You won't be in Idaho long before you discover -- through postcards, book titles and keychains -- that Idaho is called "the gem state."
Some think the nickname came from the star garnets found just south of the Panhandle, while others say it arose from a misunderstanding regarding the meaning of the name, "Idaho." Legend had it that Idaho was a Native American word for "gem of the mountains" though later research showed the name derived from the Idaho, a ferry boat that carried men with gold rush fever into the mountains.
Take a drive along Lake Pend Oreille, however, when a summer sun is dancing off the waves, and you'll know another reason why Idaho is the gem state; it has a lot to do with the jewel of a lake found right here in Bonner County.
Lake Pend Oreille is one of the largest lakes in the west and the largest lake in Idaho. With approximately 180 square miles of water, and over 100 miles of shoreline, there are endless opportunities for anyone looking for summer fun.
If you'd rather be on the water than in it, you'll soon find Pend Oreille is a lake well-suited to boats. Even in the busiest summer months, it's easy to spend a day on the lake without coming close to other boaters.
For those who don't own their own, renting a boat is easy, no matter what community you're in or what type of boat you want. From a simple canoe to massive party boats, there's a way to ride the lake to suit any personality. Throughout the summer, The Shawnodese, a stern-powered vessel, offers a variety of lake excursions daily.
If you'd like to be a little closer to the water, create some waves with water skis, jet skis, or wakeboards; and if you're truly courageous, try a little parasailing. Soaring over blue water, surrounded by majestic mountains, sharing the air with bald eagles and osprey, it's easy to imagine you've found paradise. City Beach provides the easiest access for these sorts of lake pastimes; rentals are available nearby in front of the Lakeside Inn through All Season Recreational, phone (208) 255-2431.
With miles of open water and plenty of deep moorage, Pend Oreille is a dream for sailing; there is probably no better introduction to this sport than through the Sandpoint Sailing Association. "Our season begins June 9," said Marc DeLaVergne, the association's commodore, who is also a co-owner of Outdoor Experience on First Avenue downtown. "We really welcome everyone to come down to City Beach for our Thursday Night Fun Races."
Held every Thursday through the Labor Day Weekend, the Fun Races begin at 6 p.m. "You don't necessarily need a boat to participate," DeLaVergne said. "Well try to get you on one. And (the other boats) always need crew."
In addition to the Thursday events, the Sailing Association hosts many other extravaganzas throughout the summer, including a cruise weekend and races like the Spud Cup in September and the White Rock Race during the summer. This Labor Day Weekend, the association will host to the Coronado 15, a Northwest championship event with boats from all over the region.
For sailboat rentals and lessons, contact the Windbag Marina at City Beach, (208) 263-7811.
The depth of Lake Pend Oreille, at 1,100 feet plus, makes this an excellent home to a wide variety of cold-water fish, including trout and mackinaw repeatedly described as "world-class." If you'd like to dip a line in the water and see what the lake has to offer, stop in at any of the marinas around the lake and obtain a fishing license (required by law) first.
If your dreams on the lake include a screaming reel, then get in touch with any of the excellent charters available for a deep water fishing experience.
From mountain goats in Bayview to bald eagles fishing in Denton Slough, the wildlife viewing is incomparable. For anybody who wants to recreate, Lake Pend Oreille is a gem.
Trish Gannon lives near the mouth of the Clark Fork River, the water that feeds the lake and fuels the fun.