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Bonners Ferry along Kootenai River

Bonners Ferry is in northern Idaho.



Kootenai Tribe

On September 20, 1974, the Kootenai Tribe, headed by chairwoman Amy Trice, declared war on the United States government. Their first act was to post soldiers on each end of the highway that runs through the town and they asked people, to pay a toll to drive through what had been the tribe’s aboriginal land. The money would be used to house and care for elderly tribal members. Most tribes in the United States are forbidden to declare war on the U.S. government because of treaties, but the Kootenai Tribe never signed a treaty. The dispute resulted in the concession by the United States government and a land grant of 12.5 acres that is now the Kootenai Reservation.

A lonely cartographer from the North West Company first arrived here in 1808 and set up a trading post. Then Jesuit Priest Father DeSmet showed up in 1846 to work with the Kootenai tribe. But it was in 1863 when things really took off, as prospectors scampered north along the Wildhorse Trail to reach the goldfields in the Kootenays of British Columbia. That's when Edwin Bonner decided to set up a ferry here in 1864.

By the 1880s and 90s, a steamer and freight train were transporting freight and passengers between places. The village of Bonners Ferry was formally established in 1893, on stilts along the south bank of the Kootenai River to guard against spring flooding, with a smattering of ranches and homesteads along the valley and benchland and numerous mines, including the Continental Mine in the Selkirks, in the hills nearby. The lumber industry also grew rapidly.

By the 20th century, the Kootenai valley land was drained and managed with levees to become the "Nile of the North", while the Bonners Ferry Lumber Company grew to be one of the world's largest lumber mills. Brick buildings were constructed in town, and the Libby Dam was built in 1975 to lessen the threat of serious flooding. Much of Main Street construction dates from this time.

Get in


Get around





  • 1 Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, 287 West Side Rd, +1 208-267-3888. Here among wetlands and terrain along the Kootenai River you may see bald eagles, osprey, beaver, and deer. The Myrtle Creek Waterfall trail is especially recommended.











Go next

Routes through Bonners Ferry
SpokaneSandpoint  W  E  TroyKalispell
Cranbrook ← becomes ← Jct N  N  S  SandpointCoeur d'Alene

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