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Rexburg, Idaho, is a city rich in history, characterized by a distinctive climate, and marked by unique geographical features. Situated in the Upper Snake River Valley, Rexburg is known for its strong educational institutions, vibrant community, and agricultural heritage. This article explores the multifaceted history, diverse climate, and remarkable geography of Rexburg.


The history of Rexburg, Idaho, is deeply intertwined with the broader history of the American West and the Mormon pioneer movement. The area that is now Rexburg was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Shoshone and Bannock peoples, who relied on the region’s natural resources for sustenance and cultural practices. The arrival of European settlers in the mid-19th century marked the beginning of significant changes in the region.

Rexburg’s founding is closely linked to the efforts of Mormon pioneers who were seeking new opportunities for settlement and agriculture. In 1883, Thomas E. Ricks, a prominent Mormon leader, led a group of settlers to the area, which was then part of the Idaho Territory. Ricks and his followers were drawn to the fertile land and the potential for irrigation, which was critical for successful farming in the arid region. The settlement was initially called Ricksburg, in honor of Thomas E. Ricks, but was later renamed Rexburg.

The early settlers faced numerous challenges, including harsh winters, limited resources, and the need to establish irrigation systems. Despite these difficulties, they persevered, and by the late 19th century, Rexburg had developed into a thriving agricultural community. The construction of the Idaho Canal, which diverted water from the Snake River to irrigate the surrounding farmland, played a crucial role in the area’s agricultural success.

In 1888, the Bannock Stake Academy was established in Rexburg, marking the beginning of the city’s long-standing commitment to education. The academy eventually evolved into Ricks College, named after Thomas E. Ricks, and later became Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-Idaho) in 2001. Today, BYU-Idaho is one of the largest private universities in the United States and a major contributor to the local economy and culture.

Rexburg has experienced significant growth and development throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The city’s population has steadily increased, driven by the expansion of BYU-Idaho and the attractiveness of the region for families and businesses. Despite its growth, Rexburg has maintained its small-town charm and strong sense of community.

A defining moment in Rexburg’s history occurred in 1976 when the Teton Dam, located northeast of the city, failed catastrophically. The resulting flood caused widespread devastation, destroying homes, businesses, and farmland. The disaster tested the resilience of the Rexburg community, but residents rallied together to rebuild and recover. The flood remains a significant part of the city’s history and is remembered for the strength and unity it inspired among the people of Rexburg.

Today, Rexburg is known for its vibrant cultural scene, educational institutions, and agricultural heritage. The city continues to grow and evolve, balancing modern development with its historical roots. Events such as the annual Rexburg International Dance and Music Festival and the Idaho International Summerfest celebrate the city’s diverse cultural heritage and attract visitors from around the world.


Rexburg has a humid continental climate, characterized by distinct seasonal variations, including cold winters and warm summers. The city’s climate is influenced by its location in the Upper Snake River Valley and its elevation of approximately 4,865 feet (1,483 meters) above sea level.

Winters in Rexburg are cold and snowy, with temperatures frequently dropping below freezing. December and January are the coldest months, with average highs in the mid-20s to low 30s Fahrenheit (-4 to 0°C) and nighttime lows often dipping into the single digits (-13 to -17°C). Snowfall is a significant feature of the winter months, with Rexburg receiving an average of around 50 inches (127 cm) of snow annually. The snow cover and cold temperatures create a picturesque winter landscape and provide opportunities for winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing.

Spring in Rexburg is a transitional season, characterized by gradually warming temperatures and variable weather. March and April see a mix of snow and rain, with temperatures ranging from the 40s to 60s Fahrenheit (4 to 15°C). By May, temperatures typically reach the 60s and 70s Fahrenheit (15 to 25°C), and the region begins to green as trees and flowers bloom. Spring is also a time of increased agricultural activity, with farmers preparing fields and planting crops.

Summers in Rexburg are warm and relatively dry, with average highs in the 80s Fahrenheit (27-32°C) and occasional peaks into the 90s (32-37°C). July is usually the hottest month, with average temperatures around 85°F (29°C). The low humidity during the summer months makes the heat more bearable, and cool evenings provide relief from the daytime warmth. Summer is also the driest season, with limited rainfall and abundant sunshine, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and camping.

Fall in Rexburg is marked by gradually cooling temperatures and vibrant foliage. September and October see temperatures ranging from the 70s to 50s Fahrenheit (21 to 10°C), with crisp, clear days and cool nights. Fall is a beautiful time of year in Rexburg, as the leaves of deciduous trees turn shades of red, orange, and yellow, creating a colorful landscape. The season also brings the harvest of crops, including potatoes, a staple of Idaho’s agricultural output.

The unique climate of Rexburg, with its cold winters and warm summers, has significant implications for agriculture, water management, and daily life. The region’s farmers must carefully manage irrigation and planting schedules to adapt to the seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation. Additionally, the distinct seasons offer a variety of recreational opportunities, from winter sports to summer outdoor activities.


Rexburg is situated in the Upper Snake River Valley of southeastern Idaho, an area characterized by its fertile plains, rolling hills, and proximity to significant natural landmarks. The city is located along the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, a vital waterway that has shaped the region’s geography and development.

One of the most notable geographical features near Rexburg is the Teton Range, located to the east of the city. The Tetons are part of the larger Rocky Mountain range and are known for their rugged peaks, including the iconic Grand Teton. The mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the city and offer a range of outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, climbing, and skiing. The proximity of the Tetons also influences the local climate, contributing to the area’s snowfall and weather patterns.

Another significant geographical feature is the Snake River Plain, a broad, flat valley that stretches across southern Idaho. The plain is the result of ancient volcanic activity and is characterized by its rich, fertile soil, making it an important agricultural region. The Snake River itself is a major waterway that flows through the plain, providing essential water resources for irrigation and supporting the region’s agriculture.

Rexburg’s landscape is also marked by numerous canyons, rivers, and reservoirs. The Henry’s Fork of the Snake River flows through the city, creating a picturesque setting and providing opportunities for fishing, boating, and other water-based activities. The river is known for its excellent trout fishing, attracting anglers from around the region. Additionally, the nearby St. Anthony Sand Dunes, a unique landscape of shifting sand dunes, offers opportunities for off-road vehicle recreation and exploration.

The surrounding agricultural land is a testament to Rexburg’s roots in farming and ranching. The fertile soil and effective irrigation systems support a diverse range of crops, including potatoes, barley, wheat, and alfalfa. The agricultural industry is a cornerstone of the local economy, providing employment and supporting related businesses and services. Farmers in the region have developed innovative techniques to manage water resources and maximize crop yields, contributing to Rexburg’s reputation as a leader in agricultural production.

In addition to its natural and agricultural landscapes, Rexburg is also characterized by its urban development and infrastructure. The city’s layout includes a mix of residential neighborhoods, commercial districts, and public spaces. Rexburg’s downtown area is a hub of activity, featuring shops, restaurants, cultural institutions, and public spaces that foster community engagement and economic vitality. The presence of BYU-Idaho significantly influences the city’s character, with the university’s campus and facilities integrated into the urban landscape.

The surrounding region also includes significant geological features, such as the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, located to the southwest of Rexburg. This unique landscape, formed by volcanic activity, consists of vast lava fields, cinder cones, and rugged terrain that offer a stark contrast to the agricultural plains. The area is a popular destination for hiking, caving, and exploring the volcanic history of southeastern Idaho.

Overall, the geography of Rexburg is a blend of natural beauty, agricultural productivity, and urban development. The city’s location in the Upper Snake River Valley, combined with its access to water resources and fertile land, has shaped its growth and development over the past century. The diverse landscape offers a wide range of recreational opportunities and contributes to Rexburg’s appeal as a place to live, work, and visit.

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