Pocatello is a major transportation, agricultural and education center for southeast Idaho. It lies at the convergence of the irrigated Snake River Valley and major transportation routes between the Pacific Northwest and the rest of country through the Salt Lake area. Idaho State University provides some college-town flavor, 13,000 students and 3300 jobs. But the town is mostly nondescript with an unattractive strip of trucking and agriculture-related industries spreading for miles northwest of town. This, plus the low dry mountain backdrop, gives a less attractive setting than one might expect for the region.
Large employers include the Union Pacific Railroad, potato processors J.R. Simplot and Heinz Frozen Foods, and Convergys (call centers). Nearby fishing streams, the American Falls Reservoir, and Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons less than 100 miles to the northeast are important attractions, By most standards, the area is isolated from urban services and amenities but the town is self-contained enough to provide a reasonable lifestyle.
The Snake River Plain is a desert composed of sand and lava rock extending to the west, a large portion of which is covered with irrigated farming. To the east the ground rises steadily toward the crests of the Continental Divide and the Grand Tetons. The climate is variable, invigorating, and by some standards harsh. Cloudy and unsettled weather prevails through the winter with measurable precipitation every 1 in 3 days, and occasional large snowfalls. Cold snaps drive temperatures below zero. Other Pacific-influenced winter periods can be mild. Spring is the wettest and windiest season. Summer evenings can be quite cool with temperatures in the 40’s. Occasional summer thunderstorms and hail occur during the otherwise dry summer. Dry heat waves in July and August can drive temperatures into the 90’s or even low 100’s. Fall is the most pleasant season. First freeze is end of September, last is late May.