Long before the Europeans invaded north Idaho, the semi nomadic hunting/digging/fishing Kalispel Tribe made the shores of Lake Pend Oreille their home. These “Canoe People” or “Lake Paddlers,” as they were called by neighboring tribes, established several special camps and meeting areas in Bonner County. One was the meadows at the mouth of the Clark Fork River (Nacemci) and another was the Qapquape or sandy place near the mouth of Sand Creek. Pow wows and gatherings were held in Clark fork until the 1950’s. However, the Sand Creek meeting place was not used after the 1930’s partially because of the recent arrival of Europeans.
Settlers started moving to the land around the mouth of Sand Creek in the 1890’s. Some sources indicate Sand Point (now Sandpoint) was named by David Thompson, a fur trader, when he passed through the area about 1809. But the name could have also been an adaptation of Qapquape. The town leaders realized this sandy point would be an ideal place to build a city beach and park to draw in tourists. The planning of this new beach started in 1915. The Northern Pacific Railroad leased the land to Sandpoint for the use of a public park in 1922. The plan was not set in motion until 1939 when Franklin D Roosevelt approved the request to have WPA (Works Progress Administration) fund the beach project for $61,949. Dredging equipment was brought in to move sand from the lake bottom to the beach site to raise the land above the high water mark. The fight began! In the fall the equipment moved the sand to the beach and in the spring the lake reclaimed the sand. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when the Cabinet Gorge and Albeni Falls dames were built and the beach flooding issue was solved.
From 1959 to present the local chapter of the Lions Club and the city of Sandpoint have improved the area with playground equipment, tennis courts, a beach club house and many other features. Today the 18 acre park hosts dances, art & craft fairs and the 4th of July fireworks. The one event still missing from the beach is the Kalispel Indian pow wows.
Lake Pend Oreille offers a variety of recreational activities including boating, swimming and fishing for the Kamloop trout and the Kokanee salmon. Much of that activity is focused in or around the city beach. The Sandpoint city beach has become the tourist destination that the early town leaders envisioned.