Many generations before Bonners Ferry became a town, the Kootenai people called this land their home. The Kootenais traded with and assisted Canadian explorer David Thompson who first visited the area in 1808-09. Later early travelers included Father DeSmet and the Boundary Commission Survey Party. When gold was discovered in British Columbia, thousands of prospectors rushed northward over a route that became known as the Wildhorse Trail. Walla Walla business man Edward L. Bonner established a ferry and trading post on the Kootenai River, near present day Bonners Ferry.
In the early 1890's the Great Northern Railroad reached the area and platted Bonnerport. Great Northern Depot, Bonners FerryThe settlement became a supply point as steamboats moved freight and passengers on the Kootenai River. Two railroad spurs were added and a large Weyerhouser lumber mill was built east of town. The influx of prospectors, railroad men, timber men, and homesteaders created a boom town atmosphere. Seventeen saloons provided the necessities of life.
In 1899 three river communities, Bonnerport and Eatonville on the southside and Fry on the northside, merged to form the Village of Bonners Ferry. Boundary County separated from Bonner County in 1915.
By the 1920's, false front wooden structures gave way to brickFirst State Bank, Bonners Ferry buildings; sidewalks replaced boardwalks, and bridges replaced the ferry. Churches and schools grew as more families settled. Dikes protected the town and farmlands from spring floods most years. Libby Dam removed the threat of flooding, but not the memories for old timers.
Today's Bonners Ferry retains much of the flavor of its past, while a recent revitalization project has given a facelift to the downtown area. The one thing that has never changed is the friendly, hometown attitude of its citizens. The Boundary County Museum is the anchor of the historic downtown business district retaining and exhibiting the heritage of Far North Idaho for both residents and visitors.
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