Exploring Priest Lake By Kayak In Northern Idaho

Exploring Priest Lake By Kayak In Northern Idaho

Attention adventure seekers! If you're looking for an exciting destination, make sure to add Priest Lake to your list. Nestled in the picturesque Northern Idaho, this remarkable lake is located just 30 miles away from the Canadian Border, surrounded by abundant trees and wildlife. Despite being fed by chilly mountain springs, Priest Lake boasts some of the clearest water you'll find in Idaho.


When it comes to Priest Lake, there are two distinct parts to explore: the main body, known as Priest Lake itself, and the smaller, secluded upper Priest Lake. The main body of the lake is where you'll find most of the campgrounds, marinas, and personal residences.


Our planned trip took us along the western edge of Priest Lake, spanning three days and two nights. We started our adventure from the Priest Lake State Park/Indian Creek Campgrounds. If you've never been here before, you're in for a treat. The park offers delightful little cabins for rent all year round. These cozy cabins come equipped with electricity and heating, but they are primative so there is no running water or bathroom facilities in the cabins. During the summer, a central public restroom is available for use along with outdoor spickets. During the winter, you must bring your own water and pit toilets are the only option as the water supply is shut off.


In the early days of May, on a peaceful Monday, we found ourselves in a campground with scarce visitors and a serene waterway. As we pulled up to the ranger station, we noticed the office looked closed but the main door lets you in to a small space with a pay station and some basic information. Pulling one of the envelops out and making our parking contribution to the park we paid and slipped the little envelope in the box. You will have the option to pay in cash or by check. For Idaho residents, the daily fee stood at $7.00, while non-residents were required to pay $14.00 per day. This is for parking only, cabin Rentals are done online. Prior to our departure, I had called the ranger station to confirm our parking spot at the boat launch for our three-day adventure. It's always wise to reach out and verify, especially during peak summer times.


Equipped with our Sea Eagle 393RL Single Person Inflatable Kayaks, we loaded them with roughly 50lbs of gear each, comfortably staying within the kayak's weight limit of 250lbs for a person and an additional 250lbs for gear. As we set off, the lake greeted us with a smooth, glassy surface, making our paddling effortless. Fortunately, the wind was in our favor, pushing us along the lake, aiding our progress.


During our journey, we took brief pauses to explore other camping sites such as Bottle Bay and Teacher Bay, each adorned with numerous shoreline campsites. The best part? These campsites came free of charge, but are on a first come basis. For more information on campsites with fees and those without, I recommend visiting the Priest Lake State Park website. Our paddling adventure took us all the way up to Beaver Creek campground, nestled at the lake's summit. At the time we visited Beaver Creek campground it was closed but we were not sure as to why it was closed. Since we took our time, the total trip duration amounted to approximately 5 ½ hours.

 If you are a hiker or a backpacker there is a Priest Lake Lakeshore trail that runs from Beaver Creek campground along the lake to Granite Creek Marina. (Granite Creek Marina is the closest land mark to the trail) The trail runs behind all the campgrounds so if you desired you could hike and camp along the lake. You can find this trail on All Trails app under Priest Lake Lakeshore trail or by typing in Nordman, Idaho which will bring up multiple trails around the area. The trail is about 7 Mile one way so 14 Mile out and back. There is a notification box at the beginning of the entrance from the Beaver Creek camp ground which should be filled out in case of an emergency. I would assume there is the same box at the other entrance but I have not verified this.

Our first campsite awaited us just south of Tule Bay, alongside the tranquil Tepee Creek. This designated site provided essential amenities, including a bear box, picnic table, and a fire ring made of rocks. The camp area boasted a sandy beach and an abundance of dry sticks for firewood, perfect for creating a cozy campfire. It's worth noting that later in the year; firewood may become scarce due to high demand. Additionally, burning bans are quite common later in the summer when everything dries out. Being early in the year, we experienced the great Inland Northwest thunderstorms and rain. Throughout the night, rain poured relentlessly, accompanied by intense thunder and lightning. In fact, some lightning occurred alarmingly close, with minimal delay between the flash and the deafening thunder. Sleeping proved challenging amidst the bright flashes of lightning and the deep rolling sounds of of thunder. 


The following morning, after a restless night's sleep, we retrieved our gear from the bear box (thankfully it kept everything dry) and prepared some coffee for breakfast. We carefully laid out our damp sleeping bags and other items, allowing them to dry on the picnic table, courtesy of the now radiant sun. Once the sleeping bags were dry we began loading our kayaks with gear, we embarked on a southbound journey, back down the lake, to a new campsite roughly an hour and a half away. Our destination was the Bottle Bay campground, situated next to the Bottle Creek.


This secluded campsite offered similar amenities to our previous location. However, we encountered a minor inconvenience—an abundance of tree pitch on the picnic table, leading to accidental encounters with our hands and clothing. Nonetheless, the campsite provided a bear box, a spacious fire ring made of large rocks, and a picturesque creek nestled amidst a dark forest.


The next morning, after packing up our gear and enjoying breakfast, we embarked on a three-hour return journey to Indian Creek. The day was full sunshine and came with calm winds, providing ideal conditions for a smooth paddle back.

Overall it was a great trip, the kayaks did well with with the added gear and even with the thunderstorms and rain it still couldn't dampen our spirits. We also learned a great deal on the trip, for one half the gear we brought we didn't need or in some cases even use. GPS would have also been handy tool to have even though we had mental idea where we were going and some printed maps for back up. 




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