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WSU/Pend Oreille Extension introduced the Sense of Place series in 1999, with a focus on local landscape and natural history of Pend Oreille County, Washington. A partnership with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians Natural Resources Department has allowed us to expand this program through EPA funding to include more classes, a newsletter and this website.

Significant Dates & Events

affecting Pend Oreille County


Compiled by Eugene Kiver, Dale Stradling, and Ted Doughty; Eastern Washington University for ‘Geology of Northern Pend Oreille County’ field session, June 22, 2002


2651 Ma (millions of years ago) During the Archean, crystallization of igneous rocks south of Priest River that now form the basement to the North American craton in Idaho and probably WA

1576 Ma Intrusion of coarse grained granites in Idaho and probably WA

1500-1400 Ma Deposition of the 10-15km thick Belt Supergroup (sedimentary rocks) in a rift basin near the present site of Sullivan Lake and eruption of mafic sills about 1480-1450.

800-700 Ma Rifting of the North American continent and deposition of glacial sediments, volcanics, and coarse sandstones of the Windermere Group preserved in northernmost Pend Oreille County.

550-250 Ma Sea level rise and beginning of shallow marine sediment deposition, that initiate the Paleozoic Era. The first abundant fossils of marine invertebrate life appear in the early Paleozoic rocks. Trapped brine fluids deposit rich metal deposits in Metaline area.

150 Ma Tectonic plates begin to collide on the west side of North America and begin the compression phase of the Cordilleran Orogeny that will build the Rocky Mountains in northeastern Washington and elsewhere.

100 Ma Crustal melting produces the granitic magma of the Kaniksu and Colville batholiths. Hydrothermal fluids produce more mineral deposits.

58-46 Ma Crustal stretching allows localized mountain uplifts flanked by fault-bound basins that form today’s Priest River, Pend Oreille, and Colville valleys. Local volcanic eruptions accompany faulting. Formation of large gold deposits near Republic to the west.

2 Ma Worldwide radical climate variations produce a dozen or more episodes of glaciation interspersed with warm climates like that of the current interglacial.

12,000 to 20,000 years ago Late Wisconsin (last glacial) ice sheet lobes extend down the Purcell Trench, Pend Oreille, Colville, Columbia, and other valleys. Mountains in northern Washington and Idaho were mostly inundated by ice except for the higher peaks like Abercrombie, Gypsy, and others. These peaks stuck up above the ice sheet as “nunataks”. Ice thinned to the south and during the last glacial advance terminated near Newport in the Pend Oreille Valley. Retreating ice sheets allowed the glacial Lake Missoula ice dam in the nearby Pend Oreille Lake area in northern Idaho to catastrophically fail. Torrents of water hundreds of feet deep not only raced southward towards the Coeur d’Alene area but also westward to Newport. Floodwaters escaped southward from the Pend Oreille Valley through the Davis Lake spillway and through the Little Spokane River valley.

12,000 to 9,000 years ago The continental ice sheet and Pend Oreille glacial lobe retreat back to Canada as the climate warms. Depression of the earth’s crust under the mile-thick ice sheet in northern Pend Oreille County permits water to drain northward to Canada as the ice sheet retreats. The north-flowing river persists as the crust rebounds and a deep canyon (Z Canyon) is cut north of Metaline where the water entrenches into bedrock. A long-lived lake persists in the Calispell Basin near Usk and Cusick. Erosion of glacial and flood deposits lowers the lake level. Calispell Lake is the last remnant of this once extensive lake.

9000 years ago Kettle Falls is one of two extremely important salmon fisheries used by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

4000 years ago The Calispell Valley was a major source of the very important camas roots used by tribes for a winter food source. The roots were so abundant that “purple flowers bloomed so thick in late spring that viewers from mountain tops mistook the field for shimmering water” (Holstine, 1987). The Kalispell people were known to surrounding tribes as the “camas people”. Because of their dependable abundance of food they lived a more sedentary existence.

1800 A.D. French-Canadian fur trappers LeBlanc and LeGasse from the North West Company may have visited the area.

1809 David Thompson, renowned trader and geographer, floats down the Pend Oreille River to an area near the present location of Tiger. Thompson is a partner in the British-based North West Company and seeks to establish claims on the region for Great Britain and his fur-trading company.

1810 Thompson stopped in his exploration at the cataract now known as Box Canyon, “The Terror of the Pend Oreille River”.

1811 David Thompson descends the Columbia River from Kettle Falls and finds to his disappointment that the American-owned Pacific Fur Company has built Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia.

1825 Fort Colvile established by the Hudson Bay Co. near Kettle Falls. Selkirk Mountains named for the Earl of Selkirk.

1841 Protestant missionaries Blanchet, Deiners, and De Smet active with tribes.

1844 Jesuits establish St. Ignatius Mission near Usk.

1846 Treaty establishes 49th parallel as international boundary. The boundary survey was completed in 1861.

1855 Gold rush brings fortune seekers to Columbia and Pend Oreille rivers. Prospectors trespass onto Indian land, resulting in the death and rape of Indians. These events led to the Indian war of 1855-58. However, no skirmishes occurred in northeastern Washington.

1859 Placer gold discovered at the mouth of Sullivan Creek instantly creates the town of Metaline Falls. Prospector Michael R.O. Sullivan’s name was given to the creek and the lake upstream. Prospectors intensely work Peewee and other creeks along the Pend Oreille River. U.S. Army post established near Colville River using Americanized spelling “Fort Colville” rather than the British “Fort Colvile”.

1866 Cusick brothers initiate steamboat travel from Newport to just south of Ione. As many as 76 steamboats plied the waters of the Pend Oreille River before the coming of the railroad.

1869 Lead discovered in Metaline Falls area but not economical to mine.

1870 Chinese miners work Chinaman Bar (two miles north of Metaline Falls) and Flume Creek extensively. These hard-working people also reworked spoil piles of previous miners to extract more gold.

1883 Lead and silver discovery near Chewelah initiates “hard rock” mining in area. Fort Colville abandoned by U.S. Army.

1889 Mineral discoveries by George Linton on Linton Creek near Metaline prove unprofitable, partially because of the area’s remoteness and lack of efficient transportation.

1892-1894 Elmer Hall and Jim Morrison homestead future site of Ione. Morrison was postmaster and named the town site after his daughter. Hall had a cabin by Sullivan Lake; Hall Mountain was named after him.

1892 Transcontinental Great Northern Railway arrives in Newport.

1894 Metaline Falls destroyed by flood. Soon rebuilt on higher ground.

1899 Ed Gardner discovers Gardner Cave near the Canadian border.

1901 Post office moved from Idaho side (Oldtown) to Washington side (Newport).

1906 Federal government dynamites rock in Box Canyon opening up steamboat traffic to Metaline Falls and partially taming the “Terror of the River.”

1900-1910 Hundreds of homesteaders along higher parts of Colville and Pend Oreille valleys sell out their “stump farms” to timber companies or back to the federal government.

1909 I&WN tracks laid from Newport to Ione thereby opening up area to more settlement and encouraging hard-rock mining and increased timber production. Virgin timber stripped from the area.

1910 Tracks of the Idaho &Washington Northern Railroad Co. (I&WN) completed to Metaline Falls.

1911 Inland Portland Cement builds a large cement plant in Metaline Falls. Limestone rock is brought to the processing plant by way of an aerial tram.

1914 A large dam is proposed to be built in nearby Z Canyon. Lehigh acquires cement plant that eventually employs 400 workers.

1920 Lehigh Cement builds power plant on Sullivan Creek. The electrical generating plant had a four-mile–long aqueduct and a 470-foot high penstock.

1920s Lewis Larsen commissions Kirtland Cutter, a famous architect from Spokane, to design his house. Larsen house in Metaline Falls is on the National Register of Historic Places.

1906 to 1926 Lewis Larsen and Jens Jensen acquire mining claims and start the first production from hard-rock mines in the Pend Oreille District.

1921 William Crawford (a Metaline merchant) donates 40 acres containing Gardner Cave to Washington State Parks for the establishment of a new state park. Crawford State Park is the first geological park in the state park system.

1929 Individual mines consolidate into the Pend Oreille Metals and Mines Co. in order to deal with increased production and capital requirements.

1939 U.S. Bureau of Mines in anticipation of impending world war discovers significant mineralization on the east side of the river. Miners tunnel under the Pend Oreille River from the old Josephine Mine to tap new reserves of lead and zinc.

1948 Bunker Hill and Hecla Mining Companies buy into the mines; Bunker Hill takes over mining operations in 1974.

1951 New mill constructed on east side of river at the Pend Oreille Mine.

1956 Lehigh Portland Cement Co. flume collapses, cement plant purchases power rather than generating their own.

1967 Boundary Dam completed by Seattle City Light. Facility produces about 60% of the electrical requirements of the City of Seattle.

1977 Pend Oreille Mine and all hard rock mining is shut down in the area after enjoying continuous metal production since 1910. The Pend Oreille Mine was allowed to flood to the 1350-foot level. A deeper mineralized zone (the Yellowhead) was located by the Bunker Hill Co. (owned by Gulf Resources) prior to their bankruptcy and mine closure.

1988 Pend Oreille Mine begins to be pumped out and further reserves are discovered!

1989 Lafarge acquires Lehigh cement plant.

1990 Lafarge closes cement plant in Metaline Falls.

1996 Cominco (now Teck Cominco American Incorporated) purchases Resource Finance Inc. along with the Pend Oreille Mine. Teck Cominco is preparing the mine for production of lead and zinc that will begin in about 2004. Old mine buildings were being refitted in the year 2000 in preparation for new production.

2002 Stalwart band of citizens ventures into the wilds of Pend Oreille County to investigate local geology

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