Lakes and Reservoirs
SAILING ON LAKE PEND OREILLE
Lakes and reservoirs are scattered around the landscape of Idaho. Over 2,000 of these attractions can be found in the state! These sites are headquarters for a wide variety of outdoor adventures for residents and visitors alike. For a great time, plan your vacation around one these natural or man-made water parks
Family recreation such as boating and fishing are the two basic activities on these lakes and reservoirs. Most have ramps for boat launching and a few have marinas, including refueling facilities. Some allow water skiing, jet skiing and even windsurfing. Swimming areas are often available. Some have fish cleaning stations. Fishing from shore is popular at most, and there is wintertime ice fishing at several. But, there is more.
Camping at or near these waters is popular. Most have campsites ranging from primitive to full-service. Some of the lakes and reservoirs are the location of an Idaho State Park or other government-managed facility with amenities for day-use and overnight campers. Some offer rental cabins or have yurt-style tents for rent.
Hiking trails around or out from these waters provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the area. Many lead to spectacular vistas and nearby features of interest. Bike , ATV and winter season snowmobiling, cross-country Nordic and snowshoeing trails are also maintained near several of these lakes and reservoirs.
On the other hand, these pristine, peaceful locations also offer a unique opportunity to just unwind when away from the routine of your everyday life. Whatever your wish, make your plans now.
Idaho’s Family Fishing Waters
Scenic Stanley Lake, located in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, is one of nearly 100 lakes, reservoirs and ponds designated as Family Fishing Waters found across Idaho.
© Linda Lantzy
Idaho Scenic Images
These family-oriented fishing locations are open year-round and are available to families, kids and first-time anglers under a set of simplified rules. In addition to being open all year, there is a six-fish limit, no fish length limitations and no specified fishing tackle requirements.
For more information and a complete listing of all the waters in the Family Fishing Waters program, see the latest Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules booklet. The 2013/2015 edition can be downloaded from the link shown just below.
When you visit these awesome waters of Idaho, don't forget your camera and binoculars!
Fishing regulations and rules are, of course, vastly different on each water. The 2013/2015 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules booklet is available here. To download a free PDF File copy of the official regulations and rules in whole or in part,
Now, take a look at a few of the larger, more popular Idaho waters, listed here alphabetically:
This 1,200 acre alpine lake, one of many in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, is 37 miles north of Ketchum, Idaho and 25 miles south of Stanley, Idaho off State Route 75. Take Forest Road 205 west from the highway. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking.
At 56,000 acres, this reservoir on the Snake River is the largest in Idaho and is owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. Located off Interstate Route 86 between Burley, Idaho and Pocatello, Idaho. Good fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout and other species year around, including ice fishing during colder winters. Boat ramps, docks and fuel available. Visitor Center in the town of American Falls. Camping, boating, fishing.
ANDERSON RANCH RESERVOIR
Formed by a dam on the South Fork of the Boise River, this 17-mile long reservoir is a popular destination for fishermen, boaters, water skiers, and bird watchers. Northeast of Mountain Home, Idaho off U.S. Route 20, the area features alpine lakes, great fly fishing, Boise National Forest, ghost towns, and a rich history. Camping, boating, fishing, hiking.
Located in the southeast corner of Idaho off U.S. Route 89, about half of this 20-mile long lake is in Idaho and half is in Utah. The 966-acre Bear Lake State Park is found at the north end of the lake, with a separate beach unit on the east side. Popular with boaters, water skiers and swimmers, the lake also has cutthroat and lake trout fishing in the summer, with dip netting for the smelt-like Bonneville cisco (found only in Bear Lake) looked forward to during a specified winter season. The area is well known for superb raspberries, celebrated with a festival in August at nearby Garden City (see Bear Lake Raspberry Days on the Local Events tab on this website). Camping, boating, fishing, swimming.
When you visit Bear Lake, take a fascinating side trip to the largest cave in Idaho, Minnetonka Cave. The Forest Service guides tours through the cave from mid-June to Labor Day. See spectacular stalactites and stalagmites! No handicapped access. Tennis shoes are perfect and a sweater or light jacket is suggested. From the west side of Bear Lake at Fish Haven, take the Fish Haven Creek Road (Forest Road 413) to this popular attraction. See a photo taken inside Minnetonka Cave on the TOP ATTRACTIONS PAGE on this site.
C. J. Strike
South of Mountain Home, Idaho on State Route 51 to the town of Bruneau, then west on State Route 78. This popular 7,500 acre fishery for both cold water and warm water species was formed by damming both the Snake and Bruneau Rivers. Interesting angling for the prehistoric sturgeon occurs at the dam. These catch and release monsters can go up to 10 feet long and 300 pounds. Surrounded by the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area and close to Bruneau Sand Dunes and the Bruneau Dunes State Park, this site is loaded with sightseeing adventures. Camping, boating, fishing.
Seventy-four miles north of Boise, Idaho via State Route 55, this body of water is the result of a dam on the North Fork of the Payette River, and stretches between the Idaho towns of Cascade and Donnelly. The 4,450 acre Lake Cascade State Park with 4 campgrounds can be found on the northwest of the impound. Fisherman catch Coho salmon, rainbow trout, perch and smallmouth bass, year-round including through the ice in the winter months. Camping, boating, fishing, biking, hiking.
Just possibly the most beautiful alpine lake in all of the U.S., it is over 25 miles long, with over 120 miles of shoreline. The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho sits at the north end on Interstate Route 90. Many North Idaho attractions, such as Silverwood, the largest theme park in the northwest, are nearby (see the Top Attractions tab on this website). Landlocked Chinook salmon up to 40 pounds and tasty kokanee trout are top prizes for those fishing these waters. Camping, boating, sailing, fishing, biking, hiking, sightseeing.
Duck Valley Reservoirs
These 3 reservoirs (Billie Shaw, Mountain View and Sheep Creek) on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation are a "must do" for the stillwater fisherman. Billie Shaw Reservoir is the smallest at 430 acres, managed as a trophy trout fishery. No motors allowed, fly fishing only, single barbless hooks. Most fish from float tubes or small watercraft. $25 daily fee. Mountain View (633 acres) and Sheep Creek (788 acres) have smaller trout and are managed as put-and-take fisheries, but larger fish are lurking. Both have a $10 per day fee for adults, $7.50 per day for kids 12 and under. To get there, take Interstate Route 84 from Boise to Mountain Home, then south on State Route 51 to Duck Valley Reservation. Watch for reservoir signs. Camping on the three reservoirs is available at $6/night without electricity. Campsites with electricity are $12.50/night. Information: 208-759-3246
Located 5 miles north of Orofino, Idaho via U.S. Route 12, this 53-mile long impound was formed by a 717 foot dam on the Clearwater River. Dworshak State Park is on the western shore and is comprised of three separate units. The 850-acre campgrounds and facilities are outstanding for family outings and group gatherings. Rental cabins are also available. The best kokanee fishing in Idaho. Fish cleaning station. Boat ramps, docks and a marina with fuel available. Camping, boating, water skiing, fishing, hiking, swimming.
Heyburn State Park Lakes
Take U. S. Route 95 south from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, then State Route 5 east from Plummer, Idaho. This park, the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, is comprised of 5,500 acres of land and 2,300 acres of water. Chatcolet, Benewah, and Hidden Lakes are all part of the park, and the St. Joe River can be found on the park’s east border. These smaller lakes are good fisheries for pike, bass and pan fish. Osprey and blue heron are common at the park, making bird watching superb. Trails for hikers and equestrians are shaded by tall pines. There’s a public boat ramp and fuel dock. Boats, canoes and kayaks can be rented. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, a 72 mile paved bike trail, goes right through Heyburn State Park. A favorite for camping, boating, water skiing, fishing, hiking, biking or just hanging out.
This famous, 6,000-acre high mountain lake is at Staley Springs, Idaho, north of Idaho Falls and west of West Yellowstone, Montana on U.S. Route 20. Three to five pound cutthroat trout, three pound brook trout and even larger cutthroat-rainbow hybrids can be caught here. Henrys Lake State Park, with 44 campsites and 3 rental cabins, is at the south end of the lake. Boat ramps and a fish cleaning station are available. Another classic, Island Park Reservoir, is about 15 miles south of Henrys Lake (see below). World-class stream fishing on the Henrys Fork, Madison and Gallatin Rivers is nearby. Camping, fishing, hiking, biking.
This shallow reservoir is south of Henry Lake, off U.S. Route 20. The waters are not as productive as in past years, but there are still many large rainbows lurking about. Boat ramps are available, but float tubing is a popular way to fish this spot. West End and Buttermilk are two campgrounds at the reservoir, or camp at Harriman State Park to the south of Island Park Fishing is the attraction here, but wildlife and bird watching is a spectacular pastime.
A popular, weekend getaway east of Boise on State Route21, Lucky Peak is a 12-mile long reservoir on the Boise River. The waters are a favorite for boaters, other watercraft users and water skiers, so keep your cool if fishing for the trout and bass is your desire. Lucky Peak State Park is made up of roadside Discovery Park (picnic and fishing area), Sandy Point Beach, Spring Shores (boat ramps, a full-service marina and on-site watercraft rentals), and Idaho City Backcountry Yurts and trail system for overnight camping and trail adventures. Boating, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking.
The 34-acre Sandy Point Beach Unit at Lucky Peak is located at the foot of the dam. It is made up of a large, sandy swimming area with a giant fountain. There are two volleyball courts, shady trees, green grass, changing areas, restrooms, showers, charcoal grills and picnic tables. If you find yourself in Boise and you need to cool off, come on over for a dip!
This 1,000-acre reservoir on the Big Lost River is off U.S. Route 93, six miles northwest of Mackay, Idaho. A small, recently-renovated and well-appointed campground operated by the BLM has level, paved trailer sites. 12,662-foot Borah Peak, the highest point in Idaho, is just to the northwest. There is a boat ramp at the campsite. Fish the upper end with midges, pheasant tails, hare’s ears and wooly buggers or troll the river channel. The Big Lost River can be blue-ribbon quality. Camping, fishing, hiking.
Located along U.S. Route 26 southeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho and northwest of Alpine, Wyoming, this body of water is the result of slowing the Snake, Salt and Greys Rivers in Wyoming. Only a small percentage of the reservoir is in Wyoming. The outlet at the northern end is Idaho’s Snake River. The reservoir is about 18 miles long, with campsites around the impoundment. Several boat ramps are available near the town of Palisades, Idaho and at other points. The reservoir offers up cutthroats, browns and kokanee, as well as lake trout (Mackinaw). The fishery is open all year, with the summer being the worst for fishing due to irrigation demands. Camping, fishing, hiking.
This 5,330-acre pristine, glacial lake is located on State Route 55 north of Boise, Idaho and Lake Cascade Reservoir (see above). The town of McCall, Idaho is nestled on the southern end, and 1,000-acre Ponderosa State Park, a 2-unit park is found on the water.
The park, on a peninsula jutting out into the water, offers camping, rental Yurts, boat launching and wilderness hiking trails in the surrounding Payette National Forest. Camping, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking. Groomed, first-class Nordic cross-country and snowshoe trails are maintained during winters.
The largest in Idaho, Pend Oreille (Pond-er-ray) lies in the North Idaho Panhandle. At 65 miles long and 15 miles wide at its widest point, these unspoiled waters are the playground for recreation-seekers from around the world. The quaint town of Sandpoint, Idaho, is perched on the north end of the lake, and can be reached via U.S. Route 95 from the south, or U.S. Route 2 from the west. Sandpoint is the perfect base from which to explore the lake and the surrounding area. Boating and fishing are the main attractions on Pend Oreille. The fishery has given up a 37-pound Kamloops trout, and prize-winning Dolly Varden trout and Mackinaw trout are often caught. Public ramps and marinas are found all the way around the lake, and campgrounds are associated with many of the launch areas. Camping, boating, sailing, fishing, swimming, hiking, biking.
Beautiful Priest Lake is located to the northwest of Sandpoint. Take U.S. Route 2 west out of Sandpoint or east out of Newport, Washington to the small town of Priest River, then State Route 57 north to the lake. Priest is in the Selkirk Mountains just 30 miles from the Canadian border. It is 19 miles long, and is surrounded by dense forests of fir, cedar and tamarack trees. 775-acre Priest Lake State Park is on the lakes eastern shore. The popular location features over 150 campsites, 5 rental cabins and a group camp. It has boat ramps, docks and boat rentals. Fishing is big here. The lake gave up the world record Mackinaw trout and also offers up trophy rainbows. Camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking in the warmer months, with wintertime cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
Have you ever eaten wild huckleberries? They are great and they can be found in the Priest Lake area! The Lion Creek drainage area is usually productive. They ripen at lower elevations beginning in mid-July and at higher locations in late July and early August. Check with park personnel and experience huckleberry hunting...and eating!
LITTLE REDFISH LAKE
© Peg Owens - Idaho Travel Council
Just south of Stanley, Idaho on State Route 75, Redfish is high in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. This often-photographed body of water (and the smaller Little Redfish Lake to its northern end) are found against the stark backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains. Redfish is named for the blazing red Sockeye Salmon that once traveled from the Pacific Ocean in huge numbers to the lake during spawning season. These fish are now an endangered species. Visit (or stay at) the Redfish Lake Lodge, with their cabin rentals, watercraft rentals and restaurant, or at nearby Forest Service campgrounds with boat launch and a visitor center. Lake fishing is not always good, so most fish the area streams, including the famed Salmon River.
Located 10 miles northeast of Rupert, Idaho via State Route 24, then east on Minidoka Dam Road. This 25-mile long reservoir, caused by a dam on the Snake River, adjoins the marshy Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge which offers some of the best bird watching in Idaho. Lake Walcott State Park, on the northwest end of the impound, has camping and picnic spots with grassy expanses and shady, hardwood trees. Camping, boating, sailing, windsurfing, and bird watching.
There is a wonderful disc golf course at Lake Walcott State Park. Bring your Frisbee!