Touring the historic missions of the west is a vacation activity that many people worldwide dream of doing. However, the old Spanish Missions in Texas, the Desert Southwest and along the entire west coast are usually the first to come to mind when doing such a tour is mentioned. Because of the Spanish influence, most people simply picture the classic missions as only belonging in sunny warm places. Much of this is due to the Spanish Missions always being on the cover of travel brochures. This may be difficult for some to believe, but the Spanish priests were not the only missionaries in the old wild west. There actually is an old historic Catholic Mission that was established by French and Italian priests way north in Idaho near the Canadian Border, which proves that not all of the old west missions are located in the warm sun belt!
For those who are heading west on Interstate Highway 90 after touring Glacier National Park, there is a narrow section of Idaho to cross before getting to the State Of Washington. Mainstream tourists often overlook the Idaho panhandle when making vacation plans, but this vast mountainous wilderness has plenty to offer. There are several great National Forest campgrounds, historic sites and State Parks up this way that are well worth checking out. One of the best north Idaho attractions is the Old Mission State Park, which is conveniently located at an I-90 offramp.
Coeur d' Alene's Old Mission State Park is now the official name of this destination, which provides a clue to its French and indigenous origins. Northern Idaho was the land of tribal nations, Acadian fur trappers and mountain men back when plans for a Catholic Mission first took shape. Catholic Priests went on a conversion mission in the entire Northwest shortly after the Louisiana Purchase, which brought them to this region in 1831. During the next decade, the priests were on good standing with the Nez Perce and Flathead Tribes, so meetings were soon arranged with the church hierarchy and plans for establishing a mission took shape.
The Catholic Mission was constructed in the early 1850s and the original name was Sacred Heart Of Jesus. Later in history after tribal sovereign nations were established locally and the Idaho State Park system came to be, the name of this mission was changed to Coeur d' Alene's, which reflects upon the influence of the local Schitsu'umsh Tribes and old west French fur trappers. The name Coeur d' Alene's is an old French fur trapper expression that translates to "heart of an awl" which means "a sharp heart" in plain English. In this case, "sharp heart" refers to the local native people being sharp smart businessmen that required great skill to strike a deal with!
The old historic Coeur d' Alene's Mission actually is the oldest building in the State Of Idaho, so there is plenty of old west history to learn in this place. This State Park has a museum on site, there are vast grassy fields with picnic areas and there is even a boat launch down by the lake. One of the best biking trails in Idaho runs through this park, so a full day can be spent having a good time in this place. When touring the panhandle of northern Idaho, be sure to keep this historic destination in mind, because few people back home will actually believe that an old west mission can be found in this neck of the woods!
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