Monday, September 21, 2009

Beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene

Here's a photo Dad took from the point of Tubbs Hill in the early 60's. Didn't it look like a sleepy, laid back lake? Not many houses and hills were covered with trees, not dotted with the homes of affluent transients like today. And sailboats were quiet and graceful as they navigated the blue waters, now wake strewn from countless ski boats and jet skis on any given summer day.
Is Coeur d'Alene one of the seven most beautiful lakes in the world? Supposedly attributed to National Geographic, some years ago I wrote them and was informed that they had never ranked "beautiful lakes". Dad used the line promoting the area in the 50's and 60's but I'd guess he never tracked down the validity of the declaration. Some things are best left alone.
The claim was actually early tourism hype first pushed by the railroads and steamboat lines that served the thousands upon thousands they served in the early years of the 1900's. There was big money in transporting tourists to and around lake Coeur d'Alene. If you think Lake Coeur d'Alene is beautiful now, imagine how people viewed it then, with its crystal clear waters, mountains densely covered with stands of timber and abundant fish and wildlife.
The Red Collar Line and White Star Navigation Company were rivals for these passengers and boasted beautiful steamboats that could carry hundreds of passengers. The sidewheeler Idaho could board up to a thousand. Hauling equipment, supplies, settlers and loggers most days, Sundays found trainloads of people coming from Spokane and the Palouse to spend the day on the steamers as they cruised the lake, sometimes to visit the Old Mission (prior to being moved to it's present elevated location). Round trip tickets were $1.25 to St. Maries and $1.75 to St, Joe, a one time bustling and roughneck city that doesn't even exist today.
Red Collar owned the main dock where the Electric Line brought trainloads of people right up to the boats. The shenanigans between Red Collar and White Star seem humorous now but dangerous and cutthroat back in the day. Stories of "stealing" passengers were common as were dock scuffles, boats being driven into shallow water on the St. Joe, races between boats filled with cheering passengers across the lake and even one boat "accidentally" (on purpose?) ramming and sinking a rival boat. The Red Collar Line won the war and during it's heydays between 1908 and 1913 they had near 50 boats of various sizes plying the waters.
Next time you're in Hudson's, take pause to really look at the old photos on the wall. And if you want to know more about this amazing history of our area, seek out Steamboats in the Timber by Ruby El Hult. Written in 1952, I found this one of the most interesting books I've ever read.


  1. Great stuff Dave! I really enjoy the old pictures. Thanks for sharing them with us :)

  2. Thanks Amy, glad you enjoy them. There's more to come.

  3. Great photos. I am looking for some old photos I have seen of things CDA. One is an old guy in a row boat fishing with a cocker sitting over his shoulder. Another is a couple of young woment in period shorts and tops holding fish they supposedly caught on the lake. They do not have to be these particular photos but I have a hallway I would like to hang pictures like this on. Do you know where I should look to buy these?

  4. Onward and thru the Fog ?? Fernan Rifle Range 1970s Chevy Nova