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The swish and pop of a fly rod breaks the early morning silence on Williams Lake in the central region of Idaho. A heron wades in the reeds along the shore, eyes intent on the water and dagger-like beak at the ready. Anglers and waterfowl are both out fishing for their breakfast on the 185-acre lake, and rainbow trout is on the menu. From 1941 through 1983 the Idaho Department of Fish and Game stocked the lake with rainbow trout. They stopped the stocking program when they realized the lake was producing a self-sustaining population. Today the inlet of Williams Lake is one of the best places to fly fish in the area, and in a region known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, that's saying something.
Williams Lake is in Lemhi County, approximately 15 miles south of the City of Salmon. The natural lake is surrounded by forested canyon walls and was created when a landslide blocked Lake Creek about 6,000 years ago. It is a very deep mountain lake with a maximum depth of 185 feet. The lake is a favorite with birds including raptors, shorebirds and songbirds; Williams Lake and Lake Creek Trail offer ample chances to see the birds and enjoy the scenery around the lake.
In addition to fly fishing for rainbow trout, anglers can also ice fish on Williams Lake. A public boat ramp and day use area provides access to the lake. Williams Lake is a fantastic place to explore by kayak, and there is more than enough water for swimming and waterskiing. Williams Lake's shoreline is relatively undeveloped with a few lodges, cottages, and vacation rentals.
Almost 90 percent of Lemhi County is federally controlled land, including part of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The forest covers 4.3 million acres and includes Borah Peak, the highest peak in Idaho. Hunting, fishing, and white water rafting are all available in the national forest which encompasses the Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area. The wilderness area has 1.3 million acres and part of the scenic Salmon River. The Salmon River was named the River of No Return by the Lewis and Clark Expedition which passed through the area around Williams Lake in 1805.
Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery crossed the Continental Divide in 1805 and ventured into the Salmon Valley through the Lemhi Pass. They were aided in their exploration by Sacajawea (or Sacagawea), a Lemhi Shoshone woman. Today the city of Salmon operates the Sacajawea Center with a 71-acre park to honor and commemorate her life. The center is two miles outside of Salmon and a great day trip from Williams Lake.
With its lakefront vacation rentals nestled in the shadows of the canyon, Williams Lake is a private, quiet getaway. The rainbow trout provide year round angling opportunities, and the snowmobile, cross country ski and snowshoe trails that criss-cross Lemhi County make Williams Lake a four season destination. Add the white water rafting on the River of No Return and the history of Sacajawea and the Corps of Discovery, and this central Idaho lake has something to please everyone.
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