The towns of Eagle and Star both owe their existence to early homesteading farmers who took advantage of the rich land along the Boise River. In Eagle, those first residents settled on and around Eagle Island, which they named for the numerous bald eagles that nested there, and the name was eventually extended to the township.
Star was originally founded in 1863, one mile east of its current location, but for early residents, coming up with a name was a little more challenging. Finally, when the first school in the area was built in the early 1870s, a wooden star was nailed to the door. The landmark became synonymous with the town.
Over time, Star and Eagle have shared many parallels, both creating extensive irrigation systems, both benefiting greatly from the electric trolley line that once connected Boise with Nampa and Caldwell via Eagle, Star and Middleton, and both fighting over the location of the first bridge spanning the Boise River west of Boise. Eagle won out due in large part to one Eagle resident who brought voters to the polls with a wagon ride and the promise of a picnic lunch.
But in recent decades, the two towns' paths have taken decidedly different courses.
Eagle, which didn't incorporate as a town until 1971, has transformed from a sleepy farm town people passed through into the honorary home of the McMansion.
The town has boomed in population as it has gone all upper crust, with galleries, posh eateries and boutique stores now filling the downtown area that was once home to general and feed stores.
Diners flock to the river side patios and the Greenbelt, which now links up all the way to Boise. Wine lovers make pilgrimages to the vineyards springing up north of town, especially Woodriver Cellars (3705 N. Highway 16), which regularly hosts outdoor concerts and wine dinners.
The newly opened Eagle River Pavilion (827 E. Riverside Drive) has already been attracting both big name performers and high praise from audiences.
Each Saturday, the Eagle Farmers Market (at Second and State streets) draws shoppers from around the area to the downtown core, while mountain bikers flock to the impressive collection of new Foothills single tracks at the Eagle Bike Park (just off Horseshoe Bend Way).
Of course, people can always head back to where it started, Eagle Island State Park, but now there's the draw of a water slide instead of manual farm labor.
While Eagle has gone all big city, Star has remained a relatively sleepy hamlet, where agriculture and ranching still play a large role. Of course, there are also the trophy homes that line the river, including that of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The town has been working toward developing a riverside path of its own, maybe someday giving bikers a way to rack up more miles.
To see just how far Eagle has come from its original roots, stop by the Eagle Historical Museum (67 E. State St.) and peruse the collection of historic photographs.
It's the kind of place that still celebrates the Fourth of July with a quilt show, a pie contest, a barbecue and a parade.