Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the United States, the Idaho Panhandle (The Idaho Panhandle: Esto Perpetua.) has countless breathtaking views and amazing places to explore. Located between the uber-small Idahoan towns of Clark Fork and Hope is one of these places – a gorgeous riverfront area called Cabinet Landing. Once a flourishing logging community between the mid-1880’s and mid-1900’s, it was also part of the Northern Pacific Railroad and a well-known steamboat landing site in 1866. The timber logging community lasted until a devastating forest fire in 1910, with the railroad community moving on a few years prior. It is now a wonderful riverfront picnic area for the Clark Fork River.
After the area saw a major boom during the 1860’s gold rush to Canada, the overpopulated (approximately 4,000 people) tent city of Cabinet Landing flourished, consisting of a school opened between 1922 and 1951, along with 6 stores for white men and 3 for Chinese workers, 6 eateries, 2 lodging houses, and up to 33 saloons. Once the railroad and logging communities left, the population quickly dwindled down to around 75. The town officially ceased to exist when the post office closed in 1954.
Cabinet Landing is also known for being the location of a settlement camp of thousands of Chinese railroad workers in 1882 that was gone just one year later, in 1883. A local urban legend claims that most of these Chinese migrant workers sadly went missing and/or died in a massive mining accident, with many of their remains encased in one of the concrete side walls holding up a mountain slope between Sandpoint and Hope. In reality, they likely simply packed up and left to follow the construction of the railroad. 🙅🏻♀️
There is a historical plaque at the site with brief outlines on the history of the area. This includes the railroad, the old schoolhouse established in 1922, and the “Cabinet Gateway Suspension Bridge”, which I was unable to locate – and am unsure if it even still exists. There are also a couple of picnic tables to sit and enjoy lunch at, plus numerous areas to fish. There are railroad tracks directly across the river from the picnic area, so be ready for loud trains to occasionally pass through (please see videos below). Aside from the intermittent loud train, this was the perfect place to relax next to the beautiful deeply turquoise river and enjoy the relatively untouched nature.
Overall, if you’re ever in the northern panhandle of Idaho near the towns of Sandpoint, Hope, or Clark Fork, or in the western half of Montana (Montana: The Most Beautiful State in America.) near the Idaho border, I highly suggest a day trip to Cabinet Landing. Located approximately 30-45 minutes outside of Clark Fork or Hope, it makes for a very doable morning or afternoon outing. You can easily make it a stop to or from a visit to the equally beautiful and amazing Ross Creek Cedars, Montana: Some Really Big Trees. (50 minutes) or Kootenai Falls and Suspension Bridge in Beautiful Montana. (1 hour). It’s a historical riverfront that offers lovely views and peace of mind – just don’t mind the occasional train zooming through! 🚂