Rathdrum, Idaho 2020

#11 Rathdrum, Idaho

Metro Spokane Places to Live

2020 population: 9,550
Drive time to downtown Coeur d’Alene: 20 minutes
Drive time to downtown Spokane: 45 minutes


Metro Spokane Lake and Timber Towns
Rathdrum is the northern anchor to Spokane’s urbanized metro.

Overall Character: ★★★★☆
Urban: ★★☆☆☆
Suburban: ★★★☆☆
Walkability: ★★★☆☆
Market Activity: ★★★☆☆
Farm Town: ★★☆☆☆
Timber Town: ★★★☆☆
Lake / River Town: ☆☆☆☆☆


Rathdrum, Idaho 2020 -- Rail Town
The railroad that runs through Rathdrum is the primary expressway for the northern tier of the country. That’s Rathdrum Butte in the background.

Rathdrum Community Description

At the foot of the southern extent of the Selkirk Range is Rathdrum, Idaho. Conversely, at the northern extent of the Rathdrum Prairie is its namesake.

The Rathdrum Prairie is a vast expanse of mostly flat lands that generally extend from Spokane Valley all the way to Athol, Idaho. Below it is an aquifer that supplies drinking water to about 700,000 souls. I don’t know what Rathdrum stands for or what old white guy the city is named after. In SpokanePlanner’s dictionary, Rathdrum means junction, and intersection, and transitional. Rathdrum is all of those things. It will, no doubt, represent the northern urban reach of the rapidly suburbanizing Rathdrum Prairie — where once us urban planners wondered if and when urbanized Spokane would connect to Coeur d’Alene, we now wonder if and when urbanized Post Falls will connect with Rathdrum. The question is rhetorical because the process is well underway as old farms fall like dominoes and, in their stead, are sparkling new subdivisions.

The built environment of Rathdrum itself is generally healthy. Rathdrum is similar to Deer Park in many ways, it’s a big enough town to provide all the fundamentals one needs to generally not have to leave town when one needs fundamentals. Rathdrum has a big grocery store, it has franchise restaurants, and it’s got great local, down home bars. Most importantly, Rathdrum’s historic main street was never forgotten. Indeed, Rathdrum is a small town hub that will soon be characterized as a large town hub, but it must play its cards right – annex the right developments, invest more in downtown, adopt a 21st century land use and zoning code, and invest in the right public improvements.

Building the urban future of Rathdrum is not a game left for amateurs. The city can indeed become one of the cornerstones of the Spokane metro. Here’s to hoping they don’t screw it up.

Rathdrum 2004 -- Gotta do better than this
Street trees, ornamental lighting, angled parking, color, zeroed out setbacks, these are all good things.

Rathdrum 2004 -- Gotta do better than this
This shot is from 2004 when I was 26 and chilling on the back porch of a buddy’s house in Rathdrum. This Rathdrum neighborhood hasn’t changed a bit.

Rathdrum, Idaho 2020 -- City Hall
Rathdrum City Hall has big decisions to make if they’re interested in securing the future.