St. Maries (pronounced St. Marys) developed as a steamboat stop and major distribution center for raw logs at the junction of the St. Maries and St. Joe rivers. Boats maneuvering large brailles of logs to sawmills can still be seen moving along the St. Joe River which is the highest navigable river in the world, and boasts blue ribbon trout fishing.
Several boat ramps, including one at St. Maries Aqua Park, make it easy to launch your boat on the St. Joe River. A day on the water can include kayaking, white water rafting, water skiing or cruising on the St. Joe, St. Maries River, Lake Chatcolet or Round Lake. Cherry Bend Boaters Park is an excellent picnic location and home to many community events including the annual smART by the River arts and crafts festival in July. On Labor Day Weekend, the entire town plays host to the annual Paul Bunyan Days which celebrates St. Maries’ logging history.
Hunters enjoy the St. Joe National Forest, which is home to the third largest elk herd in North America. Deer, bear, moose, mountain goat, pheasant, turkey and migratory waterfowl are abundant for the photographer’s pleasure as well.
There are hundreds of miles of spectacular hiking, biking, skiing, horseback riding, snowmobile, motorcycle and four wheeler trails. St. Maries has a scenic 9-hole golf course and the world famous Emerald Creek Garnet Mine. There’s a popular historical murals walking tour, too. Riverfront parks, camping and RV facilities add to St. Maries’ appeal.
St. Maries is the home of Vernon Baker, the first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The town was named by Father Pierre DeSmet who built the original mission on the St. Joe just north of town before flooding caused him to move it to Cataldo.
Nearby Heyburn State Park has cabins, campgrounds, beaches, boating and evening programs. The St. Joe National Forest also has camping facilities and easy access hiking trails. The Marble Creek area has mountain bike trails for all ages and skill levels, as well as camping and hiking through ancient cedar groves. The US Forest Service has established a historical site along Marble Creek that enables visits to turn of the century logging camps and sites.