Horseshoe Bend is the largest town in rural Boise County, in southwestern Idaho. Its population of 770 at the 2000 census was the largest in the county. It is part of the Boise City–Nampa, Idaho Metropolitan Statistical Area. The elevation of the town is 2604 feet (793 m) above sea level and is named for its location at the horseshoe-shaped U-turn of the Payette River, whose flow direction changes from south to north before heading west to the Black Canyon Reservoir. The area was originally settled as a gold miners' staging area, as prospectors waited along the river for snows to thaw at the higher elevations. Gold had been discovered in 1862 in the Boise Basin mountains to the east, near Idaho City. The settlement became known as Warrinersville, after a local sawmill operator. The name was changed to Horseshoe Bend in 1867, and after the gold rush quieted, the town became a prosperous ranching and logging community. The railroad, from Emmett up to Long Valley following the Payette River (its North Fork above Banks), was completed in 1913. Horseshoe Bend sits along Highway 55, the primary north-south route out of Boise, 23 miles (37 km) to the south and accessed over the 4242 foot (1293 m) Spring Valley summit. Within an hour's drive north of Horseshoe Bend are the outdoor recreational areas of the Payette River basin, including Cascade, Tamarack Resort, and McCall. Highway 55 was designated the "Payette River Scenic Byway" in 1977. In 1998 the town's primary employer, Boise Cascade, closed its sawmill on September 30. Horseshoe Bend has attempted to become the county seat of Boise County, replacing historic Idaho City. Horseshoe Bend's current culture is a blend of ranching and a growing bedroom community for Boise. Its annual events include a banjo festival in late May, the national senior pro rodeo in June, and a fall festival in October. A scenic railroad, the Thunder Mountain Line, is based in town.