What you need to know for a season out on the lake
By Abigail Thorpe
June has arrived, and for many of us in Sandpoint it’s finally that time we’ve been waiting for since we hauled the boat out last September: boating season. The sun is out, it’s finally warm, and the lake has risen once again. A jump in the water might still take your breath away this early in the season, but it’s finally lake time, and that’s what summer in Sandpoint is all about.
From Beyond Hope to Forty-One South, there are plenty of places to boat out to for an afternoon of fun and relaxation. After all, we’re fortunate enough to live on Idaho’s largest lake—you could spend a long weekend just boating around its perimeter. On everything from kayaks and paddleboards to powerboats and sailboats, locals know how to take advantage of time on the lake, exploring every inlet, cove and island.
But you don’t have to own a boat to take part in the fun. Regardless of if you’re visiting or you’ve lived here for some time, there are multiple opportunities to rent for the day or longer. Whether you’re paddling your way around Lake Pend Oreille or on a motor-powered adventure, it’s well worth making a point to explore some new places by boat, or try a new form of water transportation. We’ve only got a few months of lake time, so why not make the most of it?
Just getting started?
If you’re new to boating or this is your first season out on the lake, you’re in the right place—there are plenty of resources and people to get you started.
Kayaking, paddle boarding and canoeing are the perfect way to dip your toes in the water and explore Lake Pend Oreille and surrounding rivers and mountain lakes, plus the learning curve is fairly easy—and it’s relatively inexpensive. Borrow a friend’s or rent to get a feel for what you like best, and when you’re ready to own your own, do a bit of research or head to one of our local experts to find the right fit for you. There are even great inflatable kayak and paddleboard options now that make transportation and storage simple and easy.
Sailing is a big pastime on Lake Pend Oreille, and it’s also a fun way to explore the lake, learn a new skill and get outside. But unlike kayaking and paddle boarding, it takes a bit more experience and practice to master the intricacies of sailing. Luckily, there are many local sailing crews that welcome newcomers.
The Sandpoint Sailing Association out of Windbag Marina is a great way to get connected with local sailors, find education opportunities, and maybe even get out on a boat for some practice. In addition, you can book a local skippered cruise or lessons to get a little experience before you head out with a crew for a race or sail across the lake.
On any given summer day in Sandpoint, you’ll see multiple powerboats cruising across the crystal surface of the lake. It’s one of our favorite summer pastimes—and absolutely worth the winter wait for those precious three to four months of boating season. But owning a boat can be expensive—and requires a lot of time and commitment.
Last year saw a huge jump in new boat owners, and this year looks to continue the trend. If you’re looking to get in on the fun, take your time to do some research and find the right boat for you. Also, some boat safety education can go a long way. It’s free through BoatUS Foundation, and Bonner County Sheriff’s Office conducts a Boat Idaho Course about three times each spring/summer season that is free and open to the public.
Set out on an adventure.
Lake Pend Oreille and surrounding lakes and rivers offer a host of boating adventures from short excursions to multi-day cruises and paddles. If you’re looking for a relaxing evening or weekend jaunt, head over to the Floating Restaurant or Beyond Hope for some lakeside dining, or if you’re ready to soak up the sun and join some other boaters on the water, the Pack River Flats sandbar east of Hope near Sunnyside is a popular destination.
If you’re looking for some more adventurous excursions, there are plenty of put-in areas and gorgeous routes for kayaking throughout the lake. Talache Landing, Garfield Bay and Hope all provide ideal spots for exploring various regions of the lake and shore, or you can put in at Johnson Creek near Clark Fork, and paddle through the Clark Fork Delta and around the shore of Lake Pend Oreille to the Green Monarchs; just make sure to hug the shore to avoid the sometimes strong winds.
If you’re looking for a more extreme adventure, the multi-day, 111-mile paddle around the lake will offer unparalleled viewpoints and access to hard-to-reach areas, but it’s an intense camping and kayaking experience that you’ll need experience, provisions, gear and a friend or two for.
Multiple overnight destinations dot the perimeter of Lake Pend Oreille, and you can access many of them from sailboat and motorboat. From Springy Point Campground where the Pend Oreille River flows out of the lake, you can head to Sam Owen Campground on the shores of Hope, where you can set out from to explore the several small nearby islands, or head across the lake to the majestic Green Monarchs, where the mountains drop off into the lake and several buoys make it easy to tie your boat off and jump in for a swim or picnic on the shore.
As you head south along the lake, Garfield Bay and Green Bay campgrounds offer beautiful views and a quiet bay to enjoy boating, fishing and swimming. Just south of Talache, Maidens Rock and Evans Landing provide primitive camping beaches that are first come, first served, and only accessible by foot or boat.
While you’re at the southern end of the lake, take the opportunity to explore the deepest part of the lake, which still supports U.S. Navy submarine testing near Bayview and the historic Farragut State Park, an old WWII naval training station.
Where to rent ...
You don’t have to own a boat to get out on the lake. There are multiple boat rentals around the lake for visitors and residents alike that offer everything from kayaks and paddleboards to sailboats and pontoons.
Action Water Sports in downtown Sandpoint offers wake and ski boat rentals, pontoons, jet ski and kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as lessons and lake tours. Sandpoint Boat and RV Rentals also offers a variety of rental options by the day or month, and Sandpoint Watersports in Dover Bay, Bottle Bay Resort and Marina and Hope Marine Services all have rental options available if you’re staying in a specific location on the lake.
For those who would rather sit back and enjoy the views, there are several charters and tours available on Lake Pend Oreille. Hop aboard the classic Shawnodese ferryboat for daily and specialty cruises from Lake Pend Oreille Cruises, or Cloud Nine Sail Charters out of Hope offers skippered sailing charters for an incredible experience on the lake.
No matter your preferred method of travel, take the opportunity this summer to head out on the lake and explore it from a new viewpoint. From day-long cruises to watersports or overnight adventures on secluded beaches, there is so much our beautiful Lake Pend Oreille has to offer from the vantage point of a boat deck, kayak or paddleboard.