A Look Back In Time - Old Town, ID
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BK-Hunters
N 48° 11.139 W 117° 01.832
11U E 497730 N 5336935
Quick Description: In Rotary Park on the Right Bank of the Pend Oreille River in Old Town, ID are two kiosks containing no less than ten signs of history. This sign tells of old time transportation on the Pend Oreille.
Location: Idaho, United States
Date Posted: 3/25/2015 3:09:00 PM
Waymark Code: WMNJY8
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member muddawber
Views: 1

Long Description:
The Pend Oreille River ...
A Look Back In Time

The Pend Oreille Valley was the last frontier in Washington State to be settled, and for many years, the Pend Oreille River was the main highway throughout Pend Oreille County. From 1887 to 1909, steamboats transported passengers, mail, and freight, with regular stops at the dozen or so tiny communities along the river. The steamboats would also make special stops for ranchers or small boat traffic when they were signaled.

In 1907, mail was delivered by steamboat to 17 post offices between Newport and Metaline Falls. This was a vast improvement from earlier years, when the residents of the Metaline area received their mail in Sandpoint, 120 miles upstream.

Though not without its perils, water travel was convenient, scenic, and clean (unlike the early roads, where travel was marred by ruts and dust.) The narrows at Box Canyon was a major obstacle for north-south river travel. In 1899, the U.S. Government began working on the river to widen narrow channels and remove sandbars.

In 1907, the treacherous channel at Box Canyon was blasted and cleared. Safe and reliable boat service from Newport, north to the Metaline Landing and Carr's Landing at Metaline Falls, opened up further development of the county.

The Ione, a 175-foot wood stern wheeler, was owned by the Idaho and Washington Northern Railroad Company and operated by Fredrick Blackwell. The "Floating Palace", as the Ione was called, graced the waters of the Pend Oreille River from 1908 to 1910, when it was laid up, and finally dismantled in 1917.

The Ione often carried between 450 to 500 passengers on Sunday excursions. The passengers would ride the train from Spokane and take the boat down the river to different communities. The round trip from Spokane to Ione or Box Canyon cost $5.00. The steamer had a freight deck, passenger deck, ladies parlor, dining room, and several state rooms. A band from Newport often entertained passengers on the trip.

The steamboat Spokane was brought to the Pend Oreille River from Flathead Lake in Montana by Joe and Fred Cusick in 1904. The Spokane was 150 feet in length, boasted a 300-ton freight capacity, 16 staterooms, as well as quarters for the crew and captain. It had a licensed passenger capacity of 350 persons. From 1904 to 1909, it was used as a freight and mail boat as well as a passenger boat on the Pend Oreille. In 1909, the Spokane became the property of the Panhandle Lumber Company, where it was operated as a tugboat, until it was retired in 1919 or 1920.

The Columbia, a 100-foot wood screw steamboat, was owned and operated by George H. Jones of Usk. Jones and his friend and river boat competitor, Joe Cusick. both sponsored baseball teams. The Usk team was called the Usk Reds, and the Cusick team was called the Cusick Indians. The teams played each other on Sundays during the summer. Baseball was a huge attraction, and the games were such big events that the steamboats ran special excursion trips from Newport, so the citizens from the whole area could attend. The Metaline was owned and operated by Captain Napoleon LeClerc. It had a tubular boiler and a triple expansion engine placed near midship. The Metaline was retired in 1909.

Since the river often froze over during the winter, river traffic was handicapped by ice. Consequently, there was pressure to build roads and a railroad line, which when completed, dealt the death blow to the romantic days of steamboats on the Pend Oreille River. Transportation by steamboat simply could not compete with the railroads. Many river boats were converted to tugs and employed in the service of lumber companies, whose operations lined the river. The last recorded steamboat on the Pend Oreille River ceased operations on October 21, 1909.

Ferries across the Pend Oreille River were located at Newport, Dalkena, Usk, Ruby, Ione, and Metaline Falls. They operated from approximately 1891 to 1927, depending on the location.

Fees for the ferries varied, but were most commonly 25 cents for cars and wagons; 10 cents per passenger, and an extra 50 cents after 9:00 p.m. The ferryman was on duty 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Generally, the ferries were operated at the various locations until bridges were built.
From the History Marker

Photo goes Here

Marker Name: A Look Back In Time

Marker Type: City

Marker Text:
See Above

County: Bonner

City: Old Town

Date Dedicated: 2008

Group Responsible for Placement: The Pend Oreille Public Utility District

Web link(s) for additional information:

Marker Number: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
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