Clearwater Paper: Lewiston’s Defining Feature

The Clearwater Paper mill is one of the first things you notice in Lewiston, Idaho. Known for providing the town with a pungent odor, it has provided thousands of jobs to the people of the Lewis Clark Valley and has a long history in the area.

The Clearwater Paper Mill in Lewiston, Idaho (formerly known as the Potlach Paper Mill) is well known to locals for emitting billowing clouds of steam from its smoke stacks. It can be seen and smelled from miles away. People visiting the town notice the stench almost instantly, while the residents hardly notice it because it just becomes natural to them. The mill has been a major provider of jobs in the Lewis and Clark Valley and helped with population growth in the surrounding area.

The Lewiston Mill was created in 1950 while still under the Potlach Lumber Company name. During World War II, there was a high demand for wood and other timber products. Potlach took advantage of this and became one of the biggest timber companies in the United States and expanded to Lewiston. The Lewiston Mill was unique. It was the first factory to produce bleached poster board from wood waste. Not only was this efficient for the company, but it was also a move that was environmentally conscious as it put wood waste to use. The Lewiston Mill became one of the company’s most successful factories, which resulted in the headquarters moving from San Francisco to Spokane due to Spokane being much closer to Lewiston. Lewiston was also subject to constant new installations and upgrades which, by the 1990s, included a $40 million upgrade to the sawmill and log processor, a $400 million modernization to the pulp and paper mill, and a $107 million upgrade for a twin wire tissue machine. In 1997, Potlach was awarded $95 million from Beloit Corporation due to a defective pulp washer system.

Due to falling revenue, Clearwater Paper Corporation was created via spin-off in 2008. This was very controversial to the LC valley, as Potlach was a large provider of jobs. Hundreds of lay-offs results from this, but the mill still stayed as a major source of jobs, as well as continued to be a defining feature for the town of Lewiston, Idaho.


805 Mill Rd, Lewiston, ID 83501


Nate Quarry, University of Idaho, “Clearwater Paper: Lewiston’s Defining Feature,” Intermountain Histories, accessed April 23, 2024,