Spirit Lake Idaho

Hyas-Tyee-Skookum-Tum-Tum (Good Chieftains) of the Kootenai Tribe had a lovely daughter, Hya-Pam (Fearless Running Water) who loved a Kootenai Brave, Hasht-Eel-Ame-Hoom (Shining Eagle).   Hostile tribes governed by an ancient chief, Pu-Pu-Mox-Mox (Yellow Serpent) threatened war on the Kootenais if he was not allowed to wed Hya-Pam.   To avert war, Hya-Pam’s father consented to the marriage. The Indian Maid and her Brave were dismayed and then binding themselves together, lept into the lake from Suicide Cliff and were never found.

Legend has it that on moonlit nights when the wind is still, their shadowy silhouettes can be seen drifting across the lake in a phantom canoe.   As the lake ice floes melt and grind together in springtime, weird, mournful and haunting sounds are heard, are these the cries of the Indian lovers as they seek release from the Lake of the Spirits?

Spirit Lake Idaho (population 1610) is a small town located on the extreme northwest corner of Kootenai County in the Idaho Panhandle.   I admit that I have a certain affinity toward Spirit Lake as it was my first town of residence when I settled in North Idaho in 1996 after moving from San Antonio, Texas.   Of course, that was the year of Ice Storm and I nearly moved back to Texas.   I made it through that year though and have been here since.

The town of Spirit Lake Idaho was platted in 1907 and for approximately 30 years, was a major summer resort location for visitors from the Spokane area who would arrive by train.   As well as being a resort town, the sawmill in Spirit Lake produced 125,000 board feet of lumber per 10-hour day.   That source of income unfortunately ended in 1939 as fire destroyed a good portion of the lumber company property.  What was once the office building for the Panhandle Lumber Company is now the Fireside Lodge.

This is a fantastic community that while doing its best to grow as a city, still exudes those quaint characteristics that allow it to retain some of its old-time charm.    This is a friendly little town where life is just naturally slow paced.

The north/south streets of old Spirit Lake are typically named First through Tenth.   The east/west streets to the north of town are named after presidents while the the ones to the south are named after states.   It is no surprise then that Spirit Lake’s main street is named Maine Street.    It is on this street where the new and the old intersect very well.   In this two block area, you will see some of the original buildings from the early 1900’s along with the new additions.

What is amazing to me is that for all of the time that I lived there, I never really took the time to actually see the town.  I missed the grandeur of an era style home sitting shaded on the top of a hill…

I never took the time to sit and enjoy the fact that there are places in this world that still have tree-lined sidewalks or that the people are smart enough to use a classic old building for an entirely new purpose…

Spirit Lake Idaho is indeed a town where there is a harmonization that occurs between the old and the new that in my mind is unparalleled and just seems to fit together like peanut butter and jelly or ham hocks and black-eyed peas.

….and what self-respecting small town on a lake would be complete without two docks….
one to fish on

and one to dive off

As I was in the downtown area at 3rd and Maine, I couldn’t help but notice the light shining through and illuminating the pottery shop of Brad Sondahl, a fine photographer in his own right!

This was an epiphany for me; an indication of the golden light which is shining down on this wonderful community. Spirit Lake reminds me very much of the tower of its old Presbyterian Church. This venerable old building has long been closed and with the years has been slowly picked away at by the people, the animals and the elements. Yet through all of its strife, this building, like the city that harbors it, remains forever standing. It is a picture postcard example of tenacity and the will to survive; always reaching higher and higher.

That my friends is the spirit of Spirit Lake.


9 responses

  1. I love your photo walks when you take us on these journeys, Mike. Wow. I am absolutely moved with your post here today, both the words and the photos wind together to create a wonderful tapestry in our minds. You, sir, are a true master of the art and I really enjoy following you here online.

    July 22, 2011 at 1:36 PM

  2. Thanks Toad. Coming from you sir, that means a lot!!

    July 22, 2011 at 8:13 PM

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  7. Teri Miller

    I was just wondering about some old buildings in the area.Its a small hobby of mine,old buildings,houses,and antiques.Is there a website I could go to to look up information on the buildings.A reply would be greatly appreciated.

    March 21, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    • There are actually several places you can find information.
      1. Spirit Lake History
      2. Brad Sondahl’s Work


      3. Chamber of Commerce

      Happy Hunting Teri.

      March 23, 2012 at 3:50 PM

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