Back in the year 1863, thousands of prospectors flooded from the west on route to the North, over the course now know as the Wildhorse Trail. This sudden movement had been inspired by the discovery of large amounts of gold in the East Kootenais of British Columbia. In 1864 a man by the name of Edwin Bonner, as an enterprising merchant, constructed the ferry where the trail crossed the broad Kootenai River. Following this, in 1875 Richard Fry leased the business, and despite the change the location retained the name of the original founder, soon thereafter becoming the town know as Bonners Ferry.
With mines to the north, the community of Bonners Ferry began to flourish in the 1800's as a supplier. "Midge", the Norwegian-built steamer, launched in 1883 and operated for the next 25 years carrying passengers and freight between the areas of Bonners Ferry and British Columbia. The Great Northern Railroad, hereby, was built in the year 1892, followed soon after by the Spokane International and the Kootenai Valley lines.
The town of Bonners Ferry was formally established in 1893. This took place along the south bank of Kootenai. At the time, a few ranches and homesteads were scattered along the valley. The development of numerous mines was in process, along in the nearby mountains. This includes the Continental Mine in the Selkirks. Another flourishing firm was the lumber industry. Bonners Ferry rapidly was becoming a booming town, although much of it was still perched on stilts to avoid the inevitable spring floods!
Progressing along into the 20th century, Bonners Ferry became the center of a lumbering and farming-based community. The valley land became drained and barricaded. The "Nile of the North" became the newest term for the rich Kootenai Valley. As far as the Bonners Ferry lumber was concerned, they grew to be one of the world's largest lumber mills! Downtown steadily became more inhabited as buildings were put in place, replacing their predecessors on stilts. As far as the now, much of Main Street still dates from this initial period of solid, permanent labor. Thanks to the explorer Edwin Bonner, you may now visit this steadily growing community!
Bonners Ferry today is a naturally beautiful environment in a relaxed atmosphere. A visitor need only experience the quiet streams, the peaceful alpine lakes, and the majestic forested mountains abundant in wildlife to truly fall in love with this area. Entertainment can come from the most genuine of times, through enjoying the land. Fishing, horseback riding, cross country skiing, target and trap shooting, square dancing, whitewater rafting, golfing, canoeing, swimming, camping, bird watching, photography, the growing community of Bonners Ferry continues to be a family-based environment.
In the words of Mayor Darrell Kerby, "We are a community that cherishes its past and embraces its future" a future that is being forged by coalitions of diverse groups that make up the unique fabric of Bonners Ferry, newcomers and old-timers alike."
For an even closer look on the local history of Bonners Ferry, please visit the Boundary county free museum on Main street, open in the months of May-August, to view a collection of more than 10,000 items of Bonners history!
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