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Sandpoint's major economic contributors include forest products, light manufacturing, tourism, recreation and government services. As the largest service center in the two northern Idaho counties (Bonner and Boundary), as well as northwestern Montana, it has an active retail sector. It is the home of the headquarters of utility aircraft maker Quest Aircraft and salad dressing manufacturer Litehouse Foods.
In the 1880s, the Northern Pacific Railroad brought European and Chinese settlement to the area.
In August 1888, 29-year-old author and civil servant Theodore Roosevelt visited Sandpoint on a caribou-hunting trip in the Selkirk Mountains. Roosevelt documented what a rough-and-tumble environment "Sand Point" was at that time (and for many decades following).
Sandpoint was officially incorporated in 1898.
Timber harvesting and railroads drove the economy for nearly a century as loggers moved in from the over-harvestedGreat Lakes region. Several lumber companies operated in the region from as early as 1896 to present, the most notable being the Humbird Lumber Company which operated from 1900 to around 1944. The lumber companies bought land from the Northern Pacific Railroad and built a major mill at Sandpoint and adjacent Kootenai. Lumber company-owned railroads extended into many of the local drainages including Grouse Creek, Gold Creek and Rapid Lightning Creek. Although the trees were never exhausted in the area, Humbird Lumber succumbed to the low timber prices of the Great Depression.
"Stump ranches" were sold by Humbird to many families who slowly cleared much of the valley land of tree stumps. Farming and ranching became the third largest business in the area, behind lumber and railroads, prior to the "discovery" of Lake Pend Oreille as a sports fishery in the 1950s. The economy was given a boost during World War II from Farragut Naval Station, a training center for the US Navy located at the southwestern end of Lake Pend Oreille.
In the 1980s and 1990s, 30 miles south of Sandpoint, the areas of Coeur d'Alene and Hayden Lake attracted nationwide publicity when white supremacistNeo-Nazi groups (most notably the Aryan Nations) set up headquarters in the area. Many Sandpoint residents reacted negatively to such groups; some formed the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force in opposition. In 2001, the Aryan Nations lost a lawsuit filed against them. The lawsuit bankrupted the organization and forced them to give up their Hayden Lake property and disband. In December 2011, Sandpoint became the first city in Idaho to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Community organizations stage a number of regionally known annual events, including Sandpoint Winter Carnival in February; including the 50s vintage car show in May; the Festival at Sandpoint summer music festival in August; and Idaho State Draft Horse International show in September. Sandpoint's historic vaudeville-era Panida Theater hosts frequent performing art events and an ongoing independent film series. A robust visual arts community supported by the Pend Oreille Arts Council also contributes to Sandpoint's reputation as a center for arts and culture in northern Idaho and the Inland Northwest.
Sandpoint, Idaho, on Lake Pend Oreille, with the August 2022 Elmo fire plume in the background
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.79 square miles (12.41 km2), of which 3.98 square miles (10.31 km2) is land and 0.81 square miles (2.10 km2) is water. Sandpoint has a fairly typical inland Northwestern humid continental climate (KöppenDsb), with cold, snowy winters and dry summers with large diurnal temperature swings from hot in the day to very cool at night. The record low was −37 °F (−38 °C) on December 30, 1968, while the record high was 104 °F (40 °C) recorded on both July 20, 1923 and July 24, 1994. The wettest month was December 1933 with 11.99 inches (304.5 mm) of total precipitation and the most monthly snowfall 68.8 inches (174.8 cm) in January 1969.
The median income between 2016 and 2020 for a household in the city was $46,712. The per capita income for the city was $28,210. The percentage of persons below the poverty line (2016–2020) was 14.7%.
The median value of owner-occupied housing in the city was $228,800. The homeownership rate (2006–2010) was 49.6%.
Of the population over 25 years of age (2006–2010), 89.9% had graduated high school, 25.6% had achieved a bachelor's degree or higher.
As of the census of 2010, there were 7,365 people, 3,215 households, and 1,811 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,850.5 inhabitants per square mile (714.5/km2). There were 3,769 housing units at an average density of 947.0 per square mile (365.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 95.5% White, 0.1% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.9% of the population.
There were 3,215 households, of which 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.4% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.7% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.7% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.86.
The median age in the city was 38.8 years. 23.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.2% were from 25 to 44; 25.9% were from 45 to 64; and 16.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.2% male and 51.8% female.