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Lake Pend Oreille
Lake Pend Oreille.jpg
Aerial view in 1993
Location of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, USA.
Location of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, USA.
Lake Pend Oreille
Location in Idaho
Location of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, USA.
Location of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, USA.
Lake Pend Oreille
Location in the United States
Location Bonner / Kootenai counties, Idaho, U.S.
Coordinates 48°10′0″N 116°20′0″W / 48.16667°N 116.33333°W / 48.16667; -116.33333
Primary inflows Clark Fork River,
Pack River, Trestle Creek
Primary outflows Pend Oreille River,
Spokane Valley–Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer
Basin countries United States
Max. length 43 miles (69 km)
Surface area 148 square miles (380 km2)
Max. depth 1,150 feet (351 m)
Surface elevation 2,062 feet (628 m)
Trenches Purcell
Settlements Sandpoint

Lake Pend Oreille ( pond-Ə-ray) in the northern Idaho Panhandle is the largest lake in the U.S. state of Idaho and the 38th-largest lake by area in the United States, with a surface area of 148 square miles (380 km2). It is 43 miles (69 km) long, and 1,150 feet (350 m) deep in some regions, making it the fifth-deepest in the nation and having a Volume: 43,939,940 acre ft= 54 km^3. The lake is fed by the Clark Fork River and the Pack River, and drains into the Pend Oreille River, as well as subsurfacely into the Spokane Valley–Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. It is surrounded by national forests and a few small towns, with the largest population on the lake at Sandpoint. The majority of the shoreline is non-populated and all but the southern tip of the lake is in Bonner County. The southern tip is in Kootenai County and is home to Farragut State Park, formerly the Farragut Naval Training Station during World War II, of which a small part is still active and conducts U.S. Navy acoustic underwater submarine research.

The surrounding forests consist of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, red cedar, poplar, quaking aspen, hemlock, paper birch and western larch. Local animal species include white-tailed deer, elk, gray wolves, moose, mice, squirrels, black bears, grizzly bear, coyotes, mountain goat, cougar and bobcats, along with bald eagles, osprey, owls, hummingbirds, hawks, woodpeckers, ducks, and the mountain bluebird. The lake is a home for several species of migratory water fowl.


US Navy 051130-N-7676W-033 The Advanced Electric Ship Demonstrator (AESD), Sea Jet, undergoes sea trials on Lake Pend Oreille at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division, Acoustic Research Detachment in Bayview, Idah
The Advanced Electric Ship Demonstrator (AESD) undergoes sea trials on Lake Pend Oreille at the Naval Surface Warfare Center

Lake Pend Oreille was glacially formed during the ice age. It is also believed that the eastern side of the lake was in the path of the ancient Missoula Flood. The lake sits at the south end of the Purcell Trench, carved by glaciers moving south from Canada. The eastern side of the glacier is believed to have formed the dam for the Missoula flood, at the point where the Clark Fork river enters the lake between the Cabinet and Bitterroot mountains. The lake is made slightly larger by the dam at Albeni Falls, just east of Oldtown, Idaho. The dam is 90 feet (27 m) high and operated by the Army Corp of Engineers. Along with Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe, Lake Chelan, and Lake Superior, it ranks as one of the five deepest lakes in the United States.

The area around the lake is the traditional home of the Kalispel Indian peoples. David Thompson established a North West Company trading post on the lake in 1809. A Canadian fur trader in Thompson's party is believed to have given the lake its name. The words "Pend Oreille" are French for an ear-hanging or pendant. Ear pendants were characteristic of the Kalispel tribe. The lake is shaped much like a human ear when viewed from above or on a map.

During World War II, the south end was the second largest naval training ground in the world. Built as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the training station is now Farragut State Park. The lake is still used by the Navy's Acoustic Research Detachment to test large-scale submarine prototypes: the significant depth gives acoustic properties similar to the open ocean.

Other information

Map of the Sandpoint Idaho Region
The highways and cities on the northern end of Lake Pend Oreille

The following towns are adjacent to the lake:

The lake is viewed from the Pend Oreille Scenic Byway, State Highway 200 along the north shore. Much of the shore is mountainous. The mountains to the east are the Green Monarchs; to the north are the Cabinet Mountains; to the southwest the Coeur d'Alene Mountains; and to northwest are the Selkirk Mountains.


For more information on the geology of Lake Pend Oreille see

  • Alt, David. Glacial Lake Missoula and Its Humongous Floods. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 2001

Aquatic invasive species

Bonner County Public Works oversees Eurasian Milfoil treatment in Lake Pend Oreille. A group of Sandpoint moms, Mothers for Safe Water is concerned about this use of herbicides to treat milfoil.


Bull trout sign at Lake Pend Oreille
Sign for anglers regarding protection of bull trout, Sandpoint, Idaho

The lake is home to many species of fish, including rainbow trout, lake trout, perch, black crappie, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, whitefish, walleye, northern pike and kokanee. Lake Pend Oreille is also the home of the 37-pound (17-kilogram) state record Kamloops rainbow trout caught by Wes Hamlet in 1947. [1]


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