Fort Coeur d'Alene was built on the north shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene in 1878, where the town is now. With that big, beautiful lake beckoning, it didn't take them long to build a boat. The sternwheeler Amelia Wheaton--named after the post commander's daughter--was launched on the lake in 1880. It was to be the first of many steamboats to ply the waters of Lake Coeur d'Alene.
Steamboats--sternwheelers, side-wheelers, and propeller drives--hauled ore, lumber, and supplies as work boats. Then, on holidays, many steamers became excursion boats, taking people from Spokane for picnics and outings across the lake and up the St. Joe River, or to Cataldo Mission, or Chatcolet.
For most of 50 years, steamboats were a basic part of life on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Then other forms of transportation--trains and automobiles--spelled their doom. Steamboats fell into disuse as the steamer companies fell into bankruptcy. Fire claimed most of them. Accidental fires took the North Star, the Boneta, the Seattle, the Harrison, and the Idaho. Others were scuttled and lie at the bottom of the lake. The grand lady of the lake, the Georgie Oakes--built in 1890--was set on fire for entertainment on the Fourth of July in 1927.