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.