Sandpoint, Idaho has been called the “most beautiful town in America” by Rand McNally and USA Today. When you visit, you’ll understand why. The town sits along the shores of the 43-mile long Lake Pend Oreille, surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains. Sandpoint is an Idahoan’s paradise. You’ll find a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities for every season, as well as a rich and thriving arts and cultural community. At the heart of Sandpoint, Idaho, you’ll find the Bonner County History Museum, where you can discover the history of the area, and see how it has grown and changed.
When you watch the history of Northern Idaho come to life right before you, you know that the Bonner County History Museum is something special. It’s a labor of love, and that love and dedication is apparent with the immaculate displays and exhibits that tell the story of Bonner County’s history and culture.
As you walk through the Bonner County History Museum, you are walking through time. You’ll encounter exhibits that you bring you back the floods from the ice age, and how they shaped the land we live on. You will experience what the early days were like for the Kalispel and Kootenai people. Learn about what life was like during the heyday of the fur trading industry, the steamboat era, and the log drives.
When you explore the museum, you’ll discover how Sandpoint grew into the resort destination that it is. It began as shacks along the railroad, and now it has grown into the most beautiful town in the nation. You’ll learn about the myriad of logging, mining, agriculture, and railroad communities that are spread across the roads of Bonner County.
You’ll find a unique exhibit in the Bonner County History Museum. You’ll find two of the first boats that were ever used at Lake Pend Oreille. The first of these early canoes was often called “sturgeon-nosed.” This canoe is 17 feet long, in the style of the Kalispel and Salish. It was created using one piece of White Pine bark. The styling and creation of this canoe is unique. It was created by the Salish-speaking people of the Inland Northwest, and this canoe styling is not found anywhere else.
The second canoe at the exhibit is a replica of the first cedar plank canoe that was built for an incredible journey. The original was built by David Thompson, a fur agent and cartographer for the North West Company. He used the canoe to travel from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, by way of Lake Pend Oreille. This voyage took place in 1811.
While the museum holds many wonderful exhibits and artifacts from the past, it also holds a more personal history. There are many people that visit Sandpoint and the Bonner County History Museum in search of family history. The museum is an excellent resource for tracing your family’s past, or for just learning more about the area. You’ll find that the museum maintains an extensive research archive, filled with thousands of historic maps, documents, newspapers, and even photographs. Much of the research materials that the museum has were donated by residents of Sandpoint. The community has helped the museum grow, and they have aided its mission to preserve history and to make it available to the public.
The history of Bonner County isn’t solely contained inside the museum, however. Head outside to enjoy the beautiful park and enjoy the nearby Lake Pend Oreille. You can enjoy a casual walk through the park and the arboretum. Nearby, you’ll discover the historic log cabin. The arboretum was established in 1999 by the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society. You’ll find labeled native trees and plants in the arboretum, growing in seven different habitat botanical gardens.
The Lakeview Park also features a playground for children, as well as picnic tables in the shade of towering pine trees. Whether by yourself or with your family, the Bonner County History Museum is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. After the museum, you can enjoy the relaxing park and arboretum. All the while, the Lake Pend Oreille will be lapping quietly at the shores.
Since you’re in the downtown of Sandpoint, Idaho, after visiting the museum you might as well enjoy the rest of the town. You’ll find delightful restaurants, craft breweries, and a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Sandpoint is a fantastic town, and the Bonner County History Museum tells the town’s story.