The Northern Steamer of Lake Pend Oreille

The Northern Steamer

The Northern Steamboat was a 102 foot propeller driven double decker steamer that plied the waters of Lake Pend Oreille from 1908 until 1930 when it was destroyed by fire.

The Northern Steamer of Lake Pend Oreille

All aboard! The well-dressed group of Sandpoint socialites gathered their box lunches and ventured onto the open decks of the impressive steamer, The Northern. Today’s excursion will be a picnic lunch at one of the small communities along the eastern shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Normally the vessel made a daily trip from Sandpoint located at the northern tip of Lake Pend Oreille to Bayview at the southern tip of the lake. Many dignitaries enjoyed the views across the large lake from the spacious decks. But none were as famous as the unexpected visitor, President Theodore Roosevelt, in early April 1911.

Roosevelt had stopped to spend the day in Sandpoint. After speaking to a group at the Central School and having lunch at a local restaurant, the president was escorted to the Sandpoint city dock for a tour of Lake Pend Oreille via a steamboat.

The Northern was one of the over 100 steamboats that plied the waters of Lake Pend Oreille between 1866 and 1930. The 102’ screw propelled steamboat was built in Sandpoint by the Northern Navigation Company at the present day site of the Sandpoint City Beach in 1908. It was a double deck vessel that housed a ballroom for dancing and live entertainment, an orthophonic (electric powered) phonograph, and seating on the stern for picnics.

While The Northern excelled in entertainment and excursions around the lake, it’s primary role was transportation of mail and freight. The Northern Navigation Company was awarded the U.S. mail contract between Sandpoint, Hope and Bayview. During the early 1900’s the only mode of transportation to many of the communities was by water. Stops were made for mail and freight at Lakeview, Granite Creek, Bayview, Midas (now Garfield Bay), Glengary and Hope.

The Northern’s 20 year reign on Lake Pend Oreille came to an abrupt end on Saturday, November 12, 1927due to a fire. The fire department responded but by the time the pressure pump could be started the vessel was a total loss. No other steamboat was able to fill the void left by The Northern. The arrival of the automobile, roads and trains created a cheaper and faster way to move people and freight causing the decline of the use of the steamboats. Today the mail is still delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to the east side of the lake by Scott Bjergo in his 22’ Duckworth boat.

Images

The Northern steamboat on Lake Pend Oreille.

The Northern steamboat on Lake Pend Oreille.

The Northern Steamer on Lake Pend Oreille (1908 to 1927). The 102™ Steamboat was popular for daily and evening excursions on the lake. The Northern was also used to transport freight and livestock across the lake. Photograph courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

The Northern steamboat at the Sandpoint city dock.

The Northern steamboat at the Sandpoint city dock.

The Northern Steamer docked at the Sandpoint City Docs. A horse drawn dray ready to transport freight to local businesses. Courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

The Northern steamboat at the Lakeview doc.

The Northern steamboat at the Lakeview doc.

The Northern steamer arrived at Lakeview, Idaho for a day excursion. Families, clubs and groups of prominent residents would charter the vessel for a picnic at Lakeview. The round trip took the majority of the day. The dock at Lakeview was little more than planks of wood extended from the shoreline. Because the steamer was a propeller driven vessel it could easily get closer to land. Courtesy of Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

Lake Pend Oreille steamer excursion in the Sandpoint paper.

Lake Pend Oreille steamer excursion in the Sandpoint paper.

An ad for an excursion from Sandpoint to Lakeview and return run on The Ponderay steamboat in the Pend Oreille Review newspaper on Thursday, May 10, 1906. Between 1900 and 1934 there were over 100 steamboats on Lake Pend Oreille and the Pend Oreille River at one time or another. Steamboats were involved in logging, mail delivery, freight, transportation of people and animals and pleasure trips. Lakeview was a popular destination for outings. View File Details Page

The Steamboat Idaho at the Coeur d' Alene docks

The Steamboat Idaho at the Coeur d' Alene docks

The Steamboat Idaho at the docks in Coeur d™ Alene, Idaho circa 1910. There were several, larger excursion boats on Lake Coeur d™ Alene that served meals during the outings. The electric train would bring people out on the dock to the boarding dock of the steamboats. Tubbs hill is to the left of this picture. The boardwalk now replaces this dock. Courtesy of the Museum of North Idaho. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Mary Garrison, “The Northern Steamer of Lake Pend Oreille,” Spokane Historical, accessed July 22, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/577.
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