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Area History

Sandpoint has been known as one of the most enduring towns in Idaho and it has a very rich background. The first known inhabitants were the Native Americans that made up the Salish tribe. These tribes would travel to the area during the summer months to harvest fruit, fis,h and enjoy the temperate climate. They would typically return to their native hunting grounds in the fall, and this practice would continue for many years, until the area became settled. Although much of its history is rough and wild, today, Sandpoint is considered to be the cultural capital of Idaho. It is now even home to an annual film festival and much like the tribes of yesteryear, today’s visitors come during the summer months to get away from it all.

Development was slow and in 1888 Theodore Roosevelt, who was on an expedition in the area, stop in the area. He would later write about his time spent in Sandpoint, describing both the rugged terrain and people. As more settlers braved the western frontier, the area began to be called home by thousands of new settlers. Since the area was naturally rich in forests, some of the first inhabitants were employees of logging companies. Most came from the Midwestern regions of the United States and to this day, many of the same camps are in operation.

As logging became more popular, thanks in part to the town’s proximity to Lake Pend Oreille, plots of land with nothing on it but tree stumps were eventually sold as “stump ranches.” This left the new owners with the responsibility of clearing the stumps on their own and gradually, agriculture would become more important. As the ranches opened up, the nearby towns grew and more settlers flooded into the area. Growth was steady throughout the early part of the 20th century, but really took off once the Schweitzer Mountain Resort was opened in 1964. Travelers from all over the world would stop by at any time of the year for rest and relaxation.

That is not to say that Sandpoint has been free of controversy over the years. Recently, the Aryan Nation set up a camp in the area, and got into a legal battle with the residents of Sandpoint, who were not happy about this new development. Over the course of many legal battles, the camp was closed down and the area is has returned to its peaceful state.

The new film festival, the Schweitzer Lakedance International Film Festival, which is held at the famous Schweizter Mountain Resort, has cemented the town’s new cultural bent. Gone are the days of the wild west and frontier mentality, but you can still find vestiges in the ranches and old town areas in the town. Accessing Sandpoint has been made much easier than in the past, thanks in a large part to the railroad and Amtrak service, as well as the surrounding regional and international airports. Travelers from across the world stop by during all seasons to experience the truly unique atmosphere that can only be found right here in Idaho.