Timber, trains and the mighty Pend Oreille; the story of Ione is one steeped in legends of the timber industry, the railway and the lore of the river. Ione has been a timber town since it was settled at the turn of the century, with the community building its first sawmill 1901. The Pend Oreille River dominated transportation in those early days, with mail, freight and people traveling on steamers from Newport until the railroad came in 1909. The arrival of the railroad was vital to the region’s survival, but none of it would be here if it weren’t for the Pend Oreille River; it is a significant feature in the life of the community and has continued to provided transportation and recreation through the many booms and busts which Ione and the nearby community of Tiger have persevered. With the advent of the railroad the Panhandle Lumber Company built a million dollar sawmill was built with materials brought by boat down the river. The mill employed 700 men and the town grew, with two fine hotels being built and many businesses springing up, supported by the rich forests of the surrounding area.
Today, there are still groves of the giant trees left behind, reminders of the booming days that built the town.
The community’s residents still celebrate the Pend Oreille’s bounty every July, when Down River Days arrive. Centered in City Park at the river’s edge, this is the town’s chief annual celebration. The events are marked by all sorts of family-friendly river-based activities, including “water skipping” snowmobiles across the Pend Oreille River! The Down River Days parade is always impressive, drawing thousands of people from throughout the region.
A few miles north of Ione you will find a scenic overlook of the Box Canyon Dam. A short distance north of the overlook, there Box Canyan Dam recreation area offers free camping, a swimming pond and picnic area. There is also a visitor center on site.
For six weekends a year during summer and fall the North Pend Oreille Lions Club Excursion Train Ride showcases some of the most stunning scenery in the Pacific Northwest as it runs along the Pend Oreille River between Ione & Metaline Falls, where you will be treated to a staged train robbery while the locomotive is turned around. It’s something not to be missed, and draws many visitors to the area every year.
“Absolutely breathtaking, just great. We met nice folks.” -Z. Johnson, Missoula, MT
Ione offers an outstanding airport; considered the best small civilian airport in Northeast Washington. The runway, which is lit at night, is 4200 feet long and serves single-engine and small twin-engine planes up to 12,500 pounds. A heliport and restrooms are also available. The airport is a mile south of Ione, next to the Airport Qwikstop gas and grocery store.
There are several motels, campgrounds and RV Parks in or very near Ione, and you will find restaurants both on Main Street and along the highway. There is a large grocery store in Ione, a good place to stock up if you are camping in the area. Serendipity Golf Course adjacent to Conrads Bed & Golf is another local attraction that is worth a visit. The town boasts a hardware store, a bank, and a f bulk foods store.
Follow Forest Service Road #2695 (Meadow Creek Rd) to Big Meadow Lake Campground, west of Ione, which has a wildlife observatory that was reclaimed from a dismantled fire lookout and reconstructed at this site.