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Set in a valley carved by glaciers from Canada, Lake Pend Oreille (pond-a-RAY) is surrounded by mountains that stretch up to altitudes further than 6,000 feet. Plunging to maximum depths over 1,000 feet, the lake is one of the largest and deepest natural lakes in the western United States. Lake Pend Oreille is at the center of the Northern Idaho region characterized by open and expansive scenes.
The lake and its mountainous environment provide a mix of adventures and sublime experiences of the wild. The wide, rolling lands of two national forests nestle the borders of the lake. The Kaniksu and Couer d'Alene National Forests attract thousands of visitors who come to play in nature's lap. Patrons partake in hunting, hiking, mountain biking, horseriding, snowmobiling, fishing and much more among the pine, fir and birch woods, winding rivers, large lakes and steep mountain slopes. Coyotes, bobcats, whitetail deer, black bears, grizzly bears, bald eagles, osprey, owls, wolves, and moose are some of the animals that make their home in the diverse areas around Lake Pend Oreille.
The Kallispel Native Americans (or the Pend d'Oreilles) inhabited the region of the lake before white settlement in the 1800s. The present name of the lake though, was given by a French fur trader. "Pend Oreille" is French for ear hanging or pendant. Not surprisingly, the lake is shaped like a human ear.
Lake Pend Oreille was significant to the navy during the World War II era; the south end of Lake Pend Oreille was once the second largest naval training station in the United States, the Farragut Naval Training Station. The training station is now today's Farragut State Park of 4,000 acres but the Navy's Acoustic Research Detachment still utilizes the lake's cavernous depths to test large-scale submarines.
After the war, in 1955, the US Army Corps of Engineers dammed the lake at a natural falls site, Albeni Falls, on the Pend Oreille River. The lake was enlarged as a result, and the dam helped maintain water levels much to relief of residents around the lake. The project helps to both control flooding and generate hydroelectric power. The 111 miles of mountainous shoreline are spotted by various residential communities, an attraction for vacationers and retirees looking for vacation rentals or real estate.
Lake Pend Oreille's native fish are pygmy whitefish, mountain whitefish, cutthroat trout, and bull trout. Non-native species abound. Kokanee salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, catfish, muskie, pike, perch, crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, pumpkinseed and more. The Canadian Gerrard Rainbow trout was imported into the lake in 1941 and in 1947, it earned the 37-pound world record at the lake.
Idaho's Northern region has so much to offer. Visit the underground Crystal Gold Mine in Kellogg or the Wallace District Mining Museum for a taste of the gold rush past. Bike down the Route of the Hiawatha Trail, over 15 miles of railroad track converted to walking and biking paths through truly stunning scenery. Acquire a Priest Lake Ranger District map and go berry picking in the forests or drive the entire 33-mile length of the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway.
About 90,000 surface acres, Lake Pend Oreille is a sprawling beauty. Fishing, swimming, kayaking, power boating, scuba diving and sailing are some of the activities patrons enjoy on the lake. Four recreation sites are situated along the Pend Oreille River that offer sandy beaches and camping. You can charter a fishing guide or go on a lake cruise. And despite the powerful winds that can sometimes make the water choppy and excite sailors, there are numerous coves where the water is calmer. Relax on your sailboat, take in the breathtaking scenery and the miles of water lying wide and open before you like an ocean.
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