The south end of Lake Pend Oreille is spectacularly beautiful. Sheer cliffs line the shore, and from just about any vantage point on the water you are given a 360-degree view on unparalleled scenery. Because of its remoteness and rugged terrain, very few homes are found along the shoreline. Once you set off from Bayview, it doesn’t take but a few minutes until you feel almost alone on the lake. There are, however, communities in small tucked-away pockets and bays. Some are a handful of homes while others are at most a couple dozen. These include places like Lakeview and Cedar Creek. A run into town for residents here is an all-day journey as they have only narrow dirt roads going to and from their homes, almost all of which are snowed in come winter. Many have come to rely on the generosity of one man and his liquid limo.
Captain Wes Jones is the most recent waterway mailman servicing these lakefront communities, something that’s been done for around 100 years. Each morning, he picks up mail that needs delivered and carts it down to his 22-foot Duckworth boat he’s dubbed ‘The Liquid Limo.’ Wes is in his fourth year delivering the mail, but it’s just his second year out on his own. He purchased the boat from the previous owner and worked out a contract with the mail service. But it’s much more than mail Wes delivers to the homeowners who’ve become friends.
As we make the route this day, our first stop is Lakeview, where the mailboxes can be found inside a shed next to the public boat launch. Just a few letters and an Amazon package left here. We head next to Cedar Creek to put a newspaper inside a dock-mounted box and to drop off a letter to another neighbor. He is sporting a large beard and work clothes, pistol on one hip and knife on the other. A five-minute conversation is held, and it’s on to the next spot. Mrs. Williams has lived in her home since 1952. Wes brings her mail, loaves of bread and a couple of extra treats. “People can put in orders at the ‘Merc’ [a Bayview grocer] and I’ll deliver what they need to them when I’m on the route,” explained Wes.
The mail route takes approximately two hours with some extra time to chat. Despite the beautiful open-air office, the route can be a bit lonely, and Captain Wes always enjoys having company on board. This lead Wes to the realization that there are a lot of goods and people that need transportation in the area and his liquid limo was the perfect boat to do it. This past month, Wes left his job as security at the Bayview Naval Acoustic Research Detachment to focus on his burgeoning business—The Bayview Shuttle. “I thought how many more summers could I wait to start a tour business, and decided I just have to go for it,” said Wes.
Wes recently received his captain’s license, has the insurance and all the other documents in place and is ready for guests. The Liquid Limo can accommodate up to six adults on each trip. The interior is covered so even on rainy days or windy waters you will stay dry. The 90-minute morning trips follow Captain Wes on his mail route, which includes stops in Kilroy Bay, Whiskey Rock Campground, Cedar Creek, Granite Creek, Pine Cove and Lakeview. He also brings guests up close to the famous rock slides where it’s not uncommon to spot a few mountain goats.
The Bayview shuttle also offers pickup/drop-off services to a couple of remote camping areas. Whiskey Rock campground is a popular spot for boaters to stop during the summer. It’s accessible by road but is a long and bumpy ride from Highway 95. For $20 a person, Captain Wes will load up all the camping gear for you, drop you at the campsites, and pick you up and take you back to Bayview whichever morning you decide. “If you forget something, I can pick it up at the Merc and run it out to you as well,” said Wes.
Wes is also partnering with owners of the recently opened Gold Creek Lodge. Located just outside of Lakeview, the lodge was once called the Happy Hermit and came with a rather storied reputation as a place to do and act however you want. It closed when a fire destroyed it but was purchased by David McCahill, an avid dirt biker who’s been riding the forest-service trails surrounding the area for years. McCahill, along with friend and manager Bascom Palmer, have created a Mecca in the middle of the Idaho wilderness, and in the short time the lodge has been open, many of the top Endurocross athletes in the world have found their way here and into the hundreds of miles of backcountry trails. The lodge features nine brand new rooms, and the grounds will soon also contain six full-service RV sites and 10 permitted campsites. To keep traffic to a minimum, the Bayview shuttle will take guests to the lodge from Bayview instead of having them take the long windy gravel road in from the highway. Wes is also planning on making the lodge a stop for lunch during daytime cruises or dinner during sunset cruises on the lake. The restaurant was built in 2010 and has a full menu along with beer and wine.
Captain Wes has always worked for someone else: the Naval Detachment, security at Las Vegas hotels or putting up to 5,000 miles a week truck driving. He is excited to be taking on the entrepreneurial spirit and creating his own business while sharing the beautiful surroundings he calls home with others.
“I’m a little nervous but probably twice as excited to see how things go this summer,” said Wes. Whether it’s a relaxing summer night cruise, Eagle watching in the winter or an overnight stay at a remote campsite or lodge, Captain Wes and his Liquid Limo can get you there safely and with incredible views as a great bonus. For more information or to schedule a trip, call 208.819.0151 or check out the Bayview Shuttle on Facebook.