Best Boating in Idaho

Sailboat crossing lake in Idaho.
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Idaho, often dubbed the “Gem State,” offers a wealth of opportunities for boating enthusiasts seeking the best that nature has to offer. With its diverse landscapes, ranging from majestic mountains to serene lakes and winding rivers, Idaho provides a playground for some of the finest boating experiences in the United States. Whether you’re in search of breathtaking scenery, thrilling water sports, exceptional fishing, or a peaceful escape into the wilderness, Idaho’s lakes and rivers have it all. In this guide, we’ll take you on a journey through the best boating destinations in Idaho, each with its unique charm and offerings. So, prepare to set sail and explore the unrivaled beauty and aquatic adventures that await you in the heart of Idaho.



Coeur d’Alene Lake

Coeur d’Alene Lake, located in the heart of Northern Idaho, is a natural masterpiece that captivates with its breathtaking scenery and crystal-clear waters. Nestled amidst the towering peaks of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, it offers a serene yet adventure-filled setting for boating. With a backdrop of lush forests and abundant wildlife, the lake is an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. Anglers find joy in its diverse fish population, and water sports lovers revel in the vast expanse of pristine water.

Reasons to Boat in Coeur d’Alene Lake:

  • Scenic Beauty: Coeur d’Alene Lake is known for its stunning mountainous surroundings and clear waters, making it a picturesque destination for boating.
  • Water Activities: Boaters can enjoy a wide range of water activities, from water skiing to paddleboarding, making it an ideal place for water sports enthusiasts.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The lake is home to various wildlife species, and boaters often spot eagles, ospreys, and other animals while on the water.
  • Fishing: Coeur d’Alene Lake is a popular spot for fishing, with opportunities to catch various fish species, including kokanee salmon and rainbow trout.
  • Peaceful Getaway: Boating on this lake offers a sense of tranquility and relaxation.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Water Shoes


Priest Lake

Priest Lake, a hidden treasure in the Idaho Panhandle, beckons with its tranquil and unspoiled beauty. Surrounded by dense forests and the Selkirk Mountains, it offers a pristine and uncrowded escape for boating enthusiasts. Boaters can explore the wonders of Upper Priest Lake, accessible only by water, and fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines into its abundant waters. The lake also provides opportunities for island hopping, wildlife encounters, and a host of outdoor recreational activities.

Reasons to Boat in Priest Lake:

  • Uncrowded Beauty: Priest Lake is a less crowded and serene destination, known for its pristine waters and beautiful surroundings.
  • Wilderness Exploration: Boaters can access the Upper Priest Lake, which is only reachable by water, providing a unique wilderness experience.
  • Fishing Paradise: The lake is renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities, with various fish species, including trout and bass.
  • Island Hopping: The lake features several islands, such as Kalispell Island, where boaters can explore and picnic.
  • Recreational Activities: Boaters can engage in swimming, water skiing, and camping along the lake’s shores.

Recommended Gear: Rope, Water Shoes, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Compass, Paddle


Lake Pend Oreille

Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest and deepest lake, is a natural wonder nestled amidst the majestic Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains. With its scenic majesty, it provides a serene yet adventurous playground for boating enthusiasts. Water sports lovers will find an abundance of activities, while anglers will be delighted by the diverse fish species that call this lake home. Exploration opportunities abound in the form of scenic coves, inlets, and historical sites, adding a cultural dimension to the experience.

Reasons to Boat in Lake Pend Oreille:

  • Scenic Majesty: Lake Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho and is surrounded by the scenic Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains.
  • Water Sports: The lake offers ample opportunities for water sports, including sailing, kayaking, and jet skiing.
  • Fishing Excellence: Anglers flock to the lake for its diverse fish species, including rainbow trout, mackinaw, and Kamloops.
  • Exploration: Boaters can explore the lake’s numerous coves, inlets, and bays, making it an adventure-filled destination.
  • History and Culture: The lake has historical sites, such as the former Farragut Naval Training Station, adding a cultural dimension to your boating experience.

Recommended Gear: Sunglasses, Paddle, Sunscreen, Dry Box, Waterproof Phone Case, Anchor


Payette Lake

Payette Lake, situated in the charming town of McCall, offers a serene mountain retreat surrounded by the Payette National Forest. Boaters can immerse themselves in the beauty of the mountains while enjoying various water-based activities, from water skiing to paddleboarding. Fishing enthusiasts can reel in trout and other species, and wildlife lovers may spot deer and eagles among the lush landscapes. The lake’s hiking trails and pristine waters provide ample opportunities for outdoor adventures and relaxation.

Reasons to Boat in Payette Lake:

  • Mountain Retreat: Payette Lake is nestled in the beautiful surroundings of McCall, providing a mountainous escape for boaters.
  • Recreational Activities: Boaters can partake in water skiing, paddleboarding, and camping on the lake’s shores.
  • Fishing Opportunities: The lake is known for its excellent fishing, with various fish species, including rainbow trout and kokanee salmon.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Boaters often spot wildlife, including deer and eagles, in the nearby forests and around the lake.
  • Relaxation: The peaceful atmosphere of Payette Lake makes it an ideal place to unwind and enjoy nature.

Recommended Gear: Sunscreen, Cooler, Paddle, Sunglasses, Marine Radio, Waterproof Phone Case, Dry Box


Snake River

The Snake River, steeped in historical significance, traverses diverse landscapes, offering boaters a unique journey through the American West. Its rugged canyons, notably Hells Canyon, provide a dramatic backdrop for an adventurous experience. Anglers can cast their lines for various fish species, while the river’s remote areas allow for a wilderness escape. For the more adventurous, white-water rafting and kayaking add a thrilling dimension to Snake River exploration. Whether you seek history, stunning landscapes, fishing, or adventure, the Snake River has it all.

Reasons to Boat in Snake River:

  • Historical Significance: The Snake River played a vital role in the westward expansion of the United States and offers a chance to explore history.
  • Scenic Canyons: Boating on the Snake River allows you to cruise through spectacular canyons like Hells Canyon, known for its rugged beauty.
  • Fishing Paradise: The river provides abundant fishing opportunities for species such as sturgeon, steelhead, and bass.
  • Wilderness Experience: You can access remote wilderness areas along the Snake River, offering a unique sense of isolation and nature.
  • White Water Adventure: For the more adventurous, the Snake River offers thrilling white-water rafting and kayaking experiences.

Recommended Gear: Compass, Anchor, Cooler, Rope, Tarp, Snacks, Sunscreen


Redfish Lake

Redfish Lake, nestled in the heart of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, is a scenic masterpiece surrounded by rugged mountains. Its pristine waters and stunning landscapes make it an idyllic destination for boaters. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures or a tranquil escape, Redfish Lake has something for everyone. With excellent fishing opportunities, hiking trails that lead you into the Sawtooth Wilderness, and the chance to spot local wildlife, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. The clear, clean waters of Redfish Lake also offer opportunities for swimming and relaxation.

Reasons to Boat in Redfish Lake:

  • Sawtooth Scenery: Redfish Lake is located in the heart of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, providing breathtaking mountain views.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Boaters can access a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and fishing for salmon and trout.
  • Wildlife Observation: The surrounding area is a habitat for wildlife, making it a great place for birdwatching and possibly spotting deer and elk.
  • Hiking Trails: The lake has hiking trails that take you into the scenic Sawtooth Wilderness, offering opportunities for exploration.
  • Clean Waters: Redfish Lake is known for its clear, pristine waters, making it an ideal place for swimming and water-based relaxation.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Sunscreen


American Falls Reservoir

American Falls Reservoir, located in southeastern Idaho, is a hub for water sports and recreational activities. Boaters flock to its waters for a variety of activities, from boating and water skiing to picnicking on its beaches. Fishing enthusiasts will find ample opportunities to catch catfish, walleye, and rainbow trout. With the American Falls Dam as a prominent feature, the reservoir offers a scenic setting for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re looking for a day of water-based fun or a tranquil escape by the water, American Falls Reservoir has you covered.

Reasons to Boat in American Falls Reservoir:

  • Water Sports: The reservoir is a hub for water sports like boating, water skiing, and jet skiing, making it a playground for enthusiasts.
  • Fishing Opportunities: Anglers can expect a variety of fish species, including catfish, walleye, and rainbow trout.
  • Parks and Beaches: The reservoir has parks and beaches, providing spots for picnicking and swimming on hot summer days.
  • Scenic Surroundings: The reservoir offers scenic views, with the American Falls Dam as a prominent feature.
  • Relaxation: Boating on the reservoir offers a sense of tranquility and escape from the bustling city life.

Recommended Gear: Rope, Compass, Paddle, Cooler, Sunglasses, Snacks, Anchor


Lucky Peak Reservoir

Lucky Peak Reservoir, situated near Boise, offers a convenient escape into nature for city dwellers. Boaters can indulge in a variety of activities, including boating, fishing, and picnicking along its shores. Campgrounds around the reservoir provide options for extending your stay into a camping adventure. Surrounded by beautiful landscapes, Lucky Peak Reservoir is a picturesque setting for outdoor enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for wildlife like deer and birds while you enjoy the serenity of this reservoir.

Reasons to Boat in Lucky Peak Reservoir:

  • Recreation Variety: Boaters can enjoy a variety of activities, including boating, fishing, and picnicking along the reservoir’s shores.
  • Proximity to Boise: Located near Boise, it’s a convenient spot for city residents to get away for the day or a weekend.
  • Camping Options: There are campgrounds around the reservoir, making it an excellent destination for camping and outdoor adventures.
  • Scenic Setting: The reservoir is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, offering a scenic escape.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for wildlife like deer, birds, and even the occasional eagle while boating.

Recommended Gear: Anchor, Dry Box, Sunscreen, Marine Radio, Paddle , Compass, Rope


Bear Lake

Bear Lake, often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” is renowned for its strikingly turquoise waters. Boating on Bear Lake not only provides an escape into a visual paradise but also offers opportunities for various water sports and activities. Sandy beaches along its shores make it an ideal place for sunbathing and picnicking. Anglers are enticed by the fishing opportunities for cutthroat trout, lake trout, and whitefish. The Bear Lake Scenic Byway further enhances the experience with breathtaking views during your drive around the lake.

Reasons to Boat in Bear Lake:

  • Turquoise Waters: Bear Lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its stunning turquoise waters, making it a visual delight.
  • Recreational Paradise: Boaters can engage in water sports like jet skiing, tubing, and sailing, ensuring fun for all.
  • Beach Life: The lake boasts sandy beaches for sunbathing and picnicking, creating a perfect beach getaway.
  • Fishing Haven: The lake offers excellent fishing opportunities for cutthroat trout, lake trout, and whitefish.
  • Scenic Drive: The Bear Lake Scenic Byway provides a picturesque drive around the lake, offering breathtaking views.

Recommended Gear: Sunscreen, Cooler, Paddle, Sunglasses, Marine Radio, Waterproof Phone Case, Dry Box


Henrys Lake

Henrys Lake, tucked away in eastern Idaho, is a trout fishing paradise. Anglers flock to this destination for the opportunity to catch trophy-sized trout. Surrounded by the Targhee National Forest, the lake offers a serene and picturesque setting for boating. Wildlife enthusiasts can observe birds and animals such as moose and deer in their natural habitat. Additionally, the proximity to hiking trails and nearby peaks makes Henrys Lake a hub for outdoor exploration and adventure.

Reasons to Boat in Henrys Lake:

  • Trout Fishing: Henrys Lake is famous for its trophy-sized trout, making it a premier fishing destination for anglers.
  • Scenic Beauty: Surrounded by the Targhee National Forest, the lake offers a serene and picturesque setting for boating.
  • Wildlife Sightings: The lake area is a great place for birdwatching and observing wildlife, including moose and deer.
  • Camping Opportunities: Campgrounds near the lake make it possible to extend your boating trip into a camping adventure.
  • Nearby Hiking: Henrys Lake is close to hiking trails, including those leading to nearby peaks, providing options for outdoor exploration.

Recommended Gear: Life Jackets, Compass, Anchor, Tarps, Marine Radio, Cooler, Swim Bag


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