How the magic happens: Bringing the North Pole to Coeur d’Alene

Getting Santa, Mrs. Claus and all the elves from the North Pole to Lake Coeur d’Alene for our Holiday Light Cruises can be tricky, logistically. After all, it is the busiest time of the year for Santa Claus, as he and the elves make toys for all the good girls and boys of the world.

So instead of asking Santa to take time out of his busy schedule, we bring children to the North Pole for a quick meet-and-greet with the Head Elf himself.

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes magic that goes into the annual Journey to the North Pole Cruises. Each year, the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre uses its influence with Mr. Claus to bring the North Pole to life. We sat down with the summer theatre’s artistic director Jadd Davis for a couple quick questions about how the winter magic happens.

Question: How long has CST been involved in the Journey to the North Pole cruises?
Jadd Davis: The Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre began recruiting the entertainment aspects of the Holiday Light Show in 2016, so we’re on our second year. It made sense for CST to collaborate with CDA Lake Cruises as The Resort was needing some good talent and we are always looking for ways to keep our pros working locally.

Q: How do Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves prepare for their roles?
Davis: So. Much. Egg nog.

Q: How are actors chosen?
Davis: Actors are recruited throughout the year. Every person wearing a costume — such as the elves, the Grinch and Santa — is brought in and trained by Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre. The casting requirements: 1) Must love Christmas. 2) Must love children. 3) Must be willing to make believe all night!

Q: Tell us a little about the “behind the scenes” magic that happens!
Davis: We need to be careful not to reveal trade secrets! That said, the number one goal of the journey is to make sure Santa knows who all the kids are who are visiting him! With the billions of kids out there, he needs some administrative assistance to help keep him organized. That’s where the elves come in! Elves surreptitiously greet every family who takes the cruise and make sure all the names of the children are magically delivered to Santa. We utilize all the technology at our disposal to make sure no good child is left off the list!

Are you looking to experience the magic for yourself? Schedule your tickets for the Journey to the North Pole cruises, going on through the end of the month. Contact us today for more information!

A brief history: Steamer ships on Lake Coeur d’Alene

Steam ships play an important role in the rich history of Coeur d’Alene — and Idaho! These ships were used for logging, mining, passenger travel and even mail delivery. The steamer ships of the 1800s and early 1900s eventually gave way to the ships that Coeur d’Alene Cruises uses to take passengers out to see wildlife, holiday lights, and sunsets.
While the list of famous steamer ships on Lake Coeur d’Alene is long and illustrious, here’s a quick peak into our rich history with a few of the most famous ships:

The Amelia Wheaton:
This was one of the first steamboats on the lake, built in 1888. The boat was used to supply Fort Sherman with supplies and transport prospectors to the golf fields after the gold rush. The steamer ran mostly on local wood.

The Georgie Oaks:
This boat was in commission from 1881 to 1920 on Lake Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding water ways. The Georgie Oaks was 150 feet long, 24 feet wide and could carry up to 1,000 passengers.

This 65-passenger ship was built for Lake Coeur d’Alene in 1926, and captained by its owner Capt. John Finney. It was 63 feet long, 9 feet wide and started with a gas engine, and was eventually transferred to a diesel engine. The Seeweewana was eventually sunk in the 1980s in front of The Coeur d’Alene Resort’s boardwalk in about 85 feet of water, a common practice to retire boats at the time. It is now a destination for scuba divers who want to see the relic.

The Mish-an-nock:
It has been nearly 50 years since this famous boat first took to the waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Named for a word that means “morning star” according to a Kalispell Tribe book, the Mish-an-nock was the first passenger cruise boat on the lake in nearly 30 years. Before that, the last steam passenger boats — the 130-foot Flyer and the 90-foot Clipper — were deemed unsafe and dismantles in 1938. When built, the Mish-an-nock was 65 feet long.

In 1996, the Mish-an-nock was refinished by Fred Finney, who also built cruise boats including The Coeur d’Alene, The Spirit of Coeur d’Alene, The Osprey and Kootenai. The boat is now 107 feet long to accommodate even more passengers.
Which boat in our fleet is your favorite? Join us for a cruise to hear more about the history and to see the beautiful sights of North Idaho!

Under the surface: A history of sunken steamer ships

Every day, Coeur d’Alene Cruises boats take people on tours of the lake and local rivers. Our ships cover thousands of miles atop the water each year as we help people see the shoreline and wildlife of North Idaho.

But have you ever wondered what’s below the surface?

Lake Coeur d’Alene has many sunken ships below the surface. Steamships were used in the 1800s to transport people, mining equipment and logs during the timber boom. The lake was a hub of activity, with the big steam-powered ships running back and forth across the surface. However, when the ships were worn out, mining and logging companies sunk the ships to quickly get rid of them.

One popular dive site with more than five steamship wrecks is off Steven’s Point. Many ships were sunk when they were no longer needed, and ended up near the shoreline. Check with local dive companies for more information about scuba diving this site.

Many shipwrecks are also located off Independence Point. After the ships were rendered useless after years of service, they were stripped of all useful parts and used as docks for those lighting off fireworks during Fourth of July festivities. Many of the discarded ships are still intact, and scuba divers visit the ships, between about 40 feet and 60 feet deep, to see a bit of Coeur d’Alene history preserved.

Because of its rich history, there are even rumors of sunken treasure!

Legend has it, in the late 1880s, more than 150 tons of silver ore spilled off a barge at McDonald Point and sunk to the bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene. If the myths are fact, the mass of silver could be worth up to $75,000 today. There’s no way to know if it’s true, but local scuba divers always keep their eyes peeled, just in case.

What have you found while diving in Lake Coeur d’Alene — any sunken treasure or favorite sunken ship scuba dive sites? Let us know!

How groups are working for water conservation on Lake Coeur d’Alene

Lake Coeur d’Alene is great for a summer cruise, bird watching, or entertaining out-of-town guests. Swimming in the lake is great on a hot day, and there’s no better place to take in a sunset than from the deck of a cruise ship by Coeur d’Alene Cruises. From pristine beaches and clear water to beautiful mountains, Lake Coeur d’Alene and its tributaries are the place to be in the summer.

However, the lake hasn’t always been this clean and beautiful. Early mining leaked millions of tons of mine waste into the Coeur d’Alene watershed. Today, the Silver Valley is one of the largest superfund cleanup sites in the country. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey have taken the lead in cleanup efforts during the past three decades to restore the basin and the environment.

In addition to working in the water for cleanup, the City of Coeur d’Alene is working to keep the watershed healthy. The city offers landscape conservation classes throughout the year to teach homeowners and water users best practices for conservation and environment health.

And we can all do our part to conserve water. Keep boats leak-free in the summer with regular maintenance and remember if you pack it in, pack it out.

What’s your favorite way to conserve the beautiful North Idaho environment? Do you have tips or tricks? Let us know!

The best way to watch Ironman is a cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene

Every summer, thousands of athletes and spectators flock to Lake Coeur d’Alene to participate in the famed Ironman race. Athletes start in the lake on August 21, and swim a two-loop, 2.4-mile course before taking to the pavement to bike 112 miles and a marathon run. Watching the race is one of the most incredible experiences for Idaho locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re cheering on an athlete or just soaking in the experience, Ironman is a unique event. History is made every year — did you know the youngest finisher ever was Rodkey Faust, a 14-year-old from Rathdrum, Idaho?

One of the hardest parts of the race to view is the swim. Because athletes take off into the water, spectators are often left on the beach to kill time until the swimmers return. Coeur d’Alene Cruises has the solution — our breakfast cruises take you right up next to the action, so while you enjoy coffee and a delicious breakfast, you can cheer on your favorite athlete.

There are no crowded steps, beaches or streets. You’ll get a unique perspective on the race, and the enclosed boat — as well as coffee, hot chocolate and tea — will keep you warm on a cold morning.

Looking for the perfect way to view the start of Ironman? Book your tour today, before the boats fill up!

What’s below the surface — a glimpse at the history of sunken ships in the Northwest

Not only are the beaches of Lake Coeur d’Alene and other North Idaho lakes and rivers the perfect place to spend summer months, but below the surface, many of the Northwest’s waterways have stories to tell! Here’s a sampling of some of the sunken ships and treasures at the bottom of the lake:   

Sunken ships:

The bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene is home to dozens of ships that have sank during the past 200 years. Between the logging industry, steamer ships and tourists seeing the lake on old-time paddleboats, many boats have found their way to the bottom of the lake. The citizens of Coeur d’Alene even used to strip the steamer ships of useful parts, and use the boats as bases for the Fourth of July fireworks show off Independence Point in downtown. At the end of the night, the boats were set on fire and sunk — now scuba divers enjoy exploring the underwater boat park.

Naval equipment:

Lake Pend Oreille near Spokane is home to a U.S. Naval testing base that many locals are familiar with — since waters are so deep near Bayview, the Navy can train on and test submarines and other deep water equipment in the Idaho lake. But the base has come with its share of sunken items: an unarmed Navy torpedo is rumored to have sunk 50 years ago beneath 1,200 feet of water and a huge Navy barge with more than $1 million in equipment sank more than 1,000 feet below the surface in the 1970s. Because the items are so far down, it’s unlikely they’ll ever be dredged back up to the surface.


Divers in the more shallow waters of Lake Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille can scour the bottom for all sorts of treasures. Some may be new — car keys, sun glasses, watches or other items that have flow off boats or been dropped off docks, and sunk to the bottom. Even golf balls are not an unusual sight, having been hit off the Floating Green. However, some divers have found some obscure items too. One diver told the Spokesman Review about finding 25 Watling slot machines, all of which, he brought up from the lake bottom. The diver suspected the machines were dumped off a barge in the 1950s, when gambling was deemed illegal.

So whether you’re treasure hunting, scuba diving in the lake, or a boater, skimming the surface, think about all the strange items that have sunk during the past two centuries.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve found in Lake Coeur d’Alene or Pend Oreille? Do you have a favorite scuba dive spot? Let us know!

Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers the perfect graduation party location

As spring nears, students at Northwest high schools and colleges begin to look past final tests to graduation and beyond — moving away from home, getting a first job or starting a career. However, before it’s time to take the next step in your education or career, take a moment to celebrate all you’ve accomplished!

Graduation parties have always been a way to celebrate everything the students have done, giving them one last gathering with friends, family and loved ones before they venture out into the world. It’s an exciting time for college and high school students.

When looking for a venue for a graduation party — whether a private party for an individual graduate or a school-sponsored Grad Night — Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers a magical experience, giving graduates one more genuine lake experience before they embark on their new journey.

Cruises on any of our vessels are family-friendly, and can be customized for any size group.

We also have an in-house DJ service, which provides everything you and your party will need to dance the night away.

“We have four professional DJs that can light up any type of party,” said our head in-house DJ, Brandon Naipo. “From graduation cruises to business groups to weddings, we have every event covered. Not to mention we have the most top-of-the-line gear in DJ equipment, sound, and lighting there is to offer.”

For school-sponsored parties, our cruises provide an isolated venue, which alleviates the stress of school security measures. Schools can control the length of time and people allowed on board the ship, ensuring a safe cruising experience.

For more information on any of our graduation cruises, or to book yours, contact us today!

Spring break cruises allow you to see Lake Coeur d’Alene the way the locals do!

Each year, tourists and travelers begin flocking to North Idaho’s majestic mountains and beautiful lakes as early as March and April. Many families and students take trips to the Northwest to enjoy beautiful scenery and one-of-a-kind experiences, such as biking the Centennial Trail or visiting the Coeur d’Alene Resort. While average temperatures in March and April in Coeur d’Alene sit at a sunny 60 degrees, the town still provides a good base camp for day trips to local ski hills, such as Lookout Ski Resort, Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain, for a bluebird ski day.

One of the most frequently asked questions from tourists is, “What do the locals do in Coeur d’Alene?”

Because Lake Coeur d’Alene is such a beautiful focal point to our town, locals are always looking to spend more time on the water!

Coeur d’Alene Cruises gets our passengers — tourists and locals alike — on the water for one of the best lake experiences. Our team offers adventures for daily scenic excursions, bird and wildlife watching tours on the St. Joe River and even specialty cruises for holidays, such as Easter.

Spring break is also a great time to get the whole family together. Our cruise ships offer the perfect private venue for family reunions or parties.

Curious about spending spring break in North Idaho, or looking for more information on seeing the lake the way the locals do? Contact us today!

History of Coeur d’Alene Cruises through the decades

Through all four seasons, all types of weather and so many different excursions, Coeur d’Alene Cruises has exactly what you need to see the historic Lake Coeur d’Alene. But did you know Coeur d’Alene Cruises has its own unique history that dates back decades?

Since 1932, Coeur d’Alene Cruises has been touring the lake in style. The Finney family founded the business, when the first tour set sail on the lake nearly 90 years ago. All of the boats in our fleet were designed, constructed or remodeled locally by Finney Boat Works.

The Finney family even helped captain the fleet, with Fred Finney one of the most recent captains.

Today, Carl Fus serves as our director of operations and captains our fleet.

As a graduate of Lewis-Clark State College, Fus holds a United States Coast Guard Master’s License. He has been with Hagadone Marine Group for more than 25, originally serving as a cruise boat captain when he first joined the fleet.

Today, Fus oversees all aspects of Coeur d’Alene Cruises.

With such a rich history, and such a bright future ahead of us, Coeur d’Alene Cruises has everything you need to learn about and enjoy an afternoon or evening on our beautiful north Idaho lake.

Contact us today to set up your next cruise!

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