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Cocolalla Lake, located in Idaho's Northern Region, is an example of the recreational opportunities the Panhandle has to offer. The 805-acre lake is little-known outside of the Sandpoint, Idaho area; 86,000-acre Pend Oreille Lake is only six miles away and garners more attention. But Cocolalla Lake's attractions are many; the lake offers all water sports, solitude, easy access to US 95, and beautiful views of northern Idaho mountains, wetlands and natural vistas. Located less than 75 miles from the Canadian border, Cocolalla Lake experiences four colorful and action-oriented seasons for you to enjoy.
Idaho was the last state to be explored by European explorers; the first Europeans were trappers who arrived in 1809. Prior to that time, the area around Cocolalla Lake and Pend Oreille Lake was left to the Native American tribes in the area - the Kalispel, Flathead, Salish, Kootenai and Pend Oreille. The area was populous enough that a major Native American trail ran through the area from the Spokane River through Bonner's Ferry; the trail was later used by trappers. The eventual building of the railroad through the area finally led to more settlement near Cocolalla Lake; the current railroad travels along the east shore of Lake Cocolalla. Harsh winters and distance were likely the reason much of the land in northern Idaho never passed into private hands. Nearly 64% of the land in Idaho is managed by various agencies of the federal government. Two national forests are within a few miles of Cocolalla Lake.
The western and southern shorelines of Cocolalla Lake are mostly summer cottages and year-round residences. Another large portion of the south shore is wetlands. With the railroad taking up most of the eastern lakefront, there is little possibility the lake will be overdeveloped in the future. An active homeowners group, the Cocolalla Lake Association, works to safeguard and improve water quality in the lake. The Lake Association has battled invasive weed species successfully and is working to improve adjacent road surfaces to limit sediment running into the lake. All types of water sports are engaged in at Cocolalla Lake. Water skiing, tubing, wakeboarding, sailing and power boating are favorites as are personal watercraft. It is the slower float craft that give the lake its best opportunity to showcase nature; canoeing, kayaking and pontooning allow water lovers the opportunity to spot wildlife along the wooded shoreline and waterfowl dabbling in the shallows. Cocolalla Creek, the lake's main water source, provides spawning habitat for brown trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and brook trout. Other creeks providing habitat are Fish Creek, Westmond Creek, Butler Creek and Johnson Creek. The year-round fishery also offers channel catfish, largemouth bass, crappie and perch. Once the lake freezes in December, ice fishing for perch draws many to venture onto the 'hard water.' A public boat launch and campground along the northern shore provide access to visitors where they can picnic, swim and enjoy the sandy beach.
The two small settlements along the shore, Cocolalla and Westmond, provide few amenities except a sense of community and shared effort during the long winters. The larger town of Sandpoint is only 15 miles north of Cocolalla Lake and offers all of the big-city amenities the visitor would need in terms of shopping and entertainment. Sandpoint offers cultural venues such as the Panida Theater and a full range of festivals and activities to entertain the visitor. For the 'big water boater,' access to Pend Oreille Lake is available at marinas along the shore. Closer to Cocolalla Lake, both the Kaniksu and Coeur d'Alene National Forests provide thousands of acres for hiking, mountain biking and back-country camping. Wildlife Management Areas are set aside for hunting in season in designated areas. Elk, deer and moose are available for hunting with a permit. The public lands in Bonner County contain over 400 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. A riding stable is located near Cocolalla Lake, and the quiet country roads are ideal for walking, cycling and enjoying the lake from varied vantage points. A theme park is located only 15 miles from the lake, and major ski areas are less than an hour away on 6,400-foot Schweitzer Mountain.
Only five miles from Cocolalla Lake by car, Round Lake State Park surrounds Cocolalla Creek and small Round Lake. A favorite camping spot, the park offers campsites with modern restrooms, showers, dump station, picnic tables and barbecue grills all shaded by towering western red cedar, western hemlock, ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and western larch. Canoe rentals are available at the park with facilities for swimming and some great fishing spots. The many small wetland areas around Cocolalla Lake and Pend Oreille Lake offer excellent bird watching opportunities. During high rainfall years, little Westmond Creek delivers water from Cocolalla Lake northeast to tiny Westmond Lake. The small lake surrounded by wetlands is a noted bird-watching area for raptors, shorebirds, songbirds and waterfowl from April to September.
Cocolalla Lake is a short 40 miles from Coeur d'Alene along an all-weather highway. Vacation rentals can be found along the lakeshore; several property owners rent out cabins by the week or month. Others offer their residential properties by reservation. Bed-and breakfasts are available both in Sandpoint and in the surrounding area as are hotels and resorts. There is often real estate for sale both along the lake and in the surrounding area. Cocolalla Lake is the ideal spot for those who enjoy both summer activities at the lake and loads of snow sports in winter. So, bring the boat and the skis, pack the binoculars and prepare to vacation in one of nature's most pleasant hidden playgrounds. Discover Cocolalla Lake. Make it part of your life!
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