Resources and Information

Sandpoint and Surrounding Area


Physical Setting

Sandpoint is located in the Panhandle of North Idaho on the northern shore of Lake Pend Oreille and at the foot of the Selkirk Mountains. Many visitors get their first view of Sandpoint as they drive the Long Bridge on Highway 95 that crosses the lake. From this vantage point they can get a sense of the size of the lake, the beauty of the surrounding mountains and the idyllic setting of the town. For many, this view sells them on Sandpoint forever.

Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Pon-duh-ray) is the largest natural body of fresh water in Idaho and one of the largest in the Western United States. It is over 43 miles in length, is 6.5 miles in width at its widest point, and has over 111 miles of shoreline. Most amazingly, the lake is over 1,100 feet deep in places and is the home to a variety of fish including world-record size Kamloops and Mackinaw. Summer pool level is 2,062.5 ft.

Lake Pend Oreille is a remnant of a huge lake that once extended from the Canadian border down through the Purcell Trench (the route of Highway 95) to the area of Spokane. Receding glaciers dammed the trench near Bayview and formed what we now call Lake Pend Oreille.

Salish Tribes, specifically the Kalispel, and the Kootenai, built encampments on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille every summer, fished, made baskets of cedar, and collected huckleberries before returning to either Montana or Washington in the fall. The encampments ended before 1930.

The region was extensively explored by David Thompson of the North West Company starting in 1807. Disputed joint British/American occupation of the Columbia District led to the Oregon boundary dispute. This controversy ended in 1846 with the signing of the Oregon Treaty, whereby Britain ceded all rights to land south of the 49th parallel.

In the 1880s, the Northern Pacific Railroad brought European and Chinese settlement to the area.


In August 1888, 29-year-old author and civil servant Theodore Roosevelt visited Sandpoint on a caribou-hunting trip in the Selkirk Mountains.[6] Roosevelt documented what a rough-and-tumble environment "Sand Point" was at that time (and for many decades following). Sandpoint was officially incorporated in 1898.

Timber harvesting and railroads drove the economy for nearly a century as loggers moved in from the over-harvested Great Lakes region. 

The opening of Schweitzer Mountain Resort in 1963 turned the area into a year-round tourism destination. The beauty of the surrounding Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille has kept Sandpoint a tourist favorite for water sports, hunting, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and skiing.

Community organizations stage a number of regionally known annual events, including Sandpoint Winter Carnival in February; the Lost in the 50s vintage car show in May; and the Festival at Sandpoint summer music festival in August. Sandpoint's historic vaudeville-era Panida Theater hosts frequent performing art events and an ongoing independent film series. The Music Conservatory of Sandpoint provides classical music classes and inaugurated its "Little Carnegie" concert hall in 2022.[9] A robust visual arts community supported by the Pend Oreille Arts Council also contributes to Sandpoint's reputation as a center for arts and culture in northern Idaho and the Inland Northwest. The economy was given a boost during World War II from Farragut Naval Station, a training center for the US Navy located at the southwestern end of Lake Pend Oreille.


The Weather

Sandpoint is blessed with a true four-season climate that is much more moderate than that found farther east of the Rockies. There is neither extremely hot nor cold weather. Usually, there are only a few sub-zero days each winter while summer has equally few days on which the temperature rises above 90 degrees. Nights are generally cool. The average year-round temperature is 47 degrees and there are an average of 125 frost-free days each year.

Precipitation averages about 31 inches per year. Snow during November, December, January, February, and March averages 64 inches per year. The heaviest precipitation comes during the winter months while summer is the driest, when weeks of consecutive clear, sunny days are not uncommon.



Sandpoint is located at the crossroads of federal and state highways. U.S. Highway 95 passes through Sandpoint from north to south. U.S. Highway 2 runs east to west and connects Sandpoint to Spokane to the west and Montana to the east. Highway 200 connects Sandpoint with Missoula, Montana. Below are approximate highway mileages to major cities:

  • Boise,      ID – 450 mi.
  • Portland      – 400 mi.
  • Butte,      MT – 340 mi.
  • Seattle      – 350 mi.
  • Calgary,      Alberta – 425 mi.
  • Spokane      – 80 mi.
  • Missoula,      MT – 200 mi.
  • Coeur      d’Alene – 45 mi.

Sandpoint is also situated on three major railroad lines. It has the only Amtrak passenger service in Idaho with a daily train to Seattle and Portland to the west and Chicago to the east.

The Sandpoint Airport has a 5,500-foot paved runway rated u to 40,000 pounds gross weight single-wheel load. An instrumentation approach allows Sandpoint to handle commercial airline flights in addition to landing corporate jets. Spokane International Airport, 80 miles away, serves 10 major airlines and provides regularly scheduled flights to destinations anywhere in the world.

Local public transportation is now provided by North Idaho Community Express in Sandpoint, which has regular, fixed routes from Sandpoint to Coeur d’Alene and within Sandpoint.



The Sandpoint area economy has traditionally been based on the timber industry. Forest products presently account for over 20 percent of the Bonner County payroll. Production is now above pre-recession levels of the early 80s.

Tourism is the other important industry in the area. Each summer sees an influx of visitors who come to enjoy the fishing and boating on Lake Pend Oreille, to hike and mountain bike in the surrounding mountains, and golf at Hidden Lakes Golf Resort.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort has developed into a true year-round destination with the addition of a high-speed quad and six-pack chair, lights for night skiing and a new hotel. Schweitzer has become a regional destination that draws an average of 220,000 skier visits per season. In summertime, it blossoms into a summer resort with hiking, horseback riding, chairlift rides, paintball, disc golf and much more.

Perhaps the most important development for the long-term health of the Sandpoint area economy has been the location of a variety of manufacturers in the area, employing more than 1,900 people. Many are employed at companies including Lake Pend Oreille School DistrictUnicepThorne ResearchEncoderLitehouseLead-LokSchweitzer MountainTransluSenseDiedrich ManufacturingQuest Aircraft, PercussionaireCygnus and Bonner General Hospital and growing medical community. While unemployment in Bonner County still runs above national averages and per capita income remains substantially lower, the local economy has dramatically improved and the future looks bright.


Sandpoint's major economic contributors include forest products, light manufacturing, tourism, recreation and government services. As the largest service center in the two northern Idaho counties (Bonner and Boundary), as well as northwestern Montana, it has an active retail sector.

Sandpoint lies on the shores of Idaho's largest lake, 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille, and is surrounded by three major mountain ranges, the SelkirkCabinet and Bitterroot ranges. It is home to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho's largest ski resort, and is on the International Selkirk Loop and two National Scenic Byways (Wild Horse Trail and Pend Oreille Scenic Byway). Among other distinctions awarded by national media in the past decade, in 2011 Sandpoint was named the nation's "Most Beautiful Small Town" by Rand McNally and USA Today.


Bonner General Hospital, an accredited, full-service, acute-care hospital, provides medical care to Bonner and Boundary counties and to residents of Western Montana. The 48-bed hospital offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient services including surgery, radiology, ultra-sound diagnosis, mammography, CT scan, MRI, intensive and coronary care, nuclear medicine, speech therapy, occupational therapy, interventional cardiology, physical therapy and a compounding pharmacy. The hospital also provides a physician-staffed emergency room and a family-centered birthing room.

Sandpoint’s medical community includes more than 40 physicians and 16 dentists. Specializations include orthodontics, dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedic surgery, vascular surgery, sports medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine and family practice. Sandpoint also has a variety of home health care resources available to those who need them.

Sandpoint offers every level of care for the seniors. The 55 units at Alpine Vista Apartments were created to give seniors an independent living situation while providing meals, transportation, and 24-hour emergency assistance. Other assisted living facilities include Beehive Homes, with a full-time nurse and activities director, and Huckleberry Retirement IIValley Care Center provides shelter care and 24-hour nursing care in its 60 rooms. Life Care Center and The Bridge Assisted Living offers short- and long-term convalescent care with 24-hour nursing staff. Home health care is also available through Alternative Health CareAngel AidesBonner General Hospital and others.

Local medical resources are augmented by Spokane’s nationally recognized medical services with emergency transport provided by specially equipped helicopters.


The City of Sandpoint is the largest of the four incorporated cities at the heart of Bonner County. The others are Dover to the west of Sandpoint and Ponderay and Kootenai to the north and east. Each is governed by a Mayor and City Council. Bonner County, of which Sandpoint is the county seat, is governed by a three-member commission.

Both the city of Sandpoint and the county have full-time planners who work with appointed planning commissions on the development of planning objectives and zoning ordinances. Anyone considering building is directed to them for help in beginning the application process. A resource for finding contractors, the Sandpoint Plan Center is located at the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce at 900 North Fifth Ave.

Idaho taxes are among the lowest in the country. Property taxes within the City of Sandpoint are about 1.8 percent of assessed market value; county taxes are approximately one percent. Idaho’s income tax code follows federal guidelines with graduated rates that range from 1.6 percent to 7.8 percent. Sales tax is currently 6 percent.


Within minutes of Sandpoint, there are virtually unlimited recreational opportunities. During winter, the slopes of Schweitzer Mountain Resort beckon. With the installation of a high-speed quad and six-pack chair, night skiing, a new lodge and hotel to go with 2,400 vertical feet, two bowls, and great powder, Schweitzer is without doubt the Inland Northwest’s outstanding ski resort.

Cross country skiing, snowmobiling, ice-skating and ice fishing round out the winter recreational opportunities. During the summer months, most activities focus on Lake Pend Oreille or the forests surrounding the town. Fishing, sailing, lake cruises, kayak tours, water-skiing and swimming appeal to residents and visitors alike. Sandpoint’s City Beach is a beautiful place to enjoy the summer sun. Hikers can get their fill on many trails and logging roads in the surrounding mountains or ride Schweitzer ski lifts for a spectacular view.

Golfers can test their skill at the highly acclaimed 18-hole Hidden Lakes Golf Resort or play a quick 9 holes at the Elks Golf Course. Two more 18-hole courses are found within the county at Priest Lake Golf Course in Coolin and StoneRidge Resort Golf in Blanchard. Another 9-hole course is located about 30 miles north of Sandpoint, Mirror Lake Golf in Bonners Ferry. Spring and fall are the best times of year for Sandpoint’s hunters and fishermen. Throughout the fall, hunters head into the mountains seeking deer, elk and the occasional bear, while fishermen are out on the lake pursuing world-record size Kamloops.


Lake Pend Oreille School District No. 84 provides educational services to the eastern half of Bonner County. Approximately 3,600 students kindergarten through grade 12 are enrolled in 11 schools. A senior high, an “alternative high school,” middle school and three elementary schools are located within Sandpoint itself. The Sandpoint Charter School is a public school serving about 140 students in grades 7, 8 and 9. Private and parochial schools are also available.

The newSandpoint High School opened in the fall of 1991. It joins Sagle Elementary, Hope Elementary and Kootenai Elementary as district schools newly built or expanded under the $15.8-million plant facility levy passed by Bonner County voters in the spring of 1987.

Both North Idaho College, a community college whose main campus is located in Coeur d’Alene 45 miles south of Sandpoint, and the University of Idaho offer a variety of credit and non-credit courses in Sandpoint itself. Students can also drive to North Idaho College or take classes at several Spokane area universities. Lewis-Clark State College, through its Coeur d’Alene office, also offers classes and degrees to Bonner County residents.


The first white man known to visit the Sandpoint area was David Thompson, the famous explorer and “land geographer.” He, with partner “Big Finan” McDonald, established the Kullyspell House on the Hope Peninsula in 1809 as the first trading post in Idaho.

Kullyspell House survived for only two years, however, and it wasn’t until the coming of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the early 1880s that permanent settlements took root. At that time, Hope and Clark Fork were established to help support the railroad building and operation.

The history of Sandpoint as a settlement dates back to the year 1880 when Robert Weeks opened a general store and dealt in furs. The town was known for a long time as Pend Oreille and actually existed east along the lakeshore from the current site.

The community grew slowly until the construction of the Great Northern Railroad in 1892. This railroad brought L.D. Farmin to Sandpoint as a Great Northern agent. He filed on the original town site and laid out Sandpoint in 1898, ten feet above the lake’s high water mark.

The city’s early history was tied closely to the railroads and to the timber industry as the Humbird and other area mills sought to harvest the timber resources of the region. In the early 1900s more than 225 men worked for the Humbird Mill in two shifts to keep up with demand.

Timber continued to play a major role in the local economy as Sandpoint became known for the cedar electric and telegraphy poles produced by area companies. However, the community grew slowly until World War II brought the construction of Farragut Naval Basein Bayview. This “boot” camp trained over 300,000 seamen for duty in the war and introduced them to this region.

After a slowdown following the war, our area has grown in spurts as disenchanted urbanites have sought the slower pace and physical beauty of north Idaho. It is expected that that growth will continue into the foreseeable future.


Newcomers to Sandpoint are always surprised by the number, quality and variety of community events. It seems that there is a major activity going on each weekend. This is so true that one of the town’s slogans is “Sandpoint is Happening All Year Long.”

Perhaps the highlight of each year is The Festival at Sandpoint, a renowned two-week long outdoor concert series. The Spokane Symphony Orchestra performs each season as well as famous pop, country and world-music performers. Past artists include Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Emmy Lou Harris, Tony Bennett, B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakam, George Benson, Keb Mo and The Pretenders. Other major events include Winter CarnivalK & K Fishing DerbyLost in the ‘50sNorth Idaho Timberfest and the Idaho Draft Horse International.

The Pend Oreille Arts Council produces many of the community’s arts related events. Among other things, they organize a major juried Arts and Crafts Fair in August; coordinate ArtWalk, summer -long revolving self-guided art exhibits in area businesses; produce Sunday Concerts-on-the-Lawn and Summer Sounds at Park Place series; and sponsor an annual performance series at the Panida Theater.

The Panida Theater, Sandpoint’s community owned theater and cultural center for cinema, theatre and music, is the site of many of the town’s best performances. Located in downtown Sandpoint, this historic theater has been purchased by the people of the Sandpoint area to provide an excellent performance setting.

Below is a list of the major annual events:

Month Event
January Winter Carnival – Third and fourth weekends
February Madcap Mardi Gras
March Harbor Stomp Games
April Caribbean Carnival
May K & K Fishing Derby, first week. Lost in the ‘50s, third weekend
June North Idaho Timberfest, first or second Saturday
July 4th of July Celebration, Sandpoint Wooden Boat Festival
August Festival at Sandpoint, first two weekends. Arts and Crafts Fair, Long Bridge Swim, Bonner County Fair & Rodeo.
September Schweitzer Fall Fest, Idaho Draft Horse and Mule International
October Oktoberfest, Oompa Fest, Harvestfest
November Thanksgiving Fishing Derby, Holly Eve, Holidays in Sandpoint
December Holidays in Sandpoint, New Year’s Eve celebrations


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