The boating history of Lake Coeur d’Alene dates back more than a century!

Traveling Lake Coeur d’Alene by boat is not a new concept. For more than a century, people have been using the beautiful north Idaho lake for work and for play. The mountain lake is steeped in a rich history that many of those who tour the lake by boat today may not know about!

While many of the boats on the lake today are for recreation — enjoying the eagles or catching a sunset — that wasn’t always the case. At one time, 100 years ago, there were more than 50 steamships working on the lake

The Amelia Wheaton was the first steamboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene, built for military use.

Shortly after, the Idaho was built — the largest steamer of the era! The passenger boat could carry up to 1,000 people, which was quite a feat for the time.

As more modern modes of transportation arrived, the steamers became obsolete. Instead, these were used as excursion boats to transport passengers around the lake.

Lumber and silver ore were transported using boats on thoroughfares like the Coeur d’Alene River. The products came from places like Spokane, Cataldo Landing, and Rathdrum, all transported by boat on local waterways. 

As time passed, many of the mills and mines have closed. Instead, trains brought tourists to the beautiful northwest to take in the lakes and mountains.

Now, Lake Coeur d’Alene is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Coeur d’Alene Cruises is here to help you see the lake first hand, and experience all the rich history our area has to offer.

Contact us today to set up your next tour

Coeur d’Alene’s history is rich, just like the history of our fleet

Not only are the vessels in the Coeur d’Alene Cruise fleet beautifully designed and a blast to voyage on, but they are also steeped in a rich history that dates back over 100 years

All the boats in the Fun Fleet were either designed and constructed or remodeled by Finney Boat Works here in Coeur d’Alene. Carl Fus heads Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises as captain of the fleet, and carrying on the cruising tradition, which began in1932 when the first excursion boat set sail on the lake.

Today, many of the boats that ride along the lake are out here just for recreation. However, at one time, there were over 50 steamships working on the lake.

The first steamboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene was the Amelia Wheaton, built by the military. At the same time, the largest steamer of the era was the Idaho, which could carry up to 1,000 passengers. 

However, as always happens, progress moved forward. When more modern methods of transportation arrived, several of the steamers were refurbished as excursion boats. Others were used during the annual Fourth of July celebrations- after the boat had been retired and emptied, it was hauled to the center of lake and set afire during the night to create a beautiful spectacle for those watching from the city beach. Today, several of those early day steamers are still visible beneath the lake’s surface, but your best bet for a good view is underwater, with scuba gear.

Riverboats took silver ore from the Cataldo landing, down the Coeur d’Alene River, across the lake to the railhead at Rathdrum.

Lumber was transported to area mills from the surrounding lakes and forests by floating down the adjoining rivers. During this time, Coeur d’Alene also become a popular tourist spot as electric trains brought people from Spokane to enjoy the parks, beaches and excursion boats.

Have we peaked your historical interest? We know the Coeur d’Alene Lake is a fascinating place, and surrounded with a rich history. If you’re looking to learn more, or for something to do in Coeur d’Alene this summer, join us on one of our daily cruises or contact us to set up an event. See you on the water!