Under the surface: A history of sunken steamer ships

Every day, Coeur d’Alene Cruises boats take people on tours of the lake and local rivers. Our ships cover thousands of miles atop the water each year as we help people see the shoreline and wildlife of North Idaho.

But have you ever wondered what’s below the surface?

Lake Coeur d’Alene has many sunken ships below the surface. Steamships were used in the 1800s to transport people, mining equipment and logs during the timber boom. The lake was a hub of activity, with the big steam-powered ships running back and forth across the surface. However, when the ships were worn out, mining and logging companies sunk the ships to quickly get rid of them.

One popular dive site with more than five steamship wrecks is off Steven’s Point. Many ships were sunk when they were no longer needed, and ended up near the shoreline. Check with local dive companies for more information about scuba diving this site.

Many shipwrecks are also located off Independence Point. After the ships were rendered useless after years of service, they were stripped of all useful parts and used as docks for those lighting off fireworks during Fourth of July festivities. Many of the discarded ships are still intact, and scuba divers visit the ships, between about 40 feet and 60 feet deep, to see a bit of Coeur d’Alene history preserved.

Because of its rich history, there are even rumors of sunken treasure!

Legend has it, in the late 1880s, more than 150 tons of silver ore spilled off a barge at McDonald Point and sunk to the bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene. If the myths are fact, the mass of silver could be worth up to $75,000 today. There’s no way to know if it’s true, but local scuba divers always keep their eyes peeled, just in case.

What have you found while diving in Lake Coeur d’Alene — any sunken treasure or favorite sunken ship scuba dive sites? Let us know!

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