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North Idaho City Spotlight- Spirit Lake

Legends and Mystery

The idyllic shore of Spirit Lake is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon, but is the crystal water hiding something darker? Originally know as “Clear Water”, Spirit lake is shrouded in mystery dating back hundreds of years. The most well known legend goes like this: Hyas-Tyee-Skookum-Tum-Tum (Good Chieftains) of the Kootenai Tribe had a daughter named Hya-Pam (Fearless Running Water). She was madly in love with a young warrior named Hasht-Eel-Ame-Hoom (Shining Eagle) but her father promised her to a man from a nearby aggressive tribe in efforts to calm their hostility. The young Princess and her Brave were devastated and in true Romeo and Juliette fashion they couldn’t bare to be apart. The lovers leaped from a 150-foot high cliff into the dark water, never to be seen again.

But, that isn’t the end of the possible tragedies that contribute to Spirt Lakes namesake. John Reavis published another tale told by the lake’s first non native resident in May of 1889. This legends involves a canoe containing seven young men who would not leave the lake alive. The men were quietly gliding across the lake when the canoe and everyone on board were thrust into the water and swallowed whole. The native people believe there is an evil spirit within the lake that may strike at any time. To this day native tribes refuse to hunt or fish on the shores of Spirit Lake. It is also said that on a moonlit night you might hear cries or see a phantom canoe and shadowy silhouettes.


Spirit Lake was settled in the early 1900s by engineers from Pennsylvania. Shortly after, homes began popping up along the shores and it soon became a vacation spot for Spokane’s wealthiest residents. Trees were plentiful which quickly led to logging and a large sawmill was built near the town. After the completion of the railroad, lumber was shipped into Washington and surrounding areas. The railroad also brought more vacationers to the pristine lake and eventually some of the those people settled in the area full time. Fast forward to the 1970s, Spirit Lake Maine Street was constructed to look like an Old West town.

Spirit Lake Today

The population of Spirit Lake was just under 2000 at the 2010 censes and it is listed as 2319 at the time of this article. As prices in North Idaho continue to skyrocket, Spirit Lake has become a desirable area that is slightly more affordable than CDA.

Things To Do

There are plenty of things to do in Spirit Lake and the nearby areas. Hiking trails, kayaking and golf are a few outdoor activities that are perfect for a spring or summer afternoon. Take a drive around the International Slelkirk Loop, which is one of only 32 All-American Scenic Byways. Spirit Lake is also home to 2nd oldest bar in Idaho, The White Horse Saloon.

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