Priest River, Idaho

Countryside near Priest River, Idaho
Countryside near Priest River

Priest River sits near the confluence of the Priest and Pend Oreille Rivers. This is an area that was ruled by large timber companies for many years, but that influence dropped off with the drop-off in logging that set in during the late 1980's. Still, a lot of local folks continue to make their living from some portion of the wood products industry.

In the 1890's, Priest River was a small settlement filled with "tie hacks:" laborers who came to cut railroad ties for the Great Northern Railway. Many of these folks were Italian and Priest River was known as Little Italy up into the 1950's. The original settlement was built just east of the Priest River but the great Pend Oreille River flood in 1894 caused the folks to move to higher ground just west of the Priest River and rebuild. There were annual log drives coming south on the Priest River from the Priest Lake area from 1901 up until 1949. That's about the time the timber industry started using different methods of production. Today, the economy of Priest River still rises and falls with the fortunes of the timber industry but recent efforts to attract other, more stable businesses are slowly changing that.

Fast Facts about Priest River, Idaho
Priest River, Bonner County, ID 83856
Founded: 1859
Elevation: 2,139'
Latitude: 48.1834°N
Longitude: 116.9096°W
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 96.6%
Hispanic: 2.3%
Native American: 0.4%
Two or More Races: 0.5%
Asian: 0.2%
High School or Higher: 77.9%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 6.1%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 2.0%
2009 Estimates:
Population: 1,969
Males: 994
Females: 1,005
Median Resident Age: 35.2 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $30,600
Estimated Median Home Value: $141,000
Population Density: 1,233 People per Square Mile
2011 Cost of Living Index for Priest River: 86.5
Major Industries:
Wood Products, Lodging & Food Services, Construction, Educational Services, Health Care, Food Stores, Government, Transportation Services, Personal & Laundry Services, Retail Services
Unemployed (March 2011): 16.1%
Photo of the Priest River courtesy of the Association of Idaho Cities.
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