In Priest River, history and hospitality combine to create small-town America at its best. Located at the confluence of the Priest and Pend Oreille Rivers, nestled in the beautiful Selkirk Mountains, Priest River is conveniently centered an hour away from major cities such as Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Highway 2 from Oldtown through Priest River and on to Sandpoint, Idaho, is the state Scenic Byway “Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage.” This newly resurfaced section offers wide shoulders, ample pullouts and gorgeous views along the Pend Oreille River.
Timber is king here, and the town’s first sawmill was built in 1897 as the demand for lumber increased. Logs were driven down the Priest River to the sawmills from 1901 to 1949. View one of the last of the riverboats called “bateau’s” from the Diamond Match Company at the Museum. Two large sawmills are still in operation in the Priest River area today, and timber continues to form the basis of the town’s economy. Priest River maintains ties to its historical and colorful past with its famous Timber Days celebration on the last Saturday of July each year. Loggers from all over the United States and Canada convene here to compete in skills of the trade, both past and present. The tradition kept alive by this event helps to maintain the cultural history of the region and the hard-earned sense of pride common to this industry.
Take a walking tour of historic downtown and see some of the beautifully renovated buildings. Visit the Priest River Museum & Timber Education Center, offering new exhibits four times a year.
There are many activities to do in and around Priest River; it is a recreational paradise with top-notch boating, hunting, fishing, skiing, golfing, snowmobiling, camping, cross country and hiking all nearby. Stop in at the Albeni Falls Dam Visitor Center, just west of Priest River on Highway 2, to gather much information on the Pend Oreille River Basin, interpretive programs on history and wildlife and tours of the dam. The US Army Corps of Engineers maintains 4 campgrounds in the area: Albeni Cove, Priest River Mudhole and newly redone Riley Creek, and Springy Point south of Sandpoint. For reservations at these campgrounds call 1-887-444-6777.
A fun 9-hole golf course and driving range at The Ranch Club west of Priest River also offers a Pizza House, restaurant and sports bar. The gorgeous Priest River offers 42 miles of floatable water. Depending on the time of the year, Priest River provides a wide variety of water conditions that make each run a unique experience. Those conditions range from slow moving, laid back sightseeing, to fast moving, breath holding, white knuckled, Class III rapids. The views from the river are as extraordinary and varied as the water conditions. For the fishermen, Pend Oreille River features largemouth bass as well as brook, brown, Rainbow and cut-throat trout, walleye, whitefish and panfish.