its’ rich resources!

  7. The Tri-Cities area of Washington state (Richland, Kennewick and Pasco) is also a banana belt in the northwest. We lived in Richland for 19 years way back when. Snow was rare and moderate and while it did freeze, it wasn’t nearly as harsh as surrounding areas. Presumably the Columbia Basin trapped heat or something. At this point the entire Columbia valley is filled with orchards, vineyards and other agriculture and the heavy irrigation has moderated the climate and generated more rain, on average.

  8. You are a great cheerleader for your city/region, Laurie. You are one of the few people I know who did serious research and then moved to the place most likely to fulfill your heart’s desires. My own region, the Shenandoah Valley, is also reasonably mild in temperature and snowfall in the winter and seldom goes above 90 degrees, even in this hot summer. The mountains delight us on a daily basis for their ever-changing colors and features. Life has been good to us here.

    • Shirley — The Shenandoah Valley is beautiful, indeed. I admired it in the beautiful photographs that Katie and Vi posted from this year’s writing retreat. And the cows, too 🐄 🐮

  9. We have lived across the street from a 1800’s pioneer cemetery, lived on a dormant volcano, and now live on a former sheep farm.

  10. Many surprises always finding me – but what is surprising this week is that our mail in ballots arrived for the primary. We need a primary because 28 people are running for the position of Senator for the US Government. 1 Neo Nazi, 2 self described haters, 2 extremists, 2 who believe the holocaust never happened, 1 Fascist Christian and our own version of Sarah Palin. We have a remarkable, capable Senator in that position now who is protecting us nicely, I surprised myself by offering to do phone calling to help her retain her spot.

  11. Way to go, Boise!… I had never heard the expression ‘banana belt’, so thanks for explaining it… enjoy the warm(er) weather, Laurie. Sending love 💗🥀

  12. The area I come from, Medicine Hat, Alberta is often called the banana belt and often is the hottest place in Canada. It is at the tip of the desert that comes all the way up from Mexico. I recall summer days of plus 40 C (104F) but also winter days of -40C (-40F).

  13. Speaking of “banana belts”: When I lived in Southwest England, I was surprised to learn that Cornwall has warm winters, banana plants and dolphins–all due to its being on the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream.

  14. When I moved from the land of four seasons to the sub-tropics of northeast Florida, I missed autumn especially. Then one frosty day in January, I noticed leaves on some oaks had changed to russet and gold. Thus, I get my fill of fall in the winter.

    Even though you researched Boise as an ideal place to live, I admire you and Len for taking the bold step to actually move there and thrive. But that’s YOU, Laurie!

  15. Laurie, I continue to be amazed at the variety of plant life that can survive the brutal weather of the South-Western Desert. Who knows how many eons and ages it took for evolution to produce and perfect the tougher-than-nails Joshua Tree or the wispy, delicate looking Greasewood? Blistering heat, ferocious winds and bone-shattering cold seems to have no effect on the ever present Sagebrush, other than to send out it’s seeds to colonize the sand and rock. The urge to live and procreate is so strong in these desert lifeforms that it feels like a crime to pull an unwelcome weed, it has had to struggle so hard that I pass it over, out of compassion or respect…it’s hard to say.

    • Sandi — “Tougher-than-nails” is an apt descriptor for Joshua Tree, Greasewood, and Sagebrush. I have no idea how they withstand, even flourish, in the hellish heat and lack-of-water desert climate, yet they do 🌵

  16. Hi Laurie, Here in southern NJ I live near marl pits. Surprisingly, in a town just a half hour from me, Haddonfield, the first full skeleton of a dinorsaur was found in 1858. The name of the dinosaur was Hadrosaurus foulkii. Marl turns standing water and ponds the most gorgeous, luminous blue-green…giving the area a fairy-like unworldly atmosphere. I’ll try to photograph these ponds one day and post about them. I never heard of living in a banana belt so I learned something new today. Thanks.

  17. Fascinating…I think we are having a little of your weather here in West Wales it’s been hot, hot , hot this summer . Which believe me is a first .
    Where we used to live in the Midlands , ( often referred to as ‘The Black Country ‘ due to its industrial history ) we were known as ‘ Tearta Bally land ‘ meaning ‘ Potatoes Belly Land ‘ because we had feilds that surrounded us of potatoes.

  18. Just how varied it is.
    Like you, we get hot winds from the west, even in the middle of winter.
    The rocks here are so varied, from some that crumble to dust at the touch, to others that resist rock hammers.
    It really is an amazing place – such rich and diverse geology, biology and people.

  19. We call our area of the U.P. the “banana belt” because it gets so much less snow than the Keweenaw Peninsula just north of us. We’re both lucky to live in banana belts. 🙂

  20. Well Laurie, your own oasis in Boise is a far cry from your Chicago suburb and weather-wise a definite upgrade!

    Though it seems like our Septembers here in Fairview, New Jersey outside of Manhattan has long gone to the dark side with extreme heat, I remain surprised that over the last few years we seem to go from extreme hot to extreme cold. Gone are the day when seasons were palpable.

    Global warming? Well that supreme intellectual in the White House refuses to believe it! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.