Seat of Pend Oreille County, this town laid out on the gentle curve of a hill that slopes northeast down to the sweeping arc of the Pend Oreille River. Rising in the rugged Bitterroot and Rocky mountain ranges, this stream drains westward into Washington, and then, bending abruptly northward, flows into British Columbia, only to loop back to join the Columbia River almost directly upon the Canadian Boundary Line.
In spring the river, fed by the rapidly melting snows of the mountains, rises rapidly, and the swollen waters creep dangerously near the top of the banks, sometimes overflowing them in places and flooding lowland areas. The danger of floods was greatly increased by careless methods of logging and by the destructive fires that have swept over the logged-off areas and killed the protective covering of humus and vegetation of the watershed.
Newport began in the 1880s as a village on the Idaho side of the river. The few settlers obtained their supplies in Sand Point, on Lake Pend Oreille, and transported them either by overland trail or down the river by raft or canoe. In 1890, a boat was put into this service from Lake Pend Oreille, and landings were constructed on the Washington side of the river. Stimulated by the mining boom in the Idaho mountains and by the extension of logging operations, both Old Town and New Port, as the Washington settlement was called, began to grow. Stores and saloons were opened, and Cottage House became a favorite stopping place for miners and prospectors. By 1892 the Great Northern Railway had laid its rails into New Port, and within a year the town was linked with the rapidly growing city of Spokane some 50 miles to the south. Expansion followed quickly; within a few years, a substantial business district had been built along the river front and the residential area was beginning to creep up the hillside. Putting an end to the rivalry that existed between the towns on both sides of the river, the United States government officially wiped Newport, Idaho, off the map, retaining only Newport, Washington. The report reads: “Newport, Idaho, moved 3,175 feet to Newport, Washington.”
Although farming and mining contribute to its economic life, Newport today depends primarily, as did its growth in the past, upon logging and the manufacture of lumber products. The mills of the Diamond Match Company, across the river in Idaho, draw their employees largely from Newport. The Diamond Match Company was sold in the 1980s to TriProCedar, manufacturer of green and kiln-dried cedar products.
The town is also the shopping and distributing center for the surrounding territory on both sides of the Washington-Idaho Line.
West of Newport, US 2 winds through sparsely settled countryside along the rim of a narrow valley and down an easy grade. Bordering the road are green meadows which merge into a marsh visible a short distance to the right. There, amid the willows, cattails, and tules, blackbirds chatter in the summer and mud hens and grebes build their floating nests. Mallard ducks are plentiful, and occasionally a pintail or a butterball may be seen. Bordering the road as it continues down the valley are hay and grain fields, potato patches, and pastures where cattle and sheep feed. Leaving the valley, the highway traverses barren, burned-over uplands, where a few pine and fir trees still stand.