Northern Idaho’s colorful history comes to life at the Bonner County History Museum. Located in Sandpoint’s Lakeview Park, the museum’s well-crafted displays capture Bonner County’s vibrant history and culture.
See exhibits that give an historical snapshot dating back to the ice age floods, the early days of the Kalispel and Kootenai people, the fur trade, steamboat era, log drives and stump ranches. Visitors will learn how Sandpoint grew from a few shacks along the railroad to the resort town we know today, and the early beginnings of the small logging, mining, agriculture and railroad communities that dot the roadways in Bonner County.
If you are visiting Sandpoint looking for traces of your own family history, or just have questions about the local area, the museum maintains an extensive research archive containing thousands of historic photographs, documents, maps, and newspapers.
Outdoors, take a casual stroll through the arboretum located adjacent to the museum and the historic log cabin. Established in 1999 by the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society, the arboretum features labeled native trees and plants in seven habitat botanical gardens. Lakeview Park also offers a children’s play area and picnic tables under towering pines. The whole family will enjoy spending an afternoon at the museum and arboretum next to the shores of Lake Pend Oreille.
The museum currently features two temporary exhibits “The Doctor is In” which explores the development of heath care and medicine in Bonner County as well as recognizing some of the community doctors who have kept citizens healthy over the years; and “The Dark Side of Bonner County” which delves into the scandalous and bizarre history of Bonner County. These exhibits will close on May 19, and we will open our new temporary exhibit “Once Upon a Time in Bonner County” on June 3.
Our newest permanent exhibit “Guardians of the Forest” examines the crucial role the United States Forest Service has played in Bonner County. The US Forest Service was established in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt, with the intention to preserve and protect our country’s forest resources, as well as to provide access to wilderness for the public. In Bonner County, almost 500,000 acres of land are administered by the Forest Service, as parts of the Coeur d’Alene, Kaniksu, and Kootenai National Forests. Because of the vast areas of our county which are national forest, Bonner County has played a significant role in certain aspects of the forest service’s development. This exhibit focuses specifically on the fire-fighting aspect of the Forest Service and the impact it has had in our area. Come explore the history of the US Forest service, and the development of wildfire-fighting in Bonner County.
Other exhibits tell the story of Bonner County – from the earliest residents of Bonner County, the Kalispell and Kootenai people, to the settlers and how they interacted with the landscape to make livings at farming, logging, and mining.