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Weekend Getaways

Discover the deepest lake in Idaho

Much of Idaho is covered in lush green forests. In fact, 40% of the state is national forest. These forests provide natural recreation opportunities as well as habitat for a variety of animals. Scattered through the forests are wide open bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and clear streams that are fantastic spots for boating, swimming and fishing. The fifth deepest lake in the United States is in Idaho. You may or may not know that Idaho also has a top-secret naval base. Read on to learn all about the deepest lake in Idaho!

What is the deepest lake in Idaho?

Lake Pend Oreille is the deepest lake in Idaho and one of the deepest in the United States.

©Jeffrey T. Kreulen/

The deepest lake in Idaho is Lake Pend Oreille. In fact, it’s the fifth deepest lake in the United States. Lake Pend Oreille is located in Idaho’s northern Panhandle, sandwiched between the Idaho Panhandle National Forest to the south and the Kaniksu National Forest to the north. The lake takes its name from the French words “Oreille” meaning ear and “Pend” meaning hanging or hanging. It refers to the Kalispel Indians who lived in the area and wore ear charms.

How deep is the deepest lake in Idaho?

The deepest lake in Idaho is 1,158 feet deep. For reference, if you threw the Eiffel Tower into Pend Oreille Lake, you wouldn’t be able to see the top.

Is there a top secret naval base at Pend Oreille Lake?

Although not top secret, the US Naval Acoustic Research Detachment (ARD) has a base at the southern end of the lake. It operates from Bayview, ID north of Farragut State Park. Conditions on Pend Oreille are ideal for testing submarine acoustics. The deep, deep water mimics some of the deeper ocean conditions while providing a safe, controlled testing environment. They examine propulsion design (how fast and how fast it can maneuver), sonar development, and a variety of acoustic designs.

Are there sunken submarines in Pend Oreille Lake?

There are no sunken submarines in this lake, but there is an old naval barge and an unarmed torpedo! The problem is that salvaging these items is not cost effective due to the depth of the lake. The Navy barge even carried $1 million worth of equipment, but it was too expensive to salvage. Also, in the 1930s, two boxcars went off the tracks near Trestle Creek and plunged into the lake. You’re still down there.

Is there a sea monster in Pend Oreille Lake?

sea ​​monster
Some believe that a sea monster like the Monasaurus pictured above lives in Pend Oreille Lake.

©Daniel Eskridge/

When bystanders see the Pend Oreille Paddler (the reputed giant sea monster that lives in the lake), they call in experts for a “ride by” (or swim by) to verify the reports. A huge, moss-covered, fallen tree is often mistaken for this mythical sea monster. But many legends entertain the locals. Most likely, the residents saw a sea sturgeon that looks a bit like a monster. Sea sturgeons can grow to 6 ½ feet in length and weigh in excess of 100 pounds!

What real sea monsters (the largest trophy fish) have been caught in Pend Oreille?

bull trout
The largest bull trout in Idaho was caught in Pend Oreille Lake.

©Streamside Adventures/

Anglers have pulled three state records from Pend Oreille Lake. The first is an old record from 1949. The largest bull trout (Dolly Varden) ever caught in Idaho was caught in Pend Oreille. Due to the fact that it is now illegal to harvest this species, the record will stand forever. Nelson Higgins caught this record breaker that weighed 32 pounds! An even older record dates back to 1947 when Wes Hamlet caught a Gerrard rainbow trout that weighed 37 pounds! The third record is more recent. On August 6, 2010, Dale Hofmann landed an impressive 6½ pound Lake Whitefish.

What unique species of fish lives in Pend Oreille Lake?

One of the rare native fish, the giant Kamloops rainbow trout lives in Pend Oreille Lake. They are believed to have originated from Lake Kootenay in British Columbia, which is located near the town of Kamloops. These massive trout can reach 20-30 pounds and thrive in the cool, deep waters of Pend Oreille.

How does the deepest lake in Idaho compare to the deepest lake in the US?

Crater Lake National Park


The deepest lake in Idaho, Pend Oreille Lake is 1,158 feet deep. If you compare this to the deepest lake in the US, you’ll see that it’s not quite as deep. Crater Lake in Oregon is 1,943 feet deep, making it the deepest lake in the United States. While Pend Oreille is nestled in the forest, Crater Lake sits on top of a collapsed volcano. There is no Kamloops trout in the lake, but there is rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon. Because the lake was formed entirely from rain and snow, there are no native fish in this lake. But between the years 1888 and 1941 fish and wildlife experts attempted to establish seven different species of fish. The Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout were the only two species to maintain healthy populations.

What are the 5 deepest lakes in the US?

The 5 deepest lakes in the US are:

  1. Crater Lake, Oregon: 1,943 feet
  2. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada: 1,645 feet
  3. Lake Chelan, Washington: 1,486 feet
  4. Lake Superior, Minnesota/Wisconsin/Michigan: 1,332 feet
  5. Pend Oreille Lake, Idaho: 1,158 feet


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