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Brad Sondahl's perception of Spirit Lake, Idaho.
Most people who think they've heard of Spirit Lake, Idaho either thought it blew up (Mt. St. Helens had a Spirit Lake that was destroyed in the eruption), or they've heard of Spirit Lake, Iowa (one of the few lakes in Iowa, and thus famous) ,and can't keep Iowa and Idaho separated in their minds.  Spirit Lake, Idaho, is a bit off the beaten track, located about in the middle of a triangle including Spokane, Coeur D'Alene, and Sandpoint, and just a few miles east of Mt. Spokane.

It was formed as a logging town in 1907.  The first building in town happens to be the one Sondahl Pottery is in.  We bought it because it was cheap, and hopefully a good business location.


Spirit Lake Land Company building, 1907


The same building in 2005.

A spur railway ended here at the Panhandle Mill, and passenger service allowed Spokane residents to ride out to Spirit Lake to enjoy the shallow warm waters and pristine wooded views.


1910



The lake was used to float logs to the mill. There was a forest fire in the late 1930's which burned the mill, and shut down most of the town's reason to exist.  The town went through a long decline, during which time houses were moved away, and the high school closed, consolidating with Rathdrum.
When we moved to town in 1982, about half the town sported "for sale" signs, and half the businesses on Maine Street were empty.  The most going industry was the bars, which catered to the 19-21 age drinkers from Washington state, as Idaho had a lower drinking age.  Since a national law standardized the drinking age at 21, even the bars have declined.  But in the last 10 years, the area's high growth has resulted in spillover benefits to Spirit Lake.  It still lacks any major employment, drugstore, or many other basic services, but a new high school and junior high school have opened and filled, and some businesses are finding it easier to survive the long slow winters with increased customers in the area (although a few of the businesses on Maine Street are still empty).
There remains in the community a dogged sense of pride, typified in persistent town celebrations of the 4th of July and Labor Day, and now adding a new offbeat idea--the Big Back In-- a showcase of modified riding lawnmowers:

The lake of Spirit Lake is about 5 miles long, and now mostly has private lake cabins along the most accessible side.  A public access at the bridge allows swimming and fishing access, although as the lake lowers in the summer, the sedimentous (er, um, mucky) bottom gets closer and closer to the swimable area.  The lake is popular for fishing for "Bluebacks"--landlocked coho salmon, also stocked with bass and trout, though it tends to get fished out.


Spirit Lake "Mill Pond" on a still spring day.


View of Mt. Spokane up the Brickle Creek valley in May from the Maiden Rock Public Access


Maine Street, Sunday morning, 2005

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