The community of Sandpoint, at an elevation just over 2,000 ft., serves as the county seat of Bonner County (population 35,226 in 1999). For more than a century, its economy depended heavily on the lumber industry. Beginning in the late 1980's, the tourism industry began to grow rapidly in response to increasing awareness of the region's four season climate.
With an annual average rainfall of 33.5 inches and annual snowfall of 71.7 inches, residents experience few sub-zero days in the winter, while summer days rarely exceed 90°. The average year-round temperature is 47° and there are close to 125 frost-free days each year. The humidity level is comparatively low, the nights are generally comforting and summertime typically offers weeks of blue sky, sunny days. This is, of course, to the delight of boating, fishing, swimming, water skiing and hiking enthusiasts!
The people of Sandpoint enjoy community amenities quite remarkable for a "small town." Bonner General Hospital (BGH) is a nonprofit hospital (62 beds) providing care for more than 25,000 patients each year. Its 24-hour emergency department is capable of handling trauma, cardiac, pediatric and neurological emergencies for Bonner County and the surrounding areas. They also use a helicopter service out of Spokane, WA. for emergency services which cuts the response time in half. Around 30 physicians in the area are on active medical staffs, providing comprehensive specialty needs to Bonner County.
Sandpoint's government includes a mayor and six councilors elected to four-year terms. Police protection is provided by 16 sworn officers and 14 department vehicles, and crime is low at 6,919 total crimes per 100,000 population (1997 figures). Sandpoint's fire department employs seven full-time fire fighters and 20 volunteers.
The Sandpoint Airport offers private and chartered aircraft a 5,500 foot asphalted surface runway. Commercial airline travel accessibility is available at Spokane International Airport, which is located just 78 miles from Sandpoint.
Many people choose to live in other areas of Bonner County. These nearby areas have their own unique character, but also benefit from their close proximity to Sandpoint.
Bonners Ferry | Clark Fork | Hope, Idaho | Laclede | Ponderay | Priest River | Priest Lake | Sagle, Idaho | Dover, Idaho
To experience the charm of a town one must live there. Bob Selle is an old-timer in the Sandpoint area. Here, in his own words, he gives us a peek at a young person's Sandpoint of yesteryear.
There used to be a creek come from out of where the airport is now and it ran all down through and it probably ended up in the river. Each street it crossed, they either had to have a little bridge or a culvert, and they had wooden sidewalks then.
The sidewalks were elevated up on eight, ten-foot standards. They were four foot wide. They all were made out of wood and nailed down.
I remember about those wooden sidewalks because there was one place on Lake Street where we used to plug the culvert and make the slough flood in the fall, on purpose. We would stuff anything we could find in there so the water couldn't get through and we'd have a skating pond.
Then we got to taking planks off of the sidewalks to build our bonfires for our skating get together.
The police came and arrested me one night and took me downtown and then I had to go and report to the truant officer for about six months.
Every Saturday I had to go and tell her I was being good and all that kind of stuff. So I remember about the wooden sidewalks. They picked on me because I was probably the instigator of the whole thing. They had to take somebody out of the bunch that had the bonfire going and the boards were lying there that we tore off of the sidewalk.
They just had one city police when I was young and they were usually nice guys. We'd bump into 'em once in a when we would make too much noise downtown or something. There were very few cars back then but some people had the old Model A cars and they had a muffler whistle on 'em.
We wired 'em up through the floorboards and had a branch off of the exhaust coming from the engine and had a whistle in there and we'd pull that and go down and drive down First Street and blow that whistle. They'd always chase us down and stop us for that. I don't think kids tore things up and destroyed things in those days like they do now. Because things were too hard to come by. Boy, it was hard.
All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.