Published: April 30, 2024 | Updated: April 26, 2024

Jake’s Landing, bouncing back from COVID

The Jacobson family at Jake's Landing in Porthill.

The Jacobson family at Jake's Landing in Porthill.

PORTHILL — Right on the Selkirk Loop, Jake’s Landing is pressed between a mountain range, the Kootenai River and the Canadian border. 

A scenic spot where one can get your mail, gas up before crossing the border, snag snacks or basic goods when out camping, either in the nearby forests or camping on the grounds. 

“Part of Jake’s Landing appeal is you can arrive by airplane, boat and by car,” Wendy Jacobson said. 

Some Bonners Ferry locals will fly up for a cup of coffee and land at the Eckhart International Airport, a landing strip next to Jake’s Landing and right at the border. Often, boaters will dock and come by for a rest, ice or additional snacks. 

Being so close to the Canadian border has been a double-edged sword. Canadians just up the road, have been known to come down for cheaper gas and utilize the packaging center. How with limited border hours during COVID-19, business slowed down and regulars were far and in between. 

“We purchased the place in June 2019. The previous owners had the place for 15 or 20 years,” Lars Jacobson said. “Our goal was to make it a destination spot for families to come to dry camp with an RV or tent camping. Of course, COVID hit and with it every plan that we had went out the window.” 

During the pandemic the Porthill Port of Entry was open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., whereas before it had been open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The change in hours and vaccination requirements drastically affected Jake’s Landing as many regular Canadian customers no longer visited for gas nor shipping when the pandemic closed the border and then, when it reopened, saw shorter hours to cross between the two countries. 

It was common for Canadians to pick up packages and basic goods at Jake’s Landing, rather than going to Creston just across the border in British Columbia.  

In October 2022, David Sims, director of the Boundary County Economic Council said many smaller businesses had noticed the lack of returning Canadian regulars as it is impacting small businesses. As of March 2023, the port of entry hours has moved to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the U.S. side and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for those entering Canada. 

“People can drive into Canada until 11 at night, but can’t get into the U.S. after 7 p.m. in Porthill,” he said.

Many of their clientele are traveling the Selkirk Loop, the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route or are heading to Banff in the Canadian province of Alberta, will camp for the night at Jake’s Landing. 

In the past winters Jake’s Landing turned into “Santa’s Village” and was operated by Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and elves. Jacobson said they will not be bringing it back due to the lack of turnout in past years.

“After four years, we couldn’t get the turnout,” he said. “Our best year was in 2020 during COVID. People from Rathdrum came up and were thankful because their kid wasn’t going to have the Santa experience that year.” 

Although turning Jake’s Landing into a Christmas wonderland was fun for friends and family, it wasn’t economical enough to continue.

Jake’s Landing has had to diversify, instead of having the Big Daddy’s Bar and Grill open for service, the restaurant is used for catered events. Additionally, above the bar and grill is a vacation rental. 

Jacobson said now with the change in the port of entry hours, things are better and customers are more common, but the new issue is reaching customers. They have expanded marketing efforts to Canada and have hosted a motorcycle rally in 2023. 

With the border now being open, the Jacboson’s are trying to bounce back this summer and be a destination, whether it is for a family reunion camping trip, Airbnb stay, or a spot to get boat fuel and snacks before getting out on the water.