David Thompson, who established his Saleesh House here in 1809, is the namesake of Thomspon Falls (pop. 1,345, elev. 2,463 feet). Thompson, an English-born explorer, astronomer, and geographer for both the Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies, traveled down the Kootenai River from Canada and into Montana in 1807. Over the next few years he set up trading posts along the Kootenai and Clark Fork Rivers and became the first white man to travel the entire length of the Columbia River, which he mapped from mouth to source. Thompson spoke several Indian languages and won the trust and respect of local Indians.
The falls here were dammed in 1916, backing up a two-mile-long reservoir behind the dam. There are two more dams downstream from this one, making the Clark Fork more like a lake than a river for much of its course from Thomspon Falls to the Idaho state line.